Finding Freedom…stop the madness!

What are you 
                            Enslaved to?

ImageWhat holds 
You
Captive? 

 

So many victims…
                                          so many chains.

Enslaved to the things we own…
                                                  or is it the things which own us?

 

 

Image what is it that is clasped to your life
                                                                   threatening to drown you?   Image

 

How the pressure builds and builds
                                                     and
                                                          builds.

What holds us back, keeps us chained
refrained and sometimes
 Insane? 

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Wouldn’t you rather be 
set free? 

To find relief.
                    from the grief, 
                                        the chaos
                                                      this burden?  

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I don’t want to lug this anymore…
To push and pull 
and never improve this lot…

 

Why would we EVER
be satisfied with this? 
When there is real Peace
                       real Hope
                       real Life
                       real Freedom Image …

BUT…
The burning question is…
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Why do we still live like we are still enslaved

                                                 still imprisoned
                                                 still chained…?  

 

Something to ponder today…and find freedom, live freedom, be freedom for others still blind and chained.  

                  

Re-birth from the shattered (A Poem)

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Innocently, our mystery and providence 

brakes the stranglehold upon this confidence

and as the attempt to grasp a hold of it 

we lose our grip, it slips as does our wit. 

 

And all we can reclaim are the broken bits

shattered and jagged are all that we get

we slice our fingers until they bleed 

picking up the things that we thought we’d need. 

 

Yet on our knees with all of this mess

contrite, we fight this  need to confess

yet it bites at our heels and pulls us still

discarding the shattered and hopes that will kill.

 

A light to our sight is cast in our night

it scatters our fears and increases our fight

it charges our hope, the need to be free

lifting our burdens and making us see

 

That death to the body is not death to the soul

there is a Savior who is making us whole.

We might be weak but He will be strong 

lifting our burdens, and righting the wrong.

 

Find strength dear sinner, find it today

we aren’t alone even when in this fray

Though we are broken and tattered and torn

 An eternal salvation and life is re-born!  

Becoming Gollum

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“For where your treasure is, there your heart is also” Matthew 6:21

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy novels “Lord of the Rings” we meet a curious creature named Gollum.  He’s a vile creature and yet something to be pitied as the sorcerer Gandalf has said. Gollum is obsessed with The Ring.  He even calls it his “precious”.  Yet we catch just a short glimpse of what Gollum looked like before he turned into this vile, repugnant creature.  He too was a Hobbit from some shire, and he too had friends and family.  Then the ring captures his attention one day as he mistakenly discovers it and he kills one of his own to claim it for himself…Gollum is born.

He was never supposed to be this way.  He wasn’t created to live out his days in total and complete subjugation to this evil that is the ring, yet he is a slave to it, and a direct result of his slavery is this ugly transformation into a despised and tortured creature.

We’re all Gollum.  Every single one of us has been bound by sin and subjected to enslavement to our “precious”.  Since the fall of man, when Adam and Eve broke God’s heart in the garden of Eden, try as we might we couldn’t break our obsession with sin…and so sin transformed us.  We were at one time created in the very image of God, but because of sin that image is now marred within us…there is still some resemblance but it’s faded.

What is our ‘precious’…is it an obsession with stuff?  Could our ‘precious’ be relationships? How about money, or our jobs, or our kids…there are many, many things with which sin enslaves.  Whatever consumes most of our time, whatever we think about incessantly becomes our god.  What is your god?

Our Heavenly Father has, since the fall of man, attempted to bridge this void that is sin between us.  We have all fallen and so Christ became our bridge, through His sacrifice on the cross, between us and God.  Christ has taken ‘the ring’ from our possessions, died for us so that our resemblance to God could be restored.  What love to have taken our place!  He knew we couldn’t save ourselves and so He came to our level and took upon himself our enslavement…and it didn’t end there.  He was strong enough to conquer sin and death and open the doors of heaven for us.

We are all Gollum…but we don’t have to remain that way any longer!  We can be free!  If you have been set free by Christ, what’s stopping you from sharing this with others who are still captured in their enslavements?  This good news must be shared to help set the captives free!

