Rotten from the Inside or Transformed?

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I held it in my hands, not knowing what was underneath it.  It looked like any ordinary branch from the top, wooden and covered in a flaky ashen grey bark.  The grain and color of this branch looked healthy and strong.  But when I turned it over I discovered the reason this branch had broken off and had fallen to the ground.  On the underside the wood was infected and terminal.  On the underside termites had other insects were milling about slowly devouring this branch from the inside out.  Glancing up at the tree, from which this branch had fallen, I quickly realized that this tree was doomed.  It looked sturdy from the outside, it towered over me as its branches reached the sky and stopped at about twenty or thirty feet above me.  The tree wasn’t that old, perhaps ten or twenty years, and it would have continued growing had it not been for the parasite now eating it alive from the inside.

Slowly over the next couple of months, as I would walk past this tree which was situated in a park near my home, I watched in silent sadness as it lost all of its once beautiful leaves.  Now with bare branches it stood ready to be chopped down by the park’s caretakers.  It had gone from a vibrant young tree with so growth to achieve to a dead, hollowed out shell worthy of becoming wood chips or kindling for a fire.

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Watching this foliage of tragedy unfold reminded me of how we are sometimes like this young tree in our spiritual lives.  We attain a certain height in our spiritual maturation process, we look vibrant, hopeful and secure in our faith…but then it happens.  We allow a small portion of our old lives to still exist within us.  Sometimes on purpose while other times unknowingly.

As children of God who are called to be set apart for His purposes, we secretly set apart some of the old self and cling to it even though it could kills us spiritually.  We store it up in our hearts, compartmentalize our “church life” from our “other life” and yet we know somewhere deep down inside of us that we are called to surrender it all.  We are called to one life, not two separate lives.  Either we’re with God as His child or we’re back in the world and in our old sinful, self indulgent lifestyles.  When we cling to these bits and pieces of ourselves, which existed before the moment of our salvation, we are essentially saying to God, “you can have most of me, but I’m keeping this one small thing!”

When we do this, why are we then surprised when we begin to rot from the inside out?  Why are we shocked when we lose our fruit and our branches become bare?  Why do we suddenly realize that our passion for Christ is now gone and yet can’t fathom why it is that way?

If we were to get serious about this faith and about our spiritual survival, we would quickly realize how vital it is for us to face our infections.  These infections are the spiritual parasites or the leftover remnants of the old life.  We cannot ignore them, because they will never go away unless when expose them and submit them to the light of Christ.  To simply ignore their presence only seals our fate of being slowly hollowed out and eaten alive.

From the outside that branch looked healthy, yet when I turned it over and saw what had become of it, I knew that the tree from which it had come was doomed.  It was so brittle and full of holes from which the termites poured out.  The outside looked fine, but the tree had lost that internal battle.

I think there is something to be said about our internal battles as well.  We, as Christ followers, can not afford to lose this internal battle that wages within us.  There is still work to be done by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of us all!  There may be small pockets of the old life still resistant and evident in us.  No one else knows it.  By all appearances we look fine and healthy on the outside, yet on the inside we’re struggling to stay alive.

Two things must take place within our hearts to prevent this parasite of sin to continue to exist within us;

One, we must expose it for what it is.  Don’t hold back or ignore it.  Do not shy away from confronting it, and do not keep it hidden.  The Lord knows its there, yet we keep trying to convince ourselves that it is not.  Expose it to the Light of Christ!  Share it with Him.  Open up the doors of those hidden dark passages of your heart and allow His light to flood them completely!  Without first exposing it to the Light of Christ, we can pretend and ignore it.  But once we’ve opened up the doors completely, and honestly looked in, we can’t help but feel shame and regret.  Let it happen.  Spiritual maturity, also known as Holiness, cannot take place completely without first facing our deepest darkest sins.  Then we get serious.  Then we let it all out and place it in the forgiving nail scarred hands of Christ.

Secondly, once His light has gained access to the abscesses of our hearts, we must be willing to let go of it.  We must relinquish our grip on it.  We must surrender it all to Christ.  Nothing else can grow there, nothing else can change in our spirit if we don’t first surrender those remnants of the old sinful ways.

