Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The One About the Chains

(photo from thelatterdays.blogspot.com)

Instead of feeling some strange version of survivor guilt for being freed while others remain chained and defeated, I need to step up to help set them free; I need to step up into a holy boldness. (And I’m not the only one!)

Whether you’re standing on your old pile of chains or you’ve long since discarded them, you, like I do, remember being tied down and held back. You may even recall the sound of your falling chains off as you surrendered to the One Who set you free.

I heard the way they train circus elephants not to run off is by chaining them to a post while they’re babies. That chain and their limited space to move teach them that’s all there is to their lives. As they get older, bigger and stronger, the post can be removed from the ground without fear the elephant will wander off or become destructive, because the elephant has already learned their limitations. If they only knew!

Perhaps you still have a few shackles around your feet or tethered to your heart. Maybe, you’re convinced they’ll always be there - because they’ve always been there. Either way, there’s freedom in Christ. Once He shatters our chains, though, we need to recognize our liberty. We can continue to walk around in the same small circles we’ve always gotten dizzy in, or we can learn to walk a new path. Think about it, when a blind man is given his sight, he can no longer sit and beg alms, he needs to (gets to) go out and make his own way.

Learning to walk that new path isn’t hard, but it’s certainly challenging; there will be hard parts to the often mountainous journey and there will be fun downhill sled rides. But we can’t take part in any of it until we find our way. And Jesus proclaimed, “I am the way!” That’s the good news!

But, getting back to those chains; if we’ve learned to call those cumbersome bands “jewelry”, masquerading around like they’re all the rage, and believing that even those around us don’t see how confined we are, it’s unlikely we’ll yield to the only One Who can loose us from their well defined hold. In any form of confinement, there is a conditioning process. We can lose hope and be enslaved forever, or we can reach for our hope throughout every single day, believing we’ll be rescued.

(Photo from www.stacyvoss.com)
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)  Faith – faith in something or someone, keeps hope alive.

Though I’ve read Sun Tzu’s book, The Art of War, I’m no student of battle, nor a fan of war movies. I’ve not studied the tactics man uses to conquer other men. But, from what I have seen in a half a century of living, it’s easy for most of us to give up. Whether we’re giving up on yet another diet, or we’re imprisoned and see no way out. Maybe that’s why we love movies where the very impossible is overcome and true stories of how someone else rose from nothingness to have it all; where they suffered sure defeat only to rise up to unbelievable victory. We watch a human spirit triumph and we somehow share in that glory and revel in their freedom – all from our comfy theater seat or living room couch, even knowing our own inner struggles have us feeling defeated. Those stories can give us the shot of hope we so desperately search for.

(Photo from naldzgraphics.net)

Spiritual chains are even stronger than physical chains. Physical chains restrain where we go. Spiritual chains restrain the power we’ve (already) been given, rendering us impotent.

Where we are weak, there are spiritual chains. Sometimes we don’t see our own weaknesses because we’ve lived in them so long; we believe that’s how we were made and should be okay with it, learning to live with it or adapt to it, diminishing who we are created to be. Now, if I lose my legs in an accident, that’s something to adapt to, but I don’t need to let it diminish who I am. Sometimes we need to take a serious look in a mirror. But a literal mirror will only show physical chains.

We need to look into the mirror of God’s Word to see how we’re SUPPOSE to look; to see the power we actually have and to recognize the chains that suppress us. I suggest reading through the New Testament; I’d begin with the first chapter of the book of John. Here’s a link to it to get you started: The Book of John, Chapter One

I’m not a counselor of any sort, but I’d like to think I encourage. I’m more than happy to answer the questions I can – but know, I probably have more questions than you do. Jesus Loves Me, This I Know ----- Jesus Knows Me, This I LOVE!

To get you up and off that couch, listen to Mary Mary perform their song Shackles, one of my favorites!

Saturday, October 18, 2014


(picture from stampinup.net

“And now, dear brothers and sister, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” – Philippians 4:8 (New Living Translation)

The New Life Version says it this way, “Christian brothers, keep your minds thinking about whatever is true, whatever is respected, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever can be loved, and whatever is well thought of. If there is anything good and worth giving thanks for, think about these things.”

The New King James reads, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of a good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”

No matter which version we pull up, Paul tells us to think on the good things. Yet, I catch myself allowing things that could never be good creeping into my mind. One of my favorites verses in scripture, one I lean on greatly, yet one I don’t live up to all the time. I wonder what my reality would look like if I thought only on good things!

This instructional list of adjectives includes:
True and honorable
Right and pure
Respected and lovely
Noble and just and admirable

How is it we find ourselves filling our minds with thoughts that are:
Gossip and destructive
Angry and hostile
Bitter and ugly
Worrisome and lying
Disgusting and hurtful
Sad and regretful

Jesus is coming back for a church that is without spot or wrinkle, a church that is watching and waiting for His return. How can we expect to produce the fruit of the Spirit of God if we’re weighed down with the negativity of that second list? God knew how powerful our minds are; He created them to be powerful! Paul no doubt learned from his own experiences, and could see how this wisdom from God was so vital for our lives to be filled with liberty and joy and power-filled. He shared it with us centuries ago, knowing that however many generations received his instructions, we’d all need them to thrive.

(picture from oldfaithgateway.com)
If we read this scripture every single day and post it where we’ll see it and memorize it and teach it to our children and make up songs about it the job will be partly done. But, we also need to fill our minds with those good things. Constantly watching television programming that degrades our thoughts or listening to music filled with perversion and profanity and reading material that should make us blush and hope no one sees us won’t give our mind much of an opportunity to fill itself with positive things. Nor will rehearsing over and over again every failure we’ve suffered through or every hurtful thing done to us.

(picture from ibelieve.com)
It’s time to take inventory. Do we complain more than we give thanks? Do we curse when something upsets us? Do we find vulgarity entertaining? What kinds of images are stored in the hard-drive of our brain? It’s time for some reprogramming. It’s time to focus on the Word of God, for real. It’s time to focus on the things that glorify God and all that is good instead of what the world beckons us to accept as good.

“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” – Psalm 34:14 (KJV)
“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21 (KJV)

If you have an extra minute or two, read 2 Timothy chapter 3 for a description of what things will be like in the last days of life on this planet as we know it… Personally, I don’t think Paul is talking about the people around us that don’t believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, but to us – the church of Jesus Christ, His own body.

Yes, it’s a good start. Write out Philippians 4:8 (4:4-8 is GREAT) and put it where you’ll see it often to remind you. It’s such a good idea; I suggest you do it right now. Watch your mood change, too!

(picture from butlerpartyof3.com)