We don’t’ have to be fallen and rejected any longer!  We can be transformed and renewed by the grace of God and the salvation of Jesus Christ.  Will you let go of your ‘precious’ and give Him a try?  If you do, you will find yourself set free indeed!

Whispers or the love song? (Poem)

There is a whisper 

breathless and full of repine 

counting down the ifs

the and couldas and the shouldas…

the well is full of these regrets

with night as black as coal 

and eyes that stare menacingly back

as if in reproach and in contrition. 

Were it so and the hands of time

were to cooperate 

the hands of man might undo

that which enslaves the mind, body and soul.

We are all slaves. 

Shackled, broken, held against our

will, our identities wiped away 

how wretched it must be

to remain if freedom loomed 

with open door and nail pierced hands.

Though the whispers may continue

we do not have to listen anymore.

For there is a far better song

a lyric sewn with love

webbed with compassion 

and grafted like our blood line

to our Father. 

Yes, the whispers might continue

but give ear to the song of love

for it beckons and grants a much kinder 

destination without chains or remorse. 

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Victory in the midst of tragedy!

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Breaking News Story:

I saw the breaking news story today about the three women who had been kidnapped and held for ten years. WOW, seriously TEN YEARS! That just boggles the mind to think of the horrors they must have endured within that ten year span. I am overjoyed to hear of their rescue and freedom and mortified at the same time that within our population monsters really do exist among us.

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Have you ever been to a Walmart? I’m sure you have. Have you ever looked at all of the faces of the missing people that they have posted on that bulletin board in front of the checkout area? It really is sobering to think that darkness is real in our lives. Sure we can ignore it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s gone. Like a kid who pulls the blankets up over their eyes we can close our eyes to the horrors and pretend they don’t exist but unlike the monsters under the bed and in the closet these monsters are very real!

Another form of darkness in our world, similar to these horrible experiences of these women in our news story today is the plight of human trafficking in our world today. It’s kidnapping on an epic scale. It’s deplorable to even think that there is a market for humans. That one can even put a price on another human being. It’s the modern day form of slavery. One can imagine what these three women experienced when in the hands of this monster…just imagine being bought and sold a number of times on top of these horrors. I’m not trivializing what this breaking story today has detailed but knowing that there are other women out there in similar circumstances even in our own country really churns my stomach.

Freedom was available today for these kidnapped women and I am so joyful for their freedom and I pray for their healing and the help they will need for years to come. Please lift them up in your prayers today as well as those on Walmart walls around the country and for victims in the sex trafficking slave market the plagues our world still today.

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Additional links to help stop human trafficking in our world:

http://www.humantraffickingsearch.net/

http://www.humantrafficking.org/

http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/trafficking

http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/www_usn_2.nsf/vw-dynamic-index/629DCD4153AF8A50852574E800649A74?Opendocument

“Anything to Declare?”

You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play. You don’t have time to carry grudges; you don’t have time to cling to the need to be right.”  – Anne Lamott

 “There’s a luggage limit to every passenger on a flight. The same rules apply to your life. You must eliminate some baggage before you can fly.”  – Rosalind Johnson  

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Do you have anything to declare?”  This is commonly heard at international airports as a traveler, sometimes weary, enters their destination.  It’s a question that must be asked for safety and security purposes that I think begs answering in our lives as well.  I’ve never received a degree in counseling or psychology, but I’ve been around long enough to know that sometimes when we enter the present moment which is the doorway to the future we often are still carrying baggage from the past that prohibits us from entering and from moving on.  Baggage, which is anger, regret, hurts, fears, scars (emotional & physical) can seriously limit us and that of the potential for personal and spiritual growth if we continue to carry them with us. 

