Friday, July 24, 2009

#43: All Out of Steam

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God;”

One of my favorite things to do as a child was play with balloons. It must be inherent to our human nature because every kid I know seems to love them too. When I was little I was drawn to balloons like a moth to a light. If I saw them at the fair, in a store, or in a restaurant I felt as if I had to have one. Of course the ones with helium were the best because you could inhale all the helium gas and it made you talk funny. Out of all the balloons I played with the latex ones were always the best because when the helium was gone you could still play with them.

Over and over again I loved to blow them up and let them fly around the room. Spitting and spluttering as they expelled their contents was just great fun and joy. I know it had to have driven my parents crazy as I and my siblings blew them up and let them go again and again. The Bible is so true when it says that whatever you sow the same shall ye reap (Galatians 6:7). Because now my kids do the very same thing to me and they are oblivious to the fact that it drives their parents insane. All they, like me as a kid, know is that blowing up and releasing balloons is great fun.

As my mind travels back to those childhood years it reminds me of how life today sometimes resembles the blowing up and releasing of a balloon. Our lives get filled up with so much stuff to the point that we are bulging at the seams with business of life and then we blow all over town trying to get it all accomplished before we have to rush off and do more stuff. Many families eat their meals in the car racing from event to event until finally at the end of the day we collapse in a heap on the sofa or in an easy chair and drift off into a restless sleep because our minds can hardly slow down long enough to rest.

Where does God fit into all this? Nowhere if we are not very intentional. You and I have to be very intentional about our walk with the Lord or God may very well get left out of the equation of life because He is not screaming louder than the things of lesser importance. It may sound strange to some of you but unless you plan to spend time with God each day the chances are really, really slim that you will do so. And if you try to navigate the craziness of this life on your own friends then you will quickly run out of steam. I want to encourage you all this evening to turn off the TV and spend more time with God. Get out your Bible and start reading about the goodness of God’s love and how He longs to give us peace and rest.

I don’t know about you, but I could use a little more peace and rest at the feet of Jesus. Why not stop letting the temporal things of this life dictate the relationship you have with God? Why not be still each morning, sometime throughout the day, and each evening and know that He is God? You will find rest that the world cannot give and you will discover that your stress level will go down because as you pause you can give those things that bring stress over to God.

Dear Father,

We thank You that You want us to be still and know You. Please intervene in our lives Lord and helps us to make You a priority every day. Please help us to not get so busy that we forget about the things of eternal importance. I pray that we will all allow You, dear Lord, to be our comfort and our salvation. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Friday, July 10, 2009

#42 Ownership Matters

John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God…

Not too long ago there was a man named Bob who collected all manner of…things. Bob’s wife was not thrilled about his habit of keeping that which others might easily discard. Bob loved to visit rummage and yard sales in hopes of finding that great deal on some treasure that no one else wanted. One day Bob was on such a mission when he happened across a yard sale that was nearly over. The last person looking around was just leaving when Bob pulled up. He nearly drove on but decided to just see what the guy had.

When Bob wondered through the items there was not really anything that caught his eye until he rounded the edge of the house. When he did he noticed a tarp draped over what was sure to be some sort of motorcycle. He asked the older gentleman about the motorcycle, and the man said that he had had the bike for a few years and never even tried to start it. Bob asked if it was for sale to which the man replied, “I was not looking to sell it, but I guess I could.” “How much do you need for it?” Bob replied. After some thought the old man figured he had to have about $35 dollars for it. Bob paid him and took it home.

After a week or so of having the old motorcycle Bob decided to look it over and see if he could get it running. When he looked it over he learned that it was a Harley Davidson. He quickly learned that he would have to special order the parts and called the Harley Davidson corporation. The sales person took the serial number and began to look up the parts Bob wanted. The salesman then asked Bob if he could place him on hold and Bob said he could hold. After nearly fifteen minutes the salesman asked Bob if he could get his phone number because he would need to call him back. Bob gave him the number and hung up the phone.

About two days later Bob received a call from a man who identified himself as the Vice President of the Harley Davidson corporation. Needless to say Bob was shocked that the VP was the one to call him back. The VP was very cordial to Bob and spoke to him like they were old friends of something. The VP told Bob that he was interested to learn more about Bob’s motorcycle. He asked Bob if he had a screwdriver handy and if he did would he go and take the seat off of the bike. Bob said he had one and would take the seat off. After about five minutes Bob came back to the phone and said he had the seat in his hands. The VP of Harley Davidson asked him if there was any writing on the bottom of the seat and Bob said there was. With nervousness in his voice the VP asked Bob to read what was written there. Bob spoke back into the phone and read the letters, “K-I-N-G.”

As soon as he read the letters Bob began to realize why he was on the phone with the VP from Harley, and he know knew why the parts salesman was acting so funny when he called a few days before. Bob had stumbled across and paid $35 for the Harley Davidson that had belonged to the “King of Rock and Roll”, Elvis Presley. With his mind still spinning Bob was snapped back to reality when the VP told Bob that he had been authorized to offer Bob $300,000 for the motorcycle. Bob was really taken back now and told the man he would need to think about all this before he could make a decision and Bob hung up the phone.

