gratitude


Today those of us who live in the United States celebrate our political freedom. It is ours simply because we are Americans. We don’t have to do anything to get it. Political freedom was obtained for us by individuals who paid very high prices to obtain it, such as:

Cost of the American Revolution:
• Total American military casualties were approximately 50,000 men.
• Of these 50,000, approximately 8000 died in battle; 17,000 died from disease.
• Of the 17,000 that died from disease 8-12 thousand of these contracted diseases while living in the deplorable conditions of rotting prison ships in NY harbor.
• Another 2500 Americans died while encamped at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-1778.

Cost of the Civil War:
• Casualties were approximately 750,000 soldier deaths.
• Of those 750,000 soldiers, 56,000 died in prisons.
• Another 60,000 men lost limbs.

Spiritual freedom is also available to those who want it. The price that was paid for spiritual freedom was also very high. It was bought and paid for by one man. Jesus Christ obtained spiritual freedom for us at Calvary. Spiritual freedom, however, is not automatic like political freedom. We have to do 3 things to obtain our spiritual freedom. Those 3 things are: 1. Accept Jesus’s work on the cross as a personal gift; 2. Give our lives to him to do with as he pleases; 3. Lay our hurts, habits & hang-ups at the foot of the cross & LEAVE THEM THERE!

Political freedom and spiritual freedom are very different and do not necessarily coexist. It is possible to be politically free and be in spiritual bondage. It is also possible to be spiritually free and be in political bondage. Political freedom is being released from the bonds of others. Spiritual freedom is being released from the bonds of self.

The Apostle Paul discusses spiritual freedom in his various letters. Paul’s calling, the assignment God gave him, was to travel throughout the known world preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ and planting churches. He would stay in a certain location for a period of time, plant a church and move on. He stayed connected to the churches he planted by writing letters to them.

Toward the end of his ministry Paul spent approximately 2 years in a Roman prison. While there, he wrote letters to the churches in Phillippi, in Colosse, and in Ephesus. Excerpts from these letters:
• “So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins” (Ephesians 1: 6-7).
• “So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2: 7).
• “… you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourself in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ” (Philippians 1:27).
• “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
• “I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church” (Colossians 1:24).

To me, there is no clearer example of spiritual freedom than the image of Paul sitting in a foul Roman prison chained to a Roman guard writing these words.

To summarize:
We obtained political freedom by winning.
We obtain spiritual freedom by surrendering.
When we are politically free we do what we want.
When we are spiritually free we do what God wants.

When we are obedient to God he rewards us by infusing us with an internal peace that the world cannot give and cannot understand. It surpasses human understanding because it can only come from God.

I just finished reading Tim Tebow’s book Shaken. I liked it very much. Parts of it resonated with me on a deep level in a very affirming way.

Two of my favorite quotes from the book are:

o So many times we are paralyzed from forward movement because we hold ourselves down. We compare our journeys, our losses, our victories, our marriages, our jobs, our dreams, our families with everyone else’s. And in our minds, in some way, we fall short…When our self-worth crumbles, when we’re not feeling confident, when insecurities overwhelm us, we have to remember whose we are…remind yourself how much God loves you and that He has a unique purpose and plan for your life.

o Trophies don’t last. Awards come and go. Impressive titles move from one person to the next. But how we live can make an eternal impact.

Those of us who are Christ followers remember today the last meal Jesus shared with his apostles. Tomorrow we remember the torture and death he endured for us, and Sunday we remember and celebrate his resurrection from the dead, thereby defeating death forever.

Phillips, Craig & Dean – Revelation Song (Live)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdvgEGlZ_UI

Excerpt from When Doing Isn’t Enough:

Love is not a feeling. It is an action. It is a choice. We can choose to act loving, even when we don’t feel loving.

If you want an example of pure, perfect love, think about what Jesus Christ did for us. He left the glory of heaven to take on human form and do something for us which we were not able to do for ourselves. He created the way for us to get to heaven. He explained this to his disciple Nathaneal in the first chapter of the gospel of John, verse 51: Then he said, I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.

Jesus chose to act loving by carrying his cross to Calvary in Jerusalem and allowing Roman soldiers to nail him to it, then staying nailed to it until he died. A picture of pure, perfect love is Jesus, bloody and beaten beyond recognition, hanging on a wooden cross. He did not have to stay hanging there. He chose to stay hanging there. It was not nails that held him to that cross. It was love, love for each and every one of us, past, present, and future.