 

Jesus even alluded to these types of burdens when he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

What is Jesus saying here?  He is telling us to let go of our baggage!  He is saying if you learn from me you will understand that you don’t have to carry this heavy burden any longer, my way is lighter and it will free you of your past, your baggage, your worries and fears.  Jesus says to us in this passage that we ought to let go of it all…it doesn’t matter anymore…we can be free!  Wouldn’t you like to forget some things about your past?  Wouldn’t you like to let go of burdens that you’ve carried around with you for far too long?   We were never meant to heap these worries, regrets and scars around with us for the rest of our lives!  That was not God’s plan for us.  Sure from time to time we have screwed up.  Sure from time to time others have hurt us so very deeply.  Sure from time to time we find it difficult to forgive that one person who broke our heart or betrayed us…yet that’s precisely what Jesus is asking us to do.  He wants us to leave our past behind.  He wants us to lay it down at His feet and for us to allow Him to help us. 

I don’t presume to understand how God’s grace works, but I do know that it does.  By faith, daily I must once again surrender my past to Him.  I know that from time to time that even Satan will try and remind me of those things from my past.  He will try to discourage me and persuade me that I really haven’t changed…and yet when I seek the Lord, when I read His word God shows me just how far I’ve come.  The same is true for you as well.  You can let go.  You will be free.  The answers to healing your past and restoring your future lies with the One that made you, not the ones that have hurt you, or the situations that you fiercely regret.   

The Lord is asking us today; “Do you have anything to declare?”  If we are wise we will declare everything to Him, and allow Him to restore our present and future by letting go of the baggage that weighs us down and holds us back.  Don’t let your past dictate where you go today or tomorrow!  You and I can be free…but first we must confront and let go of the baggage. 

There’s an old prayer chorus our church used to sing and it goes like this:

“Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Calvary, Calvary, Burdens are lifted at Calvary…Jesus is very near!”       Jesus wants to be near to you today, He wants to lift your burdens, your baggage from you…will you let Him?

Prayer:

Lord I have been carrying around this baggage from my past for far too long and it is weighing me down.  This baggage is holding me back from growing in your grace.  Help me to surrender it all to you today!  I know that it may not happen all at once, but grant me your strength to surrender it all to you!  I want to learn from you, I want that freedom that only you can offer.  Thank you Lord for guiding me and for being here with me each step of the way.  –Amen.

Whose ‘Will’ is it?

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“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  (Matthew 6:10)

 

It’s from the ‘Lord’s prayer’.  You’ve probably recited it any number of times, but have you really thought about what you’re actually saying?

When we say to God, “Father you are holy” we acknowledge two things, the first is that He is our heavenly Father and that secondly He is holy.  Kinda obvious isn’t?  But when we get to the next line of the ‘Lord’s prayer’, what we begin to realize is that our prayer to God isn’t about what we can get from Him, but rather what we can give Him.

A few verses back Jesus even tells His disciples not to pray like the hypocrites who love to hear their own voices and want others to hear them as well.  Our prayers can be corporate but they should also be private conversations with God throughout our day.

Back to His Kingdom:

What we mean when we say “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is this: God you are God of my life and I want to be a part of Your kingdom.  We are also saying that God’s Will is more important than that of our human will.  Essentially what we are saying is ‘God I trust you and I surrender to you!’…but do we really?   I don’t know about you but letting go of the control that I have on my life isn’t something that I’m good at.  It’s a powerless feeling to let go, and yet when we pray this prayer or something similar to it,  we are implying exactly that.  If we don’t mean what we say then why are we saying it in the first place?

I liken it to parenting.  I’m a father of four children.  They mean the world to me and I am proud of each of them for who they are.  As their father I want what is best for them.  I want to see them succeed in every area of life.  In school, I want to see them get good grades and flourish.  In social settings, I want my kids to have healthy friendships and strong bonds and connections with others.  As future adults I want them to be wise with their resources and smart with their money.  I want to see my children succeed and so I guide them and provide them the wisdom that I have learned since I’ve been on this earth longer than they have.  In the same way isn’t that what our Father in Heaven wants from us?  He wants us to love Him first, but next there is that deep longing for us to succeed in this life!  He wants to guide us, He wants to provide for us and show us how to live better lives.  The key is that we have to listen.  We have to subjugate ourselves, or submit ourselves to His kingdom and His will.   When we view this submission not as negative thing or that we are losing our freedom, but rather we are gaining our freedom then it becomes clearer as to how important it is to submit to the will of God.

