Sunday, December 29, 2013

Out of Egypt



"For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves."  Leviticus 25:42


Sometimes slavery is a comfort zone. Being bound to someone or something toxic is comfortable. It's all we've ever known and we don't even dream of anything else. To be released from slavery into something we do not know---freedom---is foreign. We are afraid to wander in the wilderness though we are free. The wilderness of freedom is a foreign land and slavery to pharaoh is familiar.

"Then Moses reached his hand out over the Red Sea. All that night the Lord pushed the sea back with a strong east wind. He turned the sea into dry land. The waters were parted. The people of Israel went through the sea on dry ground. There was a wall of water on their right side and on their left." - Exodus 14:21-22

The path from the slavery that binds you may seem impossible to walk, but God will make a way. Just as He performed a miracle and allowed Moses to part the red sea, He will make a dry path to walk on out of our own form of slavery.

Living in slavery is not always living as a physical slave. Slavery is living as a bondservant to sin, or allowing a toxic persons sin to permeate our lives. Cars, houses, computers, materialism, old unhealthy ways of thought and old habits are all things we can be in bondage too when they are out of balance. They become comforts of sorts and pretty soon many years have past living with this sin as our god. 

Sometimes God is seen as a weakling, unable to conquer or help us out of toxic relationships or defeat the sins in our lives. Our view of God and our own unbelief begins to permeate our life. The same God who led the Israelite's out of slavery is the same God who lives today. This same God wants to deliver us from our sin and part the red sea so we clearly see His power and His way out of sin.

Don't count on others to help lead you out of your fog, count on God. Other's may not have the discernment to help you, they do not know or see your heart and your daily struggles. Often the sins and toxic relationships are only known to God and ourselves. Sometimes we are blind to it and need the Holy Spirit to illuminate and shed His truth.

Christ shed His blood, with nails driven in His hands and feet so that we may know what freedom is. God's freedom is greater than we can imagine. We are not in bondage to sin, we are not bound to death, we are bound to Christ and His eternal life. Death and sin are conquered. He died to lead us out of the dry, barren desert of slavery to our own sin.

Yet we refuse so often---stubbornly---to let go of that which we know is sin in our life. What would life be without it? The unknown is scary. To let go of an old pattern of thought, old habits and behaviors will take hard work and dedication. The freedom of letting this all go and laying it at the foot of the cross is unimaginable to us because it requires surrender. A lifetime of living in surrender and the freedom of Christ.

Jaws are clenched and hands are holding tightly to the familiar, struggling to surrender sin. Surrendering to God and what He asks of us when we can't see what the next day holds, this is walking in freedom. We are no longer controlling what we think will be in our future---those familiar sins. Instead we are saying, "God I am here and YOU know what the future holds and I will trust, I will walk the path to the cross and I will trust you."

 God stands outside of time, the future is an easy task for Him. He holds it in His hands. He is in control, not us. The sins or toxic people we live in bondage too should not control our future or cause us to be afraid to walk out of Egypt into freedom. The Lord is already fighting for us, we don't fight against our sin alone.

Our freedom is in front of us, already bought at a price. The promised land is a few steps away, will we choose to live in it or go back to Egypt?

 "And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Soul Bankruptcy: A Modern Day Plague



 "Know well the face of your flocks; and pay attention to your herds." Proverbs 27:23

Many people seem to live fine, healthy, normal lives. Outwardly successful, their possessions speak that they have done well for themselves. They are praised and asked how they achieved such success. Seeming to have a happy family life filled with fun, vacations and activities and they seem to have achieved their American dream. Paying attention to the outer life, they don't seemingly suffer from want or neglect. No one calls them out and asks the deeper questions. They are left in quiet to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

The children and parents seem fine. The children well cared for, well dressed, attending great schools. All the while they are not bankrupt outwardly, but the inner heart and soul are becoming neglected, lonely, longing for something that is unfulfilled. Their soul is declaring it's own form of bankruptcy.

"As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, you abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. And though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve." Ezekial 34:8

But beneath all of that---the outward success, is the inner life of the man successful? Think of how many times you are asked "how is your inner life with God going?" That is a rare question that is almost never asked. God sees our hearts, and the growth and success He sees is different than what we see as success. He does not count our possessions, our raises, our bonuses as His sole form of success for us.