When we have exposed this parasitical sin to His light and surrendered it into His hands, then we find ourselves surprisingly free of this burden of guilt and shame.  We find that we can finally grow again and allow His very image to be our sole desire.

The tree doesn’t have to die, our spiritual walk doesn’t have to stagnate!  We must be willing to reveal and surrender, then the healing can begin which will give way to this tremendous growth.

-Just a thought for today.

Shine!

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“He said to them, “Do you bring a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed?  Instead, don’t you put it on its stand?  For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.  If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” -Mark 4:21-25

Okay, let’s get it over with…”this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Jesus spoke to His disciples and to the crowd that had gathered there.  He spoke wisdom and truth to them and in the midst of these parables He begins to speak about a lamp.  What does a lamp do?  It illuminates a room doesn’t it?  When someone walks into a dark room the first thing most people do is switch on the light so that they might see.  The same principle is applied any place that is dark.  One would never venture into a deep dark cave unless a flashlight was lit.  Does one go into places that are dark without prior preparation?  Of course not because that would be dangerous and foolish!

Similarly the Light of Christ is never to be hidden from the world!  To do so is dangerous and foolish.  Fellow Christians who play church on Sunday yet keep the truth of the gospel to themselves like some sort of private VIP only club are foolish and narrow minded…but if I were truly honest with myself there are times that I have treat the light of Christ this way.  I have been one of those ‘members only’ Christians.

Yet if we look at how God works, does He need us to shine the light?  Yes and no.  Yes God wants us to share His good news to the world and yes we are partakers of His kingdom but does He need us more than we need Him?  Of course the obvious answer is ‘no’!  So why are we called to be ‘Light bringers’ into this world of ours?  The short answer is; so that we can be Christ’s faithful ambassadors to those still in the darkness!  He could clearly call someone else, and if we’re not careful He will call someone else.  But He wants us to be the torch bearer.

Exposed by the Light:

This world is a dangerous and dark place.  Christ brought the light so that everyone might see.  What is it that we see when His light is shone upon us?  For starters we see how lost we truly are.  It is easy to wander in the darkness and to ignore the filth that we have allowed to blemish us.    But when His light is cast upon us we find ourselves wanting, dirty and guilty.  The prophet Isaiah was given a vision of heaven and in the Light of God and all that he saw, he knew that he was unclean and marred by sin.  The light of God does that to His people; exposes the sins.  Nothing is hidden from God.  Nothing is kept locked away and private.  He light shines upon us so that we might finally be free from this life sucking filth which is sin.

When Christ spoke of the light, He was talking not only about Himself but about the truth of God.  Everything in this world both hidden and dirty will be exposed and known.  We, as His ambassadors are to be faithful to Him.  The good news is this world can be freed from the enslavement of sin and death!  The good news is that darkness is just the absence of light.  The good news is that God is the light that will shine upon all people here on earth.  The amazing news is that Christ has come to set us free from these bonds that keep us in the darkness!

This good news must be shared to the world!  This amazing light will deliver us all…and in so doing we are then called to pick up His light and share that good news to those still in the darkness.

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…”

At War…(Poem)

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I am at war…

Blood and bone

Skin and pain

Spirit and brokenness.

Can’t you hear the cries?

As men try to save

Try to be brave

Try to inflict pain

On the enemy?

I just want to be

Set free

To be whole again

To fight this sin

Within and

Come out clean.

Can’t you hear

these yearnings?

These longings

As these hands,

This heart

Beckons for something

More.

I am at war…

A war I cannot win

Something deep inside

More than this bloody tide

Unseen by human eyes

I’ve bought into all the lies

But my spirit is

Never satisfied. 

War…pain

Can’t fight this refrain

Without salvation

And hand to pull me out

To set me up and

Let me stand on feeble

Feet of atrophy. 

Set me free dear Lord

Set my feet upon your rock

Without your strength

Without your hope

All is lost. 

At the door…Salvation comes. (Poem)

Dear Lord, 

you know these feeble hands

and waning strength

ebbing away as the ticking hand progresses

You know my thoughts 

and how they stray wondering 

further then a troubled runaway…

I can’t pretend in your presence

I can’t put up a front before you

You see right through me like 

a window pane freshly washed

this house is open, doors unlocked

I cannot hide from you 

not deny any skeletons yet residing.

yet you come to me

you still come to my level

and embrace me like everything

is alright…I know it’s not

and yet you remind me again

that your sacrifice has made me clean

you have made it right

made it right for me…

how can I accept this? 

when I know i’m a mess? 

