False and Fragile Chains

A inspirational speaker a few months back reminded me of something about elephants in captivity used for entertainment (years ago, not sure if the practice is still used.) When the elephant calves are small they tie a chain around a hind leg and attach it to something solid that can’t be moved. Over the years the elephant learns that it can only go so far, before the chain stops them in their tracks. Eventually a small rope and a tent stake will hold this enormous animal in place, actually it’s the ingrained belief, not the fragile rope at all.

Why did this speaker, Jonathon Thomas, use this elephant story? To point out that what we think, how we train our minds, is very important.

For years, I suffered from anxiety. At one point it almost had me paralyzed. Like those elephants, I believed I could only go so far, with certain “safe people”, and lived a horrible life of fear and bondage. All of this happened while I was a born again Christian! Why did it last so long?

I think mostly because I had to change the way I thought and my expectations. Instead of believing made up lies of the enemy, I should have believed what God said. When I expected God’s best and quit expecting the worst, life got better. Once I sat through a dentist appointment with no pills and no anxiety, the next time wasn’t problem. When I could wait in line, sit in a crowded room, and manage a new situation without the sky falling or the ground swallowing me up, and without fainting or seemingly heart failure, I knew that God had my back.

Whenever feelings of anxiety try to come back, I rebuke them and quote His truth.

What fragile and false chains are holding you back?

Vacation Thoughts

We just got home last night from a ten day trip to Tennessee to visit some family. We are all getting old. We visited with a 90 year old aunt who is cared for by her daughter who is in poor health. They were sweet, spunky, and full of laughs. Then there was the uncle who has beginning Alzheimer’s who just had surgery. He was confused, in pain, and scared. His wife, with knee issues was so patient and caring. We stayed in the home of two cousins who visit us often in Wisconsin. They are some of the most generous people I know. People fed us, talked our ears off, loved on us and were happy to see us.

We were there for some “decoration day’s”, a day where the graves of loved ones are decorated with fake flowers. We visited the ashes of my father in law and the tombstone his Tennessee family put up for him. One of my favorite cousins was buried right next to him, with a spot waiting for his wife. We also participated in a graveside service in a Church cemetery where another cousin was buried years ago, two weeks before she was to be married. She was 19. Life is short.

Family is important. They remind us of where we came from and sometimes of where we are going.

For some of the family we visited, their faith was strong. Some were struggling.  None had given up hope. Hope in Jesus.

This trip was a reminder of how important it is to really know Him! He strengthens us, comforts us, heals us, and gives us hope of a better future.

Come Home

Art work by Charlie Mackesy

Luke 15:20 (Berean Study Bible), “So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still in the distance, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”

In Luke 15 we can read about a man that had two sons. The younger wanted his share of the inheritance before his father had passed. This can tell us a lot about this young man. Normally an inheritance isn’t given until there is a death. In those days the oldest son got a double portion and it is possible he resented this. People who dream of getting their inheritance early usually dream about losing the person early. But this man begs his dad to give it to him now. He was tired of working his father’s land, he was tired of being the second son, and he obviously didn’t respect his father.

The father, in his love, gives the son all that is due him. What does this selfish son do? He leaves everything behind, the work, the family, his social standing, his home. Then he proceeds to fulfill every lust of his flesh. When you have a lot of money, people suddenly want to be your friend. When you are “paying for the next round” or drive the fancy car with all the bells and whistles, when you throw your money around like it will never run out, people use you.

Before long, this young man who was always provided for, who had a family and a home, had an inheritance waiting, had absolutely nothing, and because he had run so far from it all, he found himself alone and starving.

Good thing he finally “came to his senses”. He remembers how good it was back home, he thinks about how his father even treated the servants pretty darn good. It took all of this for him to realize dad wasn’t such a bad guy after all, and his life was a whole lot better than it was at the end of the rope. He began to miss his old life and says to himself:

I will get up and go back to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’ (Luke 15:18-19)

Then while he was way down the driveway his father sees him. That means dad’s been watching and he can recognize this son he loves from even very far away. Does he wait for the prodigal to come to him with his tail between his legs, rehearsing the “did you learn your lesson” speech? Nope, he runs to his son and kisses his neck. To this father, it’s like his son had returned from the dead.

What a love. I want that kind of father, don’t you? Well, it’s time we “came to our senses” as well. We have that Father. He recognizes us better than anyone, He is looking for us to come up the drive, He is ready to give us a party in Heaven. He loves us no matter how we have behaved, disrespected, and squandered what He has already given us. He loves you!

Won’t you come home?

I Am Living In Hope

Romans 8:22-25 (BSB), “We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently.”

Hope is a wonderful thing. It keeps us from giving up, from throwing in the towel, or tucking tail and running away. In that long dark tunnel, hope is that little bit of light way off in the distance that promises you will come out on the other side. Romans eight tells us that we patiently wait for something we hope for, especially when we can’t see it.

