Archive for March, 2011

29
Mar
11

Bound…by what?

“So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” – John 8:36 (NLT)

“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NLT)

Back on the first of the New Year 2011, I asked the Lord to show me my “One Word” for this coming year.  The idea was for Him to show me something that He chose for me to concentrate on and to strive for in growing and becoming more of what He intends for me to be, submitting to His purpose and plan for my life.  The “One Word” that He gave to me was the word, “Freedom.”  And as if to confirm that word to me the Holy Spirit led me to a passage of Scripture to apply and to set in my heart.  It was 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 which says, “But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”

“That’s it,” I thought.  “The Lord obviously wants me to be free to become more and more like Him and to be changed into His glorious image!”  Here’s the problem….in order to be set free from something, that must mean that there are areas in my life in which I am still in bondage.  In order to understand that you are in bondage to a thing you must first recognize and admit that you are not free and need to be liberated.

Today, I heard a sermon from one of my favorite preachers, Pastor Robert Morris of Gateway Church in Dallas, Texas.  And within the first moments of the sermon he said, “Bondage is any impulsive or compulsive behavior that restricts you from living in and enjoying the freedom that Jesus died to give you.”  That’s the point at which I began to wish my “One Word” for this year was not, “Freedom.”  Because that’s when I started asking myself if there was still any such behavior in my life “that restricts [me] from living in and enjoying the freedom that Jesus died to give [me].”  In other words, to use the words of the very Scripture that God had given me at the first of the year, was there anything to which I in bondage to that restricts me from becoming “more and more like him as [I am] changed into his glorious image?”  May I be free enough to confess to you and be transparent enough to answer, “YES!”  But it is not enough to say it only to you, my readers, my friends, my fellow believers.  I have to “turn to the Lord” and say it to Him and allow Him to remove the veil that has been hiding this area of bondage.  Because if there is bondage in an area, according to the Word that means the Spirit is not present in that area and that means someone else is, and that someone is unwelcome in my life.

My “One Word” for this year is “Freedom.”  It is not unfortunately my “One Word for the month of March.  It’s for the whole year!  God has this wonderful way of working out His plans for us in increments.  Of course He is fully able to accomplish the changes He desires in a one second as well as He can in a year or a lifetime.  I’m 56 years old, and may I simply say that I am glad He’s not done teaching me and molding me into something usable in His hands?  I’m listening to hear Him tell me every area of my life that needs liberating.  And when He shows me, I plan to bring those places of bondage to Jesus and let the Son set me free.  I don’t want to be free for a while I want to be free….INDEED!  I don’t want to be “free to be me.”  I want to be free to be whatever He desires for me to be….INDEED!

26
Mar
11

care

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT)

Take a look around your church.  No, I’m not talking about the color of the carpet, or the style of the building.  In fact, I’m not talking about the place at all, but rather the real structure of the church…the people.  And I’m not talking about the number of people, or their age, or the style of their clothing.  Take a good long look at the condition of the people.  Does that mom look particularly tired this Sunday?  Is that father’s brow a little more furrowed than usual?  Was that the lingering smell of alcohol on that teenager that just passed?

What do you think brought that newcomer to your church this week?  Do you think they heard about your great music program?  Did that young woman come here because she heard about your terrific singles fellowship?  Perhaps they came because they heard that our doctrine and orthodoxy was correct.  Or maybe….just maybe many of these people came to see if they might find a moment’s respite from the troubles they are dealing with.  Could that be?  Is that the kind of reputation your church has?  How many of the people gathered this Sunday are there looking for somebody…anybody who really cares?  And do we?  Do we really?  I hear about churches who say they care about people, but do we care for them?

I’ve been spending alot of time reading and rereading 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7 recently.  Yesterday it occured to me to replace all the places that verses 3-4 uses the word “comfort” with the word “care.”  When people are troubled are we really able…are we really willing to give the same “care” that God has given us?  1 Peter 5:7 says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”  If we, The Church, are His representatives and we are the means of His grace and mercy, can we truly say to a damaged and hurting world, “Give all your cares and worries to us, for we care about you?”

24
Mar
11

My Bride

“Has anyone ever seen anything like this—
dawn-fresh, moon-lovely, sun-radiant,
ravishing as the night sky with its galaxies of stars?” – Song of Solomon 6:10 (Message)

What a gift!  How blessed I am among men, that the Lord would unite me with such a wonder of His creation!  She is a symbol of all that my God has done to restore me and to prove His steadfast love and never ending favor for me.  This is my partner in ministry, my best friend in this life, and my beloved bride.  How could my heart not swell with gratitude for all that He has done and for His gracious provision of His daughter….My Queen! No man was ever richer!