How can I agree to this

when I can’t forgive who I am 

the battle isn’t about what you are

and what you’ve done

but what I am and where I’ve been…

how can I let you in? 

How can I let you see me like this? 

Yet your grace, your face

your love your hope 

surrounds me completely.

It’s too good for me and yet

you let me see that you grant 

this gift to me freely!

Such amazing love,

such unmerited grace

falls upon me in this place

and I am whole again

I am so much more than I used to be

you have mended me 

you have set me free…

and so I no longer let you stand

at the door on my front porch

but I let you in and let this 

salvation thing in me begin.  

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Jesus Wept

Jesus wept…

did He weep for me? 

Was He weeping

for Himself? 

Was He afraid

knowing the path 

that lay ahead…

it says he sweat 

like drops of blood

was He conflicted

before the tree? 

Was it a conflict 

that He should die for me? 

Two simple words

that pierce my heart

carrying with it a weight 

of power and a wealth of love…

was I on His mind – with future

edging in, threatening Him? 

Jesus wept…two words

that form on my tongue

and creep deeply in my soul

knowing in His tears he 

carried my burdens 

and washed them away. 

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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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Jesus, Zombies & Humanity – Sermon

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Sermon Link is below:

Jesus, Zombies & Humanity – Sermon.

John 6:44-69 (NIV) 
44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” 52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
53 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. 60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Jesus spoke in the temple…about Zombies…”Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day..”(54)

I.  Jesus taught a difficult message (v60)

He declared himself the only way to the father and also that He was the bread of life that had come down from Heaven.  He was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum…many came to listen and he had his disciples there which number way more than 12 at this time. 

 

II.  The of God will sometimes offend (v61)

 

III.  Do we have faith or doubt? (v64)

 

IV.  Declare who Christ is correctly!  (67-69)

“What Do I Stand For?” F2 = −F1 Action = Reaction…Choice=Consequence

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“…and that in consequence of their fall (Adam and Eve) all men have become sinners, totally depraved, and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.” (The Doctrines of The Salvation Army, Doctrine #5)

“We believe in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked.”  (The Doctrines of The Salvation Army, Doctrine #11)

What do I stand for?  This is the question I’ve been asking and trying to answer all week…

Thus far we’ve explored: Selflessness over selfishness; God’s Justice & Social Justice.  These are fundamental areas of a Christian life.  So let me throw some fuel on the fire, so to speak…when we recognize what it is we are standing for, where our ideologies lay and are guided by specific principles in our lives we must begin to recognize that Isaac Newton’s third law of action-reaction applies to our spiritual lives as well.

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Isaac Newton’s 3rd Law – Action/Reaction:

When a first body exerts a force F1 on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force F2 = −F1 on the first body. This means that F1 and F2 are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.

Did you catch that?  Just kidding, unless you’re really into physical laws and laws of mechanics you might not understand this definition…here’s the definition that I understand:  “To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.” 

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In our world, morally speaking, this reaction is called consequences.  Everyone who makes choices both consciously and sub-consciously will find that there are consequences to each and every choice we make.   All too often, however, in our world today many people have chosen to ignore these consequences by blaming other people for their mistakes, or simply running away from the consequences.  Adam and Eve, as I’ve mentioned before faced God’s justice in the garden because of the choice they both consciously made:  Action (Choice)  = Reaction (Consequence).

Similarly, if we continue by this line of reasoning we come to a junction in the road that brings us to ultimate consequence.  Everyone whole heartedly embraces and understands that all humanity will one day face death…as it’s been said, it’s inevitable like taxes.  We will one day die.  It is quite sad to consider those who are Atheists who believe that there is no further existence after death…that this is all there is to this existence.  In the Christian perspective, we believe that our souls do have an afterlife and that within this afterlife there is heaven and there is hell.

