When mom and dad built their house back in 1971 it didn’t have a fireplace. I wanted to have one but since I was only in sixth grade and didn’t offer to pay to have one put in the house I wasn’t taken too seriously. I could imagine getting up on a cold morning, throwing a couple of logs in and sitting in front of a roaring fire while I tried to think up a good excuse to get mom to let me stay home from school. Yep, a fireplace would have sure been cool.

I wasn’t disappointed for long because somewhere along the way my parents bought a fireplace. They brought it home in a big box and hung it on the wall in the basement. The basement was finished and we played down there a lot. You are probably wondering how they managed to hang the fireplace on the wall. It wasn’t actually a real fireplace. It had a light rigged up to make some plastic coals look like they were flickering. In fact the whole thing was plastic. It put out a little heat though. There was some sort of electric heater inside and so if I used my imagination and squinted my eyes, it was just like the real thing, sort of. OK, it wasn’t like the real thing at all. There was no popping of the logs, no leaping flames, no smell of hardwood burning and the heat just wasn’t the same. It didn’t even really look like a fireplace. It looked more like a grade school kid’s art project of a cardboard fireplace. It was a lame substitute. It was worse than my mom’s meatloaf.

So when I say I wasn’t disappointed for long I guess that just isn’t true. That fake fireplace just didn’t cut it. It was the worst fireplace I have ever seen. It was around for years. It hung on the wall and kids would come over and ask, “What is that?” I would explain that it was supposed to be like a fireplace, kind of and they would say, “Oh.” Even kids were puzzled about why it was there. They probably thought I made it out of cardboard.

We called this conglomeration of fake brick, fake fire, fake wood and fake heat “The Fireplace” What else could we call it? But no matter how many times we called it a fireplace it was still just a cheap imitation. It just hung on the wall pretending to be something it could never be. It wasn’t even pretty.

I have been that fireplace. I hung around my family, my church and my friends packaged as a “Christian”. But when I look at my life I have to ask, “What is that?” I was just a collection of lies assembled to resemble a Christian. Under close, or even not so close, examination I can see now that I didn’t even do a good job of faking it. There was nothing genuine about me. I did the things that I could to make it look like God was working in my life but yet I wouldn’t allow Him to do the work. What I accomplished was to create a phony, a travesty of what I thought God might do in me. I wasn’t even worthy of being hidden in the basement.

John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

I cannot go to the Father and make myself a Christian on my own. I cannot change on my own. If I try I am a cheap knock-off worth nothing. The only way is through Jesus. Who would think that such a simple lesson would be so hard for me to learn? Yet, I have to relearn it often. It is a lie I believe far too many times.

Proverbs 26:23 Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot. 24 People may cover their hatred with pleasant words, but they’re deceiving you. 25 They pretend to be kind, but don’t believe them. Their hearts are full of many evils. 26 While their hatred may be concealed by trickery, their wrongdoing will be exposed in public.

If I am not real and genuine in front of everyone then I am deceiving others. That means I am a liar. Once I begin to lie, treachery and evil will follow. Being a good man on my own is just impossible. I cannot even begin to be the man God wants me to be without allowing God to make me that man. I cannot be man-made!

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

I am not my masterpiece. I don’t make a great life for myself. I don’t become a good enough guy to make it into heaven. I don’t impress people with my kindness and wisdom. God adds all those things to me. God has every brush stroke thought out before he touches it to the canvas of my life. When I serve God and become real, people no longer see me, they see God in me.

Help me, God, to be a genuine representative of you and not to deceive. I want to be truthful with those around me and myself and take the gifts you so freely give.

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