We don’t pray this line to mean, God wipe out all of my enemies and crush them with your kingdom.  We aren’t turning prayer into another selfish edict of our wills…but rather we are first saying, “Lord it has to begin with me…right here, right now…teach me, I am submitting to your will not mine anymore.”  When we can say this and actually mean it there is freedom.  When we find ourselves willfully submitting to His will great things can and will take place.  The world might become fiercer because of it, you might face stronger opposition in your life but you now are fully engaged in the workings of God and not your workings any longer.  Our Father in Heaven wants us to trust Him, and He wants us to allow His wisdom and will to guide our lives.  He wants us to succeed because He cares and loves us.

This isn’t some magic phrase that we say to make things work better in our lives.  This isn’t some mantra that we utter habitually and thereby willing our essence to perform amazing tasks either.  No, what we mean when we say these lines to our Father is “Here I am at your feet ready to submit all that I am to your kingdom and your will.”

What does that mean to you today? 

Have you submitted yourself, your will, your desires, you hopes and dream to Him?

It won’t be easy, but if you let Him reside in you and allow His kingdom and will to replace yours, you will be amazed that you didn’t allow Him to do so earlier.   Make it your private prayer today to say “Lord, your kingdom come (in my life) your will be done (in my life) on earth as it is in heaven.

-Blessings on your day today!

Prayer:

Lord I confess to you many times I have not allowed you access to my entire life.  I have held back and tried to force my will not your will to be done.  Forgive me and show me today how I should submit myself to you.  I know that you want what is best in my life.  I know that you want me to succeed.  Help me to follow you, help me to trust you with everything in my life.  I want to turn it over to you today.  This I pray in Your name, may your will be done and your kingdom come in and through my life.  –Amen. 

Burn the Ships!

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The smell of smoke fills the nostrils and tears up the eyes.  The view on the beach is disturbing, the ships are on fire as the smoke coats the air and blocks out the sun at mid-day.  A sense of panic strikes at the heart of the sailors now marooned on this foreign soil.  Soon, realization will set in.  To find their way home, they have to move forward. 

 

Infamous conquistador Hernando Corte’s is well known for his brutality when conquering and claiming the Aztec lands for Spain.  He will forever go down in the annals of history as a conqueror that nearly wiped out an entire civilization in his day, but there is one saving act of leadership that begs to be examined.  When Cortes’ ships landed in the new world, to prevent mutiny he ordered his ships burned and sunk.  Imagine for a second being a sailor on one of those vessels and upon landing in this foreign environment your leader burns the only mode of transportation home.  Your world comes crashing in, and the only way home is forward without retreat.  It’s forward and never backward.

 

In a very practical sense, we ought to consider burning the vessels of doubt that reside within our faith in God.  These modes of transportation will only move us backwards into our old sinful lives instead of transporting us forward into a deeper relationship with our Father in Heaven.   Burning the ships of doubt has a motivational value that boldly declares that our purpose and our faith is all or nothing.   As an Ambassador for Christ in this world, there is no escape route or exit plan to abandon the cause of Christ!  We are either all or nothing; doubt can’t exist in the same place as our faith. 

 

If we have doubt and fear present, perhaps it’s time to burn the ships.  One might argue that fear is a part of our faith, rightly so…but it ought to be the fear (reverence) of the Lord not the fear of what the world might do to us within this cause for Christ!  These two types of fear are different.  Doubt on the other hand is something Jesus even confronts His disciples on… “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 8:26)   

 

Burn the ships…move forward in your faith and trust in the Lord for guidance, protection and strength!  He will never leave us or forsake us! (Deut. 31:6) 

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A Sloop, A Squall, A Savior

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The Rabbi finishes his teaching and instructs his followers to get into the boat and head out into the lake.  He settles himself down into the creaking bow as the sounds of the water lapping and splashing become his lullaby.  He is exhausted from human contact and needs to rest for just a little while.  With his eyes closed and his breathing a rhythmic tune for the sandman, his disciples chatter about the day.  What did Jesus mean about the mustard seed?  Were they to go out and gather this seed to become great leaders of faith like him?  Their conversation continued while a couple of the disciples cast out nets to bide their time in the dusk of the day.  Their learned profession casting nets into the waters would inevitably feed them tonight.   