21
Mar
11

“God Helps Those…”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5 (NLT)

“God helps those who help themselves,” someone said to me not long ago.  And then they continued with, “That’s what the Bible says…right?”  Umm….actually no, the Bible never says this nor does it imply it.  This saying is usually attributed to Ben Franklin, quoted in Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1757, but it actually comes from Aesop’s fables in a Greek myth called, “Hercules and the Waggoner.”  In it we read, “A Waggoner was once driving a heavy load along a very muddy way.  At last he came to a part of the road where the wheels sank half-way into the mire, and the more the horses pulled, the deeper sank the wheels.  So the Waggoner threw down his whip, and knelt down and prayed to Hercules the Strong.  ‘O Hercules, help me in this my hour of distress,’ quoth he.  But Hercules appeared to him, and said: ‘Tut, man, don’t sprawl there.  Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel. The gods help them that help themselves.’”

The Bible teaches something altogether different.  Jesus said of His own ability,  “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” (John 5:19 NLT)  Jesus further says about our own ability, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NLT)  The closest the Bible comes to affirming our own strength is when the Apostle Paul says, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NLT)  Even then it is clear that the best thing I can do to help myself is to depend utterly on Christ to give me strength.

I wish I could return to redo all of the times in my life where my attitude was, “No need to bother God about this.  I can do this on my own.  It’s okay Lord, I got this under control.”  Because the truth is that 99.9% of the time, those are the moments in my life that ended up the most screwed up, and sometimes positively tragic!    Has God given most of us good sound minds that are capable of making decisions?  Absolutely, but we also must remember that those same minds are subject to our own fallen state and the influence of our Adversary the Devil.  It is only by my faith in God and the presence of His Spirit that I am able to choose wisely and according to His plans and purposes.

So does God help those who help themselves?  I believe the statement might better be phrased, “God helps those who will allow themselves to be helped by Him.”  Now that’s a philosophy worth stating and worth living.  Without a doubt His understanding and strength is infinitely greater than ours and its available to us, so why in the world would we depend on our own?

15
Mar
11

Stepping Out of the Me Zone

“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.  Everyone should look out not [only] for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” -Philippians 2:3-4 (HCSB)

I wonder how many people, wandering through a bookstore, have picked up Pastor Rick Warren’s classic best-seller, “The Purpose Driven Life,” opened it up to the first page, read the first sentence of chapter one and quickly decided, “This book is definitely not for me!”  Of course the first sentence reads, “It’s not about you.”

Now before I begin venting my frustration regarding all of those mean old self-centered people (and that is precisely the purpose of this post), may I make the immediate disclaimer that I myself have spent far too many of my own 56 years caught up in my own selfish agenda and affairs?  It may be glaringly apparent that I still struggle with some lack of humility, if only evidenced by the fact that I am writing this blog, thinking that someone out there may actually care what I have to say.  The truth is that each of us, to some lesser or greater degree, finds it difficult to see outside of the “Me Zone.”

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and more crotchety, or maybe it’s from personal experience, but it sure seems to me that our present society and the generation in which we live is becoming more enthralled with self with each passing day.  Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

Someone decides to find a new church and when they are asked for their reason they say, “Well, I just wasn’t getting fed.  I need to go somewhere I can get my spiritual needs met better.  Besides, I was sick last week and that pastor didn’t even bother to call.”

A marriage ends up in divorce court and the husband (or wife) is overheard saying, “I just got tired of trying to make it work.  I just wasn’t happy anymore and I deserve to be happy don’t I?”

A co-worker’s family has a critical emergency, and when approached to contribute a few bucks to a collection, the response comes, “Well things were kind of tight at my house last year too, and I didn’t see anybody taking up a collection for me when I was behind on my mortgage.”

Some years back I was going through a particularly tough period of my life (just one of a number of such times), and being very discouraged I went to seek the counsel (more likely to whine to) a very wise man.  His response wasn’t quite what I might have been looking for at the time, because he said, “Son, whenever you think things are the worst they can be and you’re really feeling bad about your own situation, you don’t have to take a walk very far down your own street to discover that someone is struggling with something that will make your problem seem like nothing at all.  Take time to help that person and it’s funny how fast you’ll forget about your own worries.”  The man only had an eighth grade education, but his wisdom turned out to be true, and I actually witnessed him living out the truth of his words in his own life.  The man was my father, and if I were to be honest about it, I probably didn’t think much of his advice at the time, because I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) look outside of the “Eddie Zone.”

An innocent man hung on a cross, beaten beyond recognition, naked in the searing middle eastern Sun, covered with blood and the spittle of His mockers and accusers, nails driven into the bone and muscle of His wrists and feet.  He was there to pay the penalty for people who did not deserve such sacrifice.  I’m so glad that He did not say, “Nobody forced Adam to eat that fruit, and nobody is forcing those who followed him to continue to sin.  Why should I pay this price for them?  They got themselves into this, let them get themselves out of it.”

I read Philippians 2:1-11 today and you know what it says?  God stepped out of the “Me Zone” and because He did you know who gets to benefit eternally from it?  ME….and YOU!  “Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5 HCSB)