About a day after his call from Harley Davidson’s VP Bob received another call, but this time it was not Harley calling it was long-time “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno. Like the VP, Jay began talking to Bob as if he had know him for years. After just a few minutes Jay said he heard Bob had a Harley he might want to sell. Bob said he had been thinking about it, but was still unsure. Jay Leno responded by saying, “Bob, I am prepared to give you $500,000 for that motorcycle.” Eventually, Bob sold that bike to Jay Leno.

When I think about this story I am reminded about how important ownership is. Sure Harley Davidson motorcycles are great motorcycles, but the reason that particular Harley was so valuable was because of who had owned it. People pay ridiculously high prices for things just because someone famous used to own it. To the old man from whom Bob had bought it the value was worth what the bike would bring in scrap metal. Once the previous ownership of the bike came to light the bike was worth $500,000 to Jay Leno. Ownership makes all the difference not only as it relates to material things, but it makes a difference in our lives too.

We live in a country whose history is marred with the deep scars of human slavery and when we speak of ownership it makes many of us cringe with disgust. I grew up in the South and racism was alive and well during those days and sadly it is still present today on both sides of the racial spectrum. However, when we come to Christ we must move beyond those ignorant differences that seek to divide. We must realize that it is the spiritual realities that are of paramount importance. It is those spiritual realities that tell us that we are slaves. Yes, when we are born we are all born into to slavery. Not of the physical type, but of the spiritual type.

When we are born we enter into the land of those who are enslaved to sin. I know this because of Paul’s teaching from Romans that tells me all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Because we are slaves to sin we are owned by Satan. But just as God longs for no man to be the slave of another in this world, God also wants us to be freed from the bondage of sin. Again we glean this from Paul’s writings to the Romans. He writes “…our old self was crucified withHim, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;” (Rom 6:6) But the buck does not quite stop there. The only way that we can be freed from sin is to have a new owner. We must realize that it is only God who can save us from sin through the sacrifice that Jesus paid on Calvary’s cross.

Because Jesus died for our sins that means that He purchased us out of the hand of Satan and in the moment that we accept Jesus we then become His. Paul goes on in Romans and makes the statement that “and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” You see friends we are all owned by someone. We are either owned by Satan and we are saves to sin or we are purchased out of Hell by Jesus and we becomes slaves to righteousness.

Lest anyone think that I want to see the world enslaved, let me take this one step further. To be slaves to sin means that we live selfish, troubled lives whose end will come in the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41; Rev 20:13-15). On the other hand, to be a slave to righteousness means that we become sons and daughters of God (Jon 1:12). You see God does not want to own us in the sense that we are trodden down and made to suffer for His sick pleasure. It is quite the contrary. God wants to own us that He might make us free; free from sin and its penalty, free from eternal separation from Him, free from the worry and doubt that consumes so many in this world, and free from the fear that comes when death calls our number.

The Bible tells us that when the Son sets us free then we are free indeed (Jon 8:36). You see friends God does not want to suppress His people. God does not want to Lord over us like some tyrant whose desires are set upon their selfish gain. God longs to rescue us from sin and its penalty that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). We must also realize that Jesus is the only One worthy to purchase us for He is the One who died to pay the penalty of sin. In essence He purchased us (1 Cor 6:20) twice; once when He created us and then twice when He paid the penalty for our sins. It is once we accept the price of Christ’s death on Calvary for our sins that we are “in” Christ.

There are some in this world who would have us believe that we are all in Christ since the moment He took on humanity. But we are not “in” Christ until the moment that we bow our heads and hearts in humble surrender to Jesus. It is then, when we confess our sins and allow the blood of Jesus to wash away our sins, that we are freed from sin and its penalty and in that moment we become heirs to Abraham’s promise (Gal 3:19). It is then that our ownership changes from Satan to the Lord of lords and King of Kings. It is then that we are “in” Christ. It is then that we are freed and set upon a course that will find its end in the halls of the New Jerusalem as we bow before our God.

I pray that if you have never fully surrendered your life to Christ that you will bow your head in this moment and that you will decide within your heart of hearts to be freed from the slavery of sin. All you have to do is pray to God and confess your sins to Him. After you confess your sins you need to ask Jesus to come into your heart and to be your Savior. When you ask Him to be your Savior also ask Him to be your Lord and tell Him that He can have total control of everything in your life and then give it to Him. When you do that your ownership will change and you will become a child of God. Ownership matters friends, and the closer we get with each passing day to Christ’s soon return, ownership matters more and more. Jesus is coming soon. Are you ready to meet Him when He does?

Dear Father God,

We come to You and thank You that You love us and that Jesus died to give us victory over the slavery of sin. Father, we recognize that we must allow You to take ownership of our lives, and we ask that in this moment You would forgive us where we have failed You. Please wash away our sin debt that we may become Your children. Lord, I ask that Your Holy Spirit be poured out to keep us from sinning, and I thank You for the promise that You will give it to us. It is Jesus’ name that we pray, Amen.