As I’ve stated before some people have a difficult time facing this reality and that God would eternally punish those who reject Him.  But as I’ve mentioned before if our action is to purposefully and willfully turn our backs on God, then the eternal consequence of such an action is the reaction which leads the soul to eternal separation from God.  Hell is a real place!  Hell will be inevitable for some people…and I am not the judge, never will be and I’ve never claimed to be.  But if we are to embrace such a reasoning as an afterlife and the notion of heaven, then ought to understand that there is such a place as hell.

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Here’s are some closing thoughts on this for today:

1) Own up to your actions!

You and you alone are responsible for the choices that YOU make…I am responsible for the choices that I make!

2) Consequences are real!

If you make a poor choice the consequences are yours.  If I make a poor choice the consequence is mine.  Not someone else’s.  Stop blaming others when consequences come that we don’t like that are based on our poor choices.

3) There is always a right and better choice!

God doesn’t simply want a relationship with us, He want to transform us to become like His Son Christ on our spiritual journey!  He doesn’t want us to remain the way He has found us.  He wants us to choose Him every time in our daily lives.  This means consider the consequences of our actions, consider the path that we wish to take and also consider God knows what He is doing!  Choose Him, and His path…it won’t be easy but His path is right!

4) Believe in Eternity and live for God’s kingdom in the here and now! 

If we choose His path, His direction in our lives, we not only fall in step with His will but we recognize that life is so much more than just this human experience.  Eternity is so much longer and lives are at stake.  We must be Christ’s ambassadors in our world!  We are called to this higher calling to not only look forward to heaven, but to introduce Christ to those who have yet to believe and add to this heavenly family on this journey.

What do I stand for?  What do you stand for?  I will own up to my choices…I will face the consequence of my poor choices and strive, with His Holy Spirit’s help, to live a Holy life in word and in deed!

“What Do I Stand For?” -Social Justice-

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A child goes hungry, not because there isn’t food in the village, but because his family has been ostracized for being Christians.  They are not privy to the market place and so they have to fend for themselves by begging, trying to cultivate some foods from a meager garden and by digging through other people’s discarded trash.

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Another young boy watches helplessly as his father is executed right in front of him, then is hauled off, brainwashed, strung out on drugs and given an AK-47 as a child soldier.  This method is repeated over and over again by more than just the now infamous Joseph Kony.  Other places in Africa as well as East Asia this is how warfare and power is perpetrated.  Many times it goes unnoticed or unreported in our Western news sources…but it doesn’t make it go away for those who are suffering under this oppression and senseless bloodshed.

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A young woman is kidnapped in the middle of the night from her bed and becomes a slave to the sex industry, where girls like her are property and a money making business.  She is shipped in windowless crates, transported on trains, and moved from one place to the next to fulfill her slavers lust for power, greed and sex.  When she is all used up, her body will be thrown out like garbage and the evil owners move on to other victims.  Some say it doesn’t happen where I live…think again!

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These stories are just the tip of the ice berg that is our fight against social injustice in our world today!  It is something that all of us, who claim to be followers of Christ, should be engaged in to some form or another.  Whether it’s helping in a food shelf, a soup kitchen from time to time, or supporting a governmental bill that will further help those in need.  As Christians we are to be the very hands and feet of Christ, and I’m pretty sure He didn’t solely reside within the walls of the church to help those in need!  A part of showing Christ’s love to those around us requires us to extend ourselves and help bring Christ to other’s body, soul and mind.

“A father acts on behalf of his children by working, providing, intervening, struggling, and suffering for them. In so doing, he really stands in their place. He is not an isolated individual, but incorporates the selves of several people in his own self. Every attempt to live as if he were alone is a denial of the fact that he is actually responsible. He cannot escape the responsibility, which is his because he is a father. This reality refutes the fictitious notion that the isolated individual is the agent of all ethical behavior. It is not the isolated individual but the responsible person who is the proper agent to be considered in ethical reflection.”
― Dietrich BonhoefferEthics

We, as Christians, have a responsibility to intervene in causes for those who cannot defend themselves or are powerless to act.  As protectors of our world we not only seek to keep our environment healthy and clean, but we should also, in our power, seek to bring freedom and hope to those who have none.  Social justice isn’t just for the bureaucrat, the foreign ambassador and the law maker on Capitol Hill…social justice is for all of us who have a voice and the will power to actually change the world for the better.

 

“Denouncing evil is a far cry from doing good.”
― Philip GourevitchWe Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda

 

The quote above is apropos…we can’t merely denounce something…watching a news story we just shake our head and say out loud, “What is our world coming to?”  Yet we don’t do anything about it, we change the channel and move on in our own little worlds.  This isn’t just an indictment on me this is an indictment on the entire Western world when we stand by and do nothing when whole cultures are being wiped out in semi-religious acts of genocide.  When nothing is actively being done to stop the active violence in villages and the formation of child soldiers in third world countries.  It is just plain wrong when nothing is being done to put a stop once and for all to the sex trafficking industry that enslaves men, women and children.   I’m thankful for proactive political leaders and lobbyists who fight every day to change laws and make it an active war on these plights of our world!   But it doesn’t just begin and end with these leaders and lobbyists…we too have a role to play as well!  We too must roll up our sleeves and get involved!  We too have a voice, and so we MUST use it!

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause”. –Isaiah 1:17

Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.” –Jeremiah 22:3

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” -1John 3:17-18

To Stand with God and His justice, we as Christ followers, ought to be also stand for social justice and social reform so that everyone in our world might have opportunities for freedom.  God, I believe asks us to stand for those who cannot make that stand themselves.  To speak for those who have no voice, and to make a difference in our world through not only environmental activism but also social activism.  We are called to BE THE CHANGE!

Additional Sources:

http://streetlightusa.org/2012/child-sex-trafficking-research-and-statistics/

http://www.charismamag.com/site-archives/639-charisma-channels/practical-christianity/8930-practical-ways-to-fight-for-social-justice

http://salvos.org.au/more/get-involved/social-justice/what-is-social-justice/

http://www.amazon.com/Social-Justice-Handbook-Better-Bridgeleader/dp/0830837159

ttp://www1.salvationarmy.org/IHQ/www_ihq_isjc.nsf

A Spiritual Intervention

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The door opens seemingly by itself, could it be a ghost?  No, Bilbo Baggins reappears after sliding The Ring off of his finger.  He has just shocked all of the Hobbits in the Shire as he vanished from sight at his birthday party.  Now, placing the ring in his pocket for safe keeping he goes to his sitting room to collect his things.   But Gandalf is waiting for him with questions.  Finally Gandalf confronts Bilbo about the ring and, for his own sake, to give up the ring.  Bilbo reacts with aggression, not a part of his normal temperament.  Then he seemingly talks to himself as he strokes the golden ring in his hand; “my precious”…he whispers to it.  Gandalf seems to grow taller as the room darkens as his voice booms in the small hobbit home, “Bilbo Baggins, do not take me for some conjuror of cheap tricks…I am not trying to rob you, I am trying to help you!”

The scene is epic within the story spun by J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Lord of the Rings”.  Gandalf is having an intervention of sorts for Bilbo.  The Ring, can and will impose its will on those who possess it…they may at first believe they control it but soon enough it will control them.  Bilbo Baggins’ mood change is evidence of this as Gandalf tries to reason with him.  He bares his teeth and snarls like an animal…he is possessed by what he possesses within his hand.  Bilbo needs help, he needs someone stronger than himself to find the strength to relinquish that which he is now a slave to.

Isn’t that a great picture of what sin does to us?  We begin by dabbling, believing we are in control.  But we quickly realize that we don’t possess sin, sin possesses us.  We hold it in our hands, in our lives and we lack the strength to relinquish control because we are slaves to it.  Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36 NIV) We need a source of freedom.  We need a spiritual intervention, one who has resisted life’s temptations and has paid the price of our redemption: Christ himself!  Jesus, the Son of God, comes to us and says give it to me!  Give me your burdens, your sins, your enslavement.  Without His help we snarl and wail like animals lost within their own entanglements.

I have come that you might have LIFE, and have it abundantly!” -Jesus (John 10:10)

What are you holding onto that you have yet to relinquish to the Lord?  Don’t be a slave to what you possess any longer!  Do not let the trappings of sin keep you from experiencing freedom and abundant life!  When we allow the Lord to take from us our sin and shame, we WILL be free!  So let go of it!  Don’t allow it to poison your life any longer!  You have One who cares and loves you and He wants to give you His strength and support.  Let Him help…the shackles of sin can be released immediately with His strength on your side!

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