Knowing God has healed us, that He wants us healed, can help us be patient when the symptoms are still there. We can pretty much apply that to any promise God has given us. Just because we can’t see it, or maybe it is only that tiny speck of light, doesn’t mean it isn’t coming. God isn’t a liar. If He said it, it is a done deal.

In I Timothy 1:1 Paul calls Jesus our hope, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” (Emphasis mine).

Think about that for a minute… Jesus IS hope.

I know that He is in me and I am in Him. So, it isn’t a stretch of the imagination to say that I live IN HOPE.

What will make me lose hope, only me. My wrong thinking, my impatience, my doubt and unbelief, my lack of trust in Him.

I choose hope, I choose Him.

When the Crap Hits the Fan Our Religion Falls Short

John 16:33 (NLT), “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus was very plain, we live in this corrupted, fallen world, and here, there is going to be trouble. He also prayed later in John 17, “Not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.” So, we are here till He returns or until God calls us home. So trials and sorrow will be part of our lives. Tribulations and turbulence will be in our future.

So what do we do?

Being “religious” isn’t the answer, going to church, reading your Bible, memorizing scripture isn’t the solution. Though the last three are great things, they are only a means to an end. The end, the final solution, is a close, intimate, and personal relationship with God. Knowing who He is, listening to His voice, getting to know Jesus, talking to Him in a way that isn’t just a list of “do for me” things. Because when the crap hits the fan, our religion falls short.

Jesus said that in Him we might have peace. We only get in Him, when we totally surrender our hearts to Him and allow Him to be Lord of our lives. Just saying a prayer doesn’t change us, or build a relationship. Yielding and pursuing Him does. And only a close and personal relationship with God will get me through the rough places in my life.

A great example was Jairus. He was a religious leader during Jesus time on this earth in human form. His daughter became sick and his religion couldn’t help her. There is no worse report for a parent than your child is a deaths door. This great need, with no religious solution, sent Jairus to Jesus. He had heard about His healing power. He humbled himself and sought the answer. After meeting Jesus and His quick agreement to go with Jairus, someone comes and tells the man that his daughter is dead. Sounds like misplaced faith, that the father was too late, that the answer wouldn’t come.

But Jesus! He assured Jairus that his daughter would be well. His daughter wasn’t just healed that day, she was raised from the dead.

Knowing about God doesn’t save us. Knowing Him does.

Cross The Bridge

John 3:16 (KJB), “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

This is a pretty familiar scripture. Even if they can’t quote it, even non-Christians have seen the reference on T-shirts, ball caps, on signs at football games, and billboards. It’s a wonderful verse. It’s a testimony of God’s love.

If you take a closer look, you’ll notice there are twelve words on each end with “SON” in the middle. God’s love on one side, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten,” and our need on the other, “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

We are perishing without Him. The wages of sin is death, and life here on this fallen planet is not perfect. We need a savior. God is holy and righteous, we aren’t. He has life for us, yet we are so unworthy, we can’t have it. There is this huge gap between!

God’s solution… Jesus. His Son is the bridge between us and God. He became our sin, so we could become His righteousness. Now, after yielding to Him, we can go across that bridge right into the presence of God.

Have you crossed that bridge?

Love Dwells Here

 

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.” I John 4:17-19 (TheMessage)

God is love. Not “God has love,” “God exhibits love,” no, “God IS love.” Who says? He did in His word. The scriptures also tell us that when we surrender to Him, accept His finished work of the cross (He became my sin so I could become His righteousness), then He is in us and we are in Him.

John 17:20-24 (BSB), “I am not asking on behalf of them alone, but also on behalf of those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You. May they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. I have given them the glory You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one—I in them and You in Me—that they may be perfectly united, so that the world may know that You sent Me and have loved them just as You have loved Me. Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, that they may see the glory You gave Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”

Jesus said that we are in Him and He is in us, that we are one with the Father, just as He and the Father are one. This isn’t complicated. Very simple really.

God is love and He lives in me. LOVE dwells in me.

So I can be loving, I can easily forgive any wrongs, I can show kindness and generosity, I can show the world that God is love. I John 4 says that if we don’t love, we don’t even know who God really is. We have to love! It isn’t just a command from God, it’s who we are.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis

Do we take chances when we love? Yes. Can we be hurt when we love? Yes. Will our hearts possibly break? Yes, but didn’t God say that a broken heart and a contrite spirit is lovely to Him.

That’s a heart He can Heal and He can use!

Anything less than complete, lavish, passionate love, is fear. Perfect love, God’s kind of love, that love that lives in us, is perfect!

I know Him. I know His love, intimately and personally. I know without it I am nothing and can’t accomplish a thing on my own. So I accept His love and allow Him to work in me and through me. He is in me and I am in Him.

Love dwells here!