Jesus understood that the reason he had come to earth was to offer himself as a sacrifice for the sins and wrongdoings of all mankind. Throughout the three years of his earthly ministry, he never lost sight of his purpose. He stated The Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life John chapter 3 verses 14 to15. As Jesus went about ministering to people by teaching them and healing them, he was always moving toward the fulfillment of his purpose. Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he went, always pressing on toward Jerusalem (Luke 13:22).

We get a glimpse of how Jesus felt about going to the cross in the account of him praying in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his arrest. He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’ Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood (Luke 22:  41-44).

It is important to note that Jesus went to the cross out of obedience to his father and love for us. It was a choice he made in spite of how he was feeling. Prior to his arrest, Jesus spoke to the apostles about the choice he was making. He said, No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded John 10:18. He also stated, There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).

The Apostle John spoke about this expression of God’s love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins (1 John 4: 9-10).

 

 

My baby had a baby. My daughter had a daughter.

For the last few weeks, as I’ve been awaiting the birth of my first grandchild, I’ve been packing up many of our belongings, donating other belongings to Good Will, and finding new homes for much of our furniture. My husband and I are moving out of the house in which we raised our children, and moving into one in which we hope to live out our golden years.

The irony, or significance, of these two events occurring simultaneously has not escaped me. What continues to rumble around in my mind is the Circle of Life song from The Lion King, one of my favorite Disney movies when my children were young, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GibiNy4d4gc) as well as the first two verses of the third chapter of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes (“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.”)

As I was walking across the hospital parking lot the day I was going to meet my granddaughter, it struck me that the last few times I was in hospitals it was because I was saying goodbye to someone whose life was ending. This time I was about to say hello to someone whose life was beginning. As I held and rocked my granddaughter for the first time I felt an incredible sense of peace. I could have sat in that rocking chair with her indefinitely.

The circle of life. It keeps rolling on with a momentum of its own in spite of who is president, what the stock market is doing, where there is civil unrest or war, or who won the Super Bowl or an Academy Award. The circle of life. People are born, they grow up, they live, they die. It’s beautiful and it has a life and a momentum all its own.

Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World [HQ]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21LGv8Cf0us

 

 

Excerpt from When Religion Isn’t Enough:

Followers of Jesus are called to love with a calvary-type love. What is a calvary-type love? It is a verb. It is a choice. It is a selfless love. It is choosing to do something for someone else regardless of the cost to self. It is not a feeling. It is an action. It is Jesus carrying his cross to Calvary in Jerusalem and allowing Roman soldiers to nail him to it, and then staying nailed to it until he died.

This is selfless love. Jesus did something for us that we could not do for ourselves—he created the way for us to get to heaven. He explained this to his disciple Nathaneal in the first chapter of the gospel of John, verse 51: “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”

During the last meal Jesus shared with the twelve apostles before he died, he told them “I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13: 34-35).

This command still holds true today for all of his followers. Gregory Boyd, in his book Repenting of Religion, provides a description of calvary-type love. He says “While nonbelievers can be expected to love those who love them, disciples are called and empowered to love even their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. While nonbelievers can be expected to do good to those who do good to them, disciples are called and empowered to do good even to those who harm them…our love must be given without consideration to the relative merits or faults of the person we encounter…we are to love without strings attached, without conditions, without any consideration whatsoever of the apparent worthiness of the person we encounter.”

Bruxy Cavey, in his book The End of Religion, provides another description of calvary-type love. He says: “The way of Jesus is the way of risky love. Religion is the way of safety, security and shelter within the structure of rules, regulations, rituals, and routines. Jesus and his earliest followers were relentless in pressing people to see two things. First, loving people is the primary way we love God. Second, this love of humankind must always take precedence over religious ritual or ethnic obstacles… Christ-followers are called to be, according to the standards of this world, ‘foolish.’ Real love is, from a purely human, self-serving perspective, irrational…religious traditions can be a trap that keeps us from moving into unchartered territories of bold love and radical compassion. Irreligious people, on the other hand, are free to be more loving. Jesus calls people to love in such a way that all social barricades are broken, penetrated, subverted—including and especially those erected by religion. And to love like God wants, we must be willing to put practical service ahead of safety, comfort and convenience.”

Excerpts from When Religion