"The shepherds of my people have lost their senses. They no longer seek wisdom from the Lord. Therefore, they fail completely, and their flocks are scattered." Jeremiah 10:21

God sees the heart and soul first of His children first. He longs for us to place Him first and demolish any idols that have taken His place. Our thought life, our hearts--- are they bankrupt to God? Or does He see treasures being stored up inside ourselves---the riches of His desires for us? He sees if we are storing away riches in our soul to take with us to His kingdom.

"That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep." Luke 2:8

We can be successful and gain a lot of self esteem and define ourselves by the outer success. We need to know the state of our flocks. How are our children's hearts? Our spouses? Other special people God has placed in our lives? Do they know God, and do they know us? Do we invest in the riches that are our children and families? Children, teen and adult depression and loneliness are at all time highs. This is often amongst those that seem to "have everything." Affluent children are often the most neglected and lonely.  Amongst the gadgets, nice cars and the image of perfection is a deep soul longing for something more. Parents take their children to all sorts of therapy wondering why their children are in this state. Yet these parents neglected to truly pay attention to the state of their flock, they did not run after the sheep that started to run astray or make sure their flock stayed together. They were not truly the shepherd who watched over their flocks by night.

“What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people—the shepherds of my sheep—for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for,” says the Lord." Jeremiah 23:1

Running on the hamster wheel pursuing the next level of success thinking it is for our families good, however well intentioned it may be, but all the while they sit at home lonely---is not success.

"Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord, have spoken!" Jeremiah 23:4

It is not true happiness to run after outer success only. The quiet inner success of ourselves and our families should be a priority. Often as we run after the wrong things our flock is neglected. We are also called to pursue our flocks success, to be with them and to watch over our flock even more than we watch over the outer success. May we remember to store up riches in the soul bank account, the only one we truly take with us---so that we or our families will never have to suffer from inner bankruptcy.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep." John 10:11

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Extending Freely


"One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered." Proverbs 11:24-25

When we extend God's grace freely to others in spite of their imperfect behaviors we are truly showing a heart overflowing with the understanding of the gifts we have been given. If we hold back until behavior is as we think it should be, we will never give of ourselves in the way God is asking. 

Grace and love are not given in perfect circumstances or when another person acts as we think they should. Grace and love overflowing are to be given as a sign of your heart and behavior--not another's. Grace, love, extending ones self is a lifestyle choice. It doesn't come and go. It becomes a state of the heart, a virtue that we put on daily.

Grace, mercy and love are not dependent on anothers behavior. If they were, no one would ever receive them. We would never have received God's grace. God's grace and blessings are not only given when we have perfect behavior. He is generous to us and our cup runneth over.

The world teaches to hold back when we are treated wrongly, when the other persons behavior is less than stellar, even hurtful. But we can extend the love we have been given and taught freely without reservation. This heals and restores. Holding back only hurts others and ourselves.

It is a sign of our heart growth when we extend freely. A sign of our growing maturity in Christ to give whole heartedly. Our giving may not come back perfectly to us in this life but we feel freedom and peace in our hearts by being obedient. God asks us not to be "stingy" with our love but to give it in abundance.

So much conflict is avoided when we give freely, without concern for ourselves. When the concern creeps in for ourselves is where the selfishness resides in our hearts and we begin to hold back. It is a blindness to ourselves and our own sin. If our eyes see how God has blessed us we begin to have no room for selfishness. We will suffer want ourselves when we do not give and then we wonder why our heart feels lacking. We begin to blame the other person when the problem resides within us.

By giving we also enter into God's freedom. If we do not freely give, what are we hanging onto? What resentments cause us to be childishly "budgeted" with our love? Let us ask God to heal this selfish hardness of heart so that our heart is warm to God and others. In our heart lies the treasure that is Christ and this treasure is to be given away freely to others. In giving freely the chains are broken off of our own hearts.

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

"The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." 2 Corinthians 9:6

"They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life." 1 Timothy 6:18-19