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Out of the East a rumble is heard.  The wary fishermen are all too familiar with the temperamental shifting of the wind and the rising swells that sometimes swoop down onto the lake.  They become nervous.  The small sloop isn’t even halfway across and soon this storm will overtake them.   Another rumble echoes off of the wooden mast and continues to roll out into the horizon, this time accompanied by a bright flash of lightening as the pressure of the air changes around them.  This is going to be a big storm, and they have nowhere safe to go, they are vulnerable.  The wind suddenly picks up and the idle chatter of conversation is carried out past them as the howl of this squall begins.   Jesus is still asleep. 

 

Simon Peter looks over at his brother Andrew and they exchange a momentary glance of concern.  The wind starts to increase the chop of the waves and soon enough the boat is hurtling forward on a rollercoaster that has everyone’s stomach in their throats.  First up a tall breaking wave and then down into the depths only to repeat again over and over.  The rain begins to pelt them with larges droplets and soon they are drenched from head to toe and the bottom of the boat looks more like a big bucket of water.  Still Jesus is asleep.  How much more can this little boat handle?  They begin to wonder this as another strong gust has them bracing for another crashing wave over the bow.  Concern gives way to fear, fear gives way to dread.  This could be their last night and that realization is evident on each of their faces.  Finally, after another crash of lightening that strikes too close to them and a roar of thunder that is felt in their chests they seek the only source of hope that they have left; Jesus.   He is still asleep, the day had been long and he was very weary from travel.  One of the disciples places firm hands on Jesus’ shoulders and shakes him awake.   “Help us Teacher, can’t you see that we are about to die!”  Jesus looks up into his disciples’ face and sees sheer panic and terror as the swell screams and tears through the boat and crashing waves. 

 

Jesus takes off the now soaking cloak from his body and makes his way to the prow of the boat.  He stands up boldly before the storm as all of the disciples are behind him huddled together quaking in fear.  He raises his hands as if he wants or dares the storm to strike him.  Then in a loud voice he yells out into the squall.  “STOP, BE STILL!”  The disciples witness something astounding.  It doesn’t happen incrementally, or taper away like a receding storm, but all at once everything becomes calm.  Everything!  The waves cease their rising and crashing.  The wind that threatened to blow them away simply went away.   The roll of thunder and crash of lightening suddenly disappears as if the storm has decided to go elsewhere.  All is calm. 

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The disciples look up at their teacher, amazed.  Jesus stands there before them says to them; “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?”     Then something clicks within them, and they are terrified.  Who is Jesus?  Did that just happen?  So many questions run through their minds.  But the evidence is right before them; Jesus has just stopped a storm with His words.   The air that was once filled with pressure from the storm is now filled with rebuke of the disciples’ lack of faith.  “Do you still have no faith?”  These words will echo in them for some time.  It will remind them and spur them on for years.   Their Rabbi, God’s one and only son, has shown them what faith can do.  The disciples will never forget this moment.  It will be forever engrained in them, forever a living example of God’s power that is alive and active in the world.   Perhaps, just perhaps Christ’s words rings even truer when He said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. “ (John 14:12,13)

 

I’m not sure about you, but I can identify with the disciples!  I too have doubts.  I too struggle with a waning faith from time to time.  Sometimes the storms that invade my life seem to crash over me and threaten to capsize all that I am and possess.  Many times I respond to Jesus just like the disciples when crisis comes my way, “Help me Jesus, can’t you see that I am about to die!”  But the Son of God, the same Jesus who calmed that storm so long again with mere words still speaks to the storms in my life today!  He speaks to your storms as well!  How’s your faith?  In whom is your faith today?  Perhaps, if it’s not in Jesus, the storm calmer, life giver, Messiah; you could be sinking and afraid.  Cry out to Him, have faith in Him and He will be there to help you in your tempests and your storms.  “Peace, be still!” 

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