The cross (examination)

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People say we should love the sinner, hate the sin. For a long time, I erronously thought this came from the bible, and I’m sure many still believe that, but it’s not. I’ve looked.

But it sounds like something we should do, but what does that look like?

I believe sharing the truth with someone is the way we show love, afterall, we’re talking about true love.

Would you lie to someone to spare their feelings, even though what their doing is wrong? What does that accomplish?
According to 2 Cor. 6:14 – 7:1, we are not to align ourselves with unbelievers.

6:14 Do not be yolked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” 18 And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

Chapter 7:1 Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

When we choose a friendship with someone who’s living in sin and wants to stay in their sin, we’ve made the friendship an idol. It stands between us and God. That’s not biblical.

I heard a really good analogy last night of what happens when we enmesh ourselves into other people’s sin with the idea that we can save them through staying in the friendship/relationship.

From my brother-in-law (BIL) who took an Advanced Lifeguard class:

He said that he was trained to save lives and learned early on that a drowning person is very dangerous. The one who is drowning flails around and grabs at anything or anyone trying to get purchase, but when it is another person they’ve grabbed onto, the instinct is to pull them down with them in an effort to save themselves. That’s why you hear of so many multiple deaths in drowning accidents when fathers, siblings and friends try desperately to save a drowning victim.

Lifeguard Rule #1. Save yourself, so you can save others.
My BIL was trained to subdue the person he’s trying to save, whether that meant punching them in the face, pinning their arms from behind, or by whatever means necessary, so they both don’t drown. In doing this, both people are saved.

When we have a prodigal child or adult, a homosexual, bi-sex, or transgender child or friend, an alcoholic, drug user, whatever, if we choose to walk alongside them to preserve the relationship, it is the equivalent to allowing a drowning victim to grab us and drag us down into the abyss. If we do not disable them from grabbing at us, it will cost both lives; and eternal life for the ones we’re trying to save.

Disabling them in this instance means to set a boundary with them. Allowing them to live in their sin, without becoming a party to it. Any time you do spend with the person it should be intentional and eternity focused.

Ya, this idea is unpopular with culture and even in many churches, but that is why Matt. 7:13-14 says “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Ephesians 5:1-13 says “1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater —has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”

So, I have to ask myself, my friends and other Christians, is it really true love to hold an unbeliever’s hand as they walk the road to hell?

I know. This seems harsh, but eternity is at stake here.

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This has been heavy on my heart all week.

I’ve heard the topic of Sabbath from the pulpit a few times before, so I can’t claim that this is a new concept to me, but I heard a sermon about it again last Sunday. Only this time, I was forced to look at it through the lens of idolatry and slavery, and obedience and redemption.

God created the heavens and the earth, and everything in it in six days and rested on the seventh. He rested and reflected on all that He had done.

He thought it so important that he made it one of the “Big Ten.” In the Old Testament, people would be put to death for not observing the Sabbath, but in the New Testament, Jesus proclaimed it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath. (Matt. 12) This is in answer to the Pharisees who questioned him for healing a man on the Sabbath and saving a sheep from danger. He responded to them in verse 13 “…Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.”

But sin has corrupted this idea of “doing well” and really, it’s no surprise because Satan can’t create anything new, he can only corrupt what God has created and commanded.

Sin makes us feel like we will never be productive enough. Culture tells us we’re lazy and unproductive when we rest. It also offers us so many toys, activities and distractions that we must have, must do, or must experience, that those things breed envy, greed and lust in us. That’s bad enough, but then many times, we do these things on the Sabbath because it’s the only day we have all to ourselves, or so we tell ourselves.

Instead of honoring God, we may or may not go to church, then we fill the rest of the day with things that give us immediate gratification and fulfill our selfish desires, which serves ourselves and not Him or others who may be in need.

For me personally, I never thought that doing things that gratify me (shopping or working on projects around the house) on the Sabbath stole honor from God, but it does. Clearly, it is a form of idolatry and slavery to do something that gratifies me in exchange for obedience to God.

To be obedient to God, I must observe the day He’s set aside for me to rest. And, if I get to feeling guilty like I should be doing something with my time, I’ll know that’s just Satan trying to separate me from my God.

Thank you God for continuing to redeem me from the slavery of self.

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The simplicity of salvation

Becoming a Christian is simple. The bible says so.

So why is it that so many religions complicate faith and salvation by the practice of rituals and traditions, and reciting pre-written prayers?
If you’re practicing any of those things are you doing it because you think it’s what God wants you to do, or that somehow, performing those things will save you?

If so, you’re on the wrong path. Scripture is very clear about the simplicity of salvation.

Ephesians 2:8 (KJV) -For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

1 Timothy 2:5 (KJV) – For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

John 14:6 (KJV) – Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

God doesn’t have a checklist of “to-do’s” for salvation that He keeps on all of us. Rather He has a book. It either has our name in it or it doesn’t, period.

Revelation 20:15 (KJV) says: And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

That’s pretty self-explanatory too. Scary, but pretty dang easy to understand. So why are there so many books and blogs written by men and women that talk about ways to really know God, worship God, love God?

People find it easy to read these types of things and often use them instead of the bible when they are going through difficult, uncertain times. There are probably some verses that are referenced in these books, but it is man’s interpretation of the verse(s) and their ideas about how you should live, but if they don’t direct you back to the scriptures, they are misleading you into a false sense of salvation.

In doing this, “man” has complicated faith and is profiting from sharing “his own understanding” of scripture. I don’t think all religious books written by men or women are bad, but they must be aligned with scripture. It is the litmus test for truth.

I used to have a really hard time understanding the bible, but the more that I die to myself, my desires, my self-centeredness, the more clear the bible is to me. I don’t know if it’s that way for other people, but that’s the way it’s been for me. For the last several years, I could understand most of the NIV bible, but now I can read the KJV and understand almost everything thing that is written.

I believe that once you let the Holy Spirit into your life (every part of your life), God will reveal Himself to you through scripture. You don’t need any of man’s ideas about the interpretation or application of scripture for your personal walk of faith.

I believe the word of God. It is my guide for daily living and I won’t be swayed or convinced by any man or woman on earth that I need to be doing anything more than what the bible says.

I implore my friends and family to get into the word — God’s word. It is the primary way He communicates with us. The more you read it, the more you’ll understand it.

1 Timothy 4:1 (KJV) – Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

2 Corinthians11: 1-4 (KJV)
1 Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.
2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

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The one I serve

My life as a Christian should be dependent upon God. That means that He should be giving me direction in all the areas of my life (operating system logic), only, I keep forgetting that I’m just a bit player in a much larger story — God’s story.

I keep forgetting because the culture tells me that I’m an important person, that I can “have it MY way,” that I can “just do it!” and, “I can be ANYTHING I want to be.” The culture also tells me that to follow God is “old-fashioned, out of date, and believing in a fairy tale.”

It is so easy to fall into that trap, but Satan is the ruler of the earth, the culture, and every corrupt idea, belief, and action. He is the ultimate deceiver who uses the lies of “self-satisfaction,” “self-indulgence” and “immediate self-gratification” to turn me from the truth of my creator.

When I seek my desires over God’s will for my life, I become enslaved to those desires. But again, the culture and even my friends tell me it’s okay to indulge. Heck, I’ve told people the same thing, but now I am re-thinking that. Rather than justify what I’m doing, I think I should question my real motivations behind what I’m wanting to do.

Like, why do I need to buy a new pair of shoes? Sometimes, it really is a need. A few weeks ago, my flats aboslutely lost all shape and my feet wouldn’t stay in them. But, I can tell you, I’ve been looking for flats for almost two years now and everytime I go into a shoe store, there are so many choices and so many that I seriously want that it clouds my judgment of what I really need.

But, I make other purchases for things that I don’t need and that I just think I’d look good in or that I justify by saying that since I’m working and pulling my weight, I should have the freedom to spend my money the way I want. There are even some times that I make silly purchases just because I’m bored or needing a distraction.

That’s so self-centered, self-indulgent of me and it leaves no room for God.

I’m not saying that God doesn’t want us to have things, but it goes back to me in the shoe store. I can honestly need a new pair of shoes yet leave the store with several pairs that I didn’t need.

I think I have freedom to buy “at will” because I make enough to do that, but is that really freedom?
To buy three pairs of shoes when I only needed one and then justifying the purchase of other two pairs? It seems I’m a slave to my desire when I do that.

I don’t want to be a slave to things that fall apart, go out of style, or that come in 3 different colors.
I’d rather be a slave to the one who created me, the one that created me to live in His bigger story.

Romans 6:18 (KJV) – Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

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The operating system

Believers are hard-wired a bit differently than other people.
Some believers might be called “weird,” others might be called believers “holy-rollers,” and back in the day, Christians were called “Jesus freaks.”

But, the thing that separates true believers from all other people is their operating system.

You might be thinking about what I mean by that.

I’ll try to explain this in the easiest analogy I can. It’s similar to one I heard in a sermon a few months ago, but it fits very well with our culture.

When we accept Christ as our personal savior, the Holy Spirit becomes our operating system. It will never go bad, crash or get a virus.

It has no backup either.
It doesn’t need one because when we ask for forgiveness for our shortcomings, our failures and our failings, it wipes the system and the disks clean, every time, so it’s just like it was the day it was first installed.

I first became a Christian when I was in 4th grade, but I didn’t understand about the holy spirit being the operating system. In fact, there was no such thing as an operating system because computers were still just NASA equipment that we only got to hear about.

After many, many years of trials, heartaches and failures (all under my own doing), I found out that rather than just accept Jesus as my savior, I needed to let him be in charge of me. As much as I had hosed up my life though, I just couldn’t see myself giving EVERYTHING over to God, so I instead picked and chose those things I wanted him to handle.

In computer lingo, that would be like installing an application or program on your computer. You can access it easily but it’s compartmentalized to an icon on the desktop where you click it to access it.

The problem with that approach is that after you’ve tried program after program, app after app, and have been dissatisfied with the results, you are likely to uninstall them or exchange them for some other program that promises good results.

The only way to let the holy spirit work in you and transform your life is to get a new operating system.

Since I upgraded to my operating system, it’s amazing how much better I run. All the things I do in a day, a week, a month, a year, are run automatically by the operating system so all I have to do is turn the computer on and let it go.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV) – 17 17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

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The act of charity

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8, NLT

This verse came in my email today. I like to see how other bible translations write verses because sometimes, the meaning gets a bit skewed and other times, it changes the meaning completely, so I looked this verse up in the NASB, NIV, ESV and KJV.

NASB, NIV, ESV all use the word “love,” but KJV uses the word “charity” instead of love.

(KJV) – And above all things, have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

I found that interesting, so I looked up the word “charity” in the dictionary.

Charity – The voluntary giving of help to those in need.

Next, I looked up the word “charity” in the thesaurus to see what other words mean the same thing as charity. Love did not make the list of synonyms.

Charity is definitely an “action” word.

I’m not a bible scholar so I can’t really argue theologically with someone on this point, rather, it just made me think about this verse and what idea it is trying to convey.

I’m thinking the verse with the word “love” might be misused and over-used.

It doesn’t cost us anything to say “I love that,” “I love this,” or even “I love you.” Well, maybe some embarrassment if the feeling isn’t reciprocated, but generally, it requires no action of us to make those statements.

Love is an emotion, a feeling, a sensation, a reaction or a mood.

Don’t get me wrong. When we love someone, we are generous of our time and resources, but not always.

If the bible is our instruction manual, this verse says we’re to be charitable — offer aid or give to the needy.

Charity is the action of being generous, compassionate, and giving aid to those who are needy.

It’s also a much bigger commitment than to simply say “I love you.”
Charity means I’m willing to give of my time and resources to those who need it.

The adage, “actions speak louder than words,” would exemplify the KJV translation of this verse.

Hmmm.

Am I being charitable? Do I use the word “love” without backing it up with the work of “charity?”
This is a lot for me to think about as I head into the weekend.

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The branch and the vine —

John 15:4 (KJV) — Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

Branches that have been grafted into a vine, only bear fruit because they’ve been grafted into a live vine. So, the branch has become part of the true vine. Without the vine, the branches can’t bear fruit and will wither away.

Just like the bible says, my Christian faith is like a branch. I was grafted into the true vine many years ago, but did not start bearing fruit right away. In fact, it was quite a long time.

I was thinking about that this morning and thinking about how grapevines produce fruit. There is a correlation, for sure but it has taken me a loooooong time to relate it to my life.

Grapevines need to be pollinated and depending on the variety, they may flower but not produce fruit until a few years have past. Sometimes, they need fertilizer and pesticides for protection. The branches also must be pruned to make more fruit come on. All of that requires a gardener.

I understand now why I didn’t bear fruit for so long. I wasn’t being pollinated. I had little fertilizer and little protection from insects and disease and I didn’t allow the process of pruning to result in fruition.

God tells us exactly how to cultivate our faith. John 15
Good stuff, but that’s a story I didn’t fully understand but now I can correlate it in human terms.

Pollination means to me that I was not reading the bible and praying consistently. I also did not spend time much time cultivating Christian relationships (fertilizer), and for many, many years, I never thought twice about the type of books, movies and TV I consumed (protection/insecticide). Pruning I think, is the act of my surrendering more of myself and my problems/pain (emotional, physical, or spiritual) and letting the Holy Spirit do the redemptive work in my life.

All of this must be handled by someone who knows how to make stuff grow. There’s no better being to do that, than God.

It’s painful to make this admission, but last night, I felt the nick of the pruning knife again and know that I have more to surrender in the days that follow. I’d like to say I’m done growing — translation: I’m tired of pain, surrender and uncertainty, but I risk the branch dying if I don’t let myself be pruned by the gardener.

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The song I love —

Amazing Grace is one of the prettiest hymns I’ve ever heard. And I like hearing it in many different genres. The depth of meaning to the words as a believer is hard to quantify.

Yesterday in church, we sang Chris Tomlin’s version of this hymn.
He’s added a line to the chorus that really struck at my heart:

My chains are gone, I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace.

Click here to hear the whole song.

God can remove any bondage, chains, or issues that keep us from fully experiencing His grace and the peace and joy that comes with freedom. His son was the ransom that paid for all our sins from the littlest white lies to our biggest ugly behaviors.

That is so big, but when I heard this part of the chorus Sunday, I just started weeping. I thought about the many people who I’ve personally witnessed whose chains have clanked to the floor. Is there any better way to understand God’s mercy than to watch a slave being freed?

The freedom from bondage is unfathomable for those who still live under a false identity, or other type of bondage (emotional, physical, spiritual). For all the freed slaves I’ve seen, there are many more who I watch that are embittered, defeated, and many times unintentional slaves to sins that Christ’s already paid with His blood.

2 Peter 2:19 (NIV) says “They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity — for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.”

It is for them that I hurt today, but I thank God for His promise of grace to all who are ready to be free.

Eph 1:7 (KJV) In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

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The way we die

Do you really know what it feels like to “die to yourself?”
Every day over the last two years, more and more of me dies to Him. It’s an oddly thrilling sensation. My conscious is alive and very much aware of what I’m doing, saying, thinking. My prayer life is exploding with a passion for building a life-long relationship with Christ. God not only leads me to the scriptures, but He reveals their meaning as well.

I wished I had trusted God more fully years ago, but He knows me. He knew exactly when and under what circumstances it would happen with me. He knew me before I was born. He knows all that I have gone through, suffered over, and what I will die from. That He chose me to be a part of His family means more to me today than I ever knew it would.

I could waste more time berating myself for being immature, wasting time doing things that didn’t serve God, and being afraid of sharing my beliefs with others, but because of all the experiences I’ve had, I have a true understanding of what it means to be forgiven, redeemed and transformed and I can have empathy for those who are on a similar path.

God wants us to “own” those experiences because they are the exact opposite of what God would want for us: self-centered vs. God-centered

My life has been completely self-centered — my job, my family, my activities, my relationships all had fallen short and had left me feeling empty, ineffectual, and wounded. It was all self-inflicted, but now I can see clearly how “my will” (self-centeredness) imposed on my life created havoc, confusion and destruction. Not only for myself, but for those closest to me.

Dying to myself has changed my life exponentially. My job, my family, and my relationships haven’t changed, but the way I feel about them has. But the biggest area of my life that’s changed is how I spend my time(activities). The value I place on “stuff” has changed dramatically. I have no appetite anymore for TV shows that I used to really enjoy. Before VCRs, DVD players, and TiVo, if I really wanted to watch a program, I worked my schedule around those shows. In more recent years, I had the freedom to watch almost any show I liked by going to Hulu or Netflix. But that wasn’t really “freedom.” I would watch mindless TV, but say I was doing it because it’s the only time I force myself to sit down and relax. That was a “lie” that kept me in a cycle of distraction that also kept me from spending my time learning even more about God.

As I came to this realization, it’s almost like I could hear the shackles of my slavery hitting a cold, concrete floor.

I’m not attacking anyone who enjoys the distractions that TV shows, gaming or listening to online music provides. They make life seem more fun, more bearable, and these activities give us talking points with others. But, do we use those devices to get to know others, encourage them, and discuss God’s truths with them or are we using them to pass the time or get our mind off our problems?

Again, this isn’t an attack on anyone. This is a realization God’s shown me in my life over the last two weeks. My insistence on making time or filling my time by catching up on all the TV shows I enjoy, was a form of slavery for me. It provided me a distraction from the boredom of life.

I can’t say I won’t ever enjoy another TV show, movie, etc., but I need to make sure that it isn’t distracting me from what God wants me to learn, know, or do.

In case you’re wondering, these realizations came in the form of a bible study on the book by Frances Chan called “Crazy Love” and the book “Redemption” by Mike Wilkerson. Both are based on solid biblical teaching.

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The problem of identity

Have you ever felt real clarity about a situation?
Seems like God’s got me in a zone where he’s infiltrating my thought life with pure truths about things I’d never previously thought about or worried over, but for the last few months, he’s brought to light through His word, some of the most perverse and disturbing issues in our world. It’s compelled me to share His truth with others and yet people, even some of my friends, have back-pedaled away from me because my thinking seems so radical. By worldly standards, that is true. My thinking has become skewed towards God’s truths. Is that a bad thing, though?

Through the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender) movement which is so prevalent in our world, God showed me that, that issue has transpired because people don’t know who they are anymore. They aren’t being raised with God’s truth. They don’t hear God’s truth in their schools or in culture either, so where are they going to hear it?

We are ALL created by God, but when we do not accept this heritage, we adopt false identities that are largely rooted in self-centeredness, not god-centeredness. Many people will tell you they or their family members were born that way, but that’s simply not true. God is NOT the author of confusion, gender or otherwise. Confusion is a tactic used by Satan to deceive you into believing that God is not all-powerful.

When we adopt the “go-along to get-along” thinking, we have already bought into this deception and then we are easy prey to worse deception.

We are all sinners, and most of us live under false (self-centered) identities that only serve to propagate more sinful behaviors. No matter what our sin is Jesus died so we wouldn’t have to live under that burden.

I encourage my friends to speak the truth in love even if people say you’re attacking them. You aren’t attacking them. This is a spiritual battle, not a human one. If this person begins to believe the truth, Satan has lost his power over them. Isn’t that how we win people to Christ?

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The slave vs. the servant – Do you know the difference?

I had en ephiphany this morning. Some months ago, I read the book Redemption by Mark Driscoll, which by the way, I won’t recommend reading, but will elaborate on why later on in this blog.

One of the key ideas in the book, is that we are slaves to our “idols” (distractions that keep us from full relationship with God) much like the Israelites in the book of Exodus. The book says that we need to get rid of our idols and become “slaves” to righteousness.

As a mature Christian, I understand what Mark means, but the word “slave” never set well with me because the word has a negative connotation.

Many months ago, I started reading the KJV version of the bible instead of the NIV. I understand it nowdays in a way I never could before. (Thank you Jesus for lifting the veil.) For quite some time, I’ve been matching verses in both translations to see where they differ and if the changes, change the meaning. Many times, the NIV simply takes out the “thee’s,” “thou’s,” and words ending in “eth.” I don’t have a problem with that, but I am noticing in some places where replacing a word with a similar word, changes the meaning.

I think the slave vs. servant is one of those “key” changes that could be problematic in sharing the gospel with nonbelievers.

Websters dictionary defines a slave as one who is bound in servitude as the property of a person or household. Slavery is a condition of hard work and subjection.

The definition of servant is one who expresses submission, recognizance, or debt to another: obedient servant.

These definitions are vastly different as one means you have no choice in the matter, the other means a willing submission, obedience to your debtor.

If you look in the bible for verses that speak to our attitude towards a relationship with God, the NIV uses the word “slave” instead of “servant,” and while it seems the difference is slight, stop to ponder what you think and what you feel about both of those words.

For example:
Romans 6:17-18 – (NIV) 17 “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”
(KJV)17 “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.”

Colossians 3:22 – (NIV) 22 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.”
(KJV) 22 “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;”

Ephesians 6:5 – (NIV) 5 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”
(KJV) 5 “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;”

I’m not saying the NIV is bad, but I think that it’s always a good practice to balance it against the King James to make sure that the meaning has not been lost in translation.

The relationship we have in Christ we’ve chosen in total freedom; and not under the threat of slavery.

When I think of slavery, I think of being owned by someone. It is very negative and makes me think of torture, neglect, being shackled without choice.

When I think of servant, I automatically think of choice: The freedom to choose to serve someone or something. I also think of it as a selfless act of love and gratitude.

Many people are in some sort of bondage to something (eg. TV, video games, drinking, drugs, porno, overeating, to name a few) but isn’t it really that we’ve just chosen to serve those things rather than serve God fully?

When we look at the meaning of servant over slave, we can understand that it was our willfull choice to think, live and act the way we do.

I know. It’s hard to put ourselves under the microscope, but to live as a believer, we must be brutally honest with ourselves. We choose to serve many, many things, but when we become addicted to those things, it truly becomes slavery. We are in bondage.

The good news is that God provides a way for us to be completely “free” of anything that separates us from Him. The question is, do we really, really want that?

As I said earlier, the book called Redemption by Mark Driscoll, makes a valid point in that our “idols” enslave us and keep us from relationship with God, but the book also says that it’s better to be a slave to Christ (righteousness) than a slave to an addiction.

This is where I have to step away from it. Why would people in their right mind choose slavery to one thing to slavery over another? Why would we choose to be a slave to a master we can’t see, don’t know, or understand over being a slave to a material or physical things we can touch, feel, experience?

We don’t have to be in ANY kind of slavery. God lets us willfully, freely choose Him.

If you really want to be free to serve a mighty God, the bible is the best book for that; however, in the beginning, you may need help navigating through the passages. Neil T. Anderson has written several books on Freedom in Christ. But there are two I’m thinking about specifically that do a wonderful job of helping people become free — “Victory Over the Darkness” and “Bondage Breaker.”

I encourage anyone who is reading this blog, to take a good look at your life.

What fills your time?

Many of us have to work (and no, that’s not slavery — we get to choose who we serve) but outside of that, how do we spend our “free” time? Do we fill it with kid activities (sports, dance, play dates, etc.) and/or adult activities (hobbies, movies, exercise, etc.)?

None of those are bad things, but inside your daily living, how much time is spent “serving” God? Spending time with God?

To be healthy, we need a balance. It’s different for everyone, but through prayer and bible reading, God will guide you in every part of your life.

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The Empty calendar

This morning feels a bit empty and I’m not sure  why.

  It might have started when I innocently looked at  the calendar this morning to see when we turn back  the clocks and I noticed it was a calendar that our  kid’s high school puts out every year. It’s chock full of activities, none of which we will attend.

 I guess they don’t automatically remove  you from the mailing list when your last  child graduates, or maybe it was sent in  error. I should put this on “the list” of  things to do now that the kids are grown.

 It didn’t even have the information I was looking for either. The date the clocks get turned back. You’d think that would make a school calendar. Seems kind of important, especially for getting to class on time.

 I know, it’s the empty nest thing, I’m sure, but I wonder if this goes back to Tuesday — The cross examination. My mind keeps gravitating towards thoughts about the activities, people, and things that kept me distracted or that I used as an escape from examining my life.

 When I was raising kids, I said I didn’t have time to really “think” about anything meaningful or have the time to really rest, rejuvenate and restore my mind, body or soul. I kept telling myself to just keep moving and once the kids were gone, I could start taking stock of my life.

 Well, I’m there now.

 Maybe what I feel is fear. Fear at what I will find when I look at myself. Will I hate what I see? Will I be disappointed that I didn’t do things better? Will I be able to love myself in spite of what I find?

My kids used to say I was so strong. They rarely saw me cry. I didn’t show those emotions often because I thought parents were supposed to be the pillars — strong under any circumstances. Strength equaled security (I thought) and that is something all kids needed. Whenever I felt emotional, I’d just push the feelings away and attack what task or activity that needed to be done next because there was always something — laundry, cooking a meal, carting someone to choir.

 I liken this to the days when I used to smoke. I started when I was 13 and quit when I was 33, but what I learned about myself when I quit, was that I used smoking as an escape. An escape from feeling the stark reality of anger, loneliness, sadness, etc. Once the cigarettes were gone, I could’nt control my emotions. I cried, I screamed, I threw things (behind closed doors or outdoors) because I had nothing to use to push the feelings down or away.

Now I don’t have any distractions to push what I feel away but, the best part about feelings is that they’re just that — feelings. And, feelings change. Sometimes, quickly, sometimes not, but if I push them down like I used to, I’ll have to pick up some other distraction, vice, or escape to keep them at bay and eventually they’ll surface in the worst possible way at the worst possible time.

I don’t want to do that anymore. It could be a long day.

Just sayin…

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The Distractions

At the risk of alienating many people, I want to share something profound that I read from a book titled “Redemption” by Mike Wilkerson.

A bit of background first, though. This book deals with hurts, hang-ups, and habits (issues) that people have which keep them from fully experiencing a joyful, free life. Addictions of all types (eg. cutters, alcoholics, druggies, sex, porn, control freak, grief over a loved one, grief over a child or adult who’s involved in addiction, and more) are things that separate us from being truly free.

The Redemption book is a tremendous way for people to examine their lives and find out what “issues” they’ve allowed to define/identify them, control their lives, and steal happiness from their lives.

Most people would say they don’t have “those” kinds of issues, but let me tell you brothers and sisters, we ALL have stuff. You don’t get to this age in life without acquiring stuff. After all, that’s what’s made you, you.

I don’t mean to preach today, but last night I read the chapter on Demanding Manna: The Subtle Significance of Everyday Desires.

If it doesn’t speak to every person on earth, I don’t know what does.

Besides obvious addictions a person may have, there are 3 areas where we all share issues:

Anger, Anxiety and Escapism.

The one that got me? Escapism

I’m going to quote right out of the book, “…Escape becomes more enticing as life becomes more difficult. Near the extreme end of the spectrum are addictions of all kinds: drugs, alcohol, food, sex. Near the subtle end of the spectrum is constant checking of e-mail, sports scores, or social media Web sites, aimlessly watching television or surfing the Web, unnecessary snacking, consuming hobbies, or workaholism.”

Ouch!

I’ve conquered many demons in my life. The saying that goes “You’ve come a long way baby,” definitely applies in my case, but in reading this chapter, I realize I still use mechanisms for coping rather than totally relying on God.

I could go on and on about this material. It’s solid, but you have to be brave enough to being willing to look at stuff going on in your life and be willing to give it up and trust God fully with your life. Woah!

This is what I’m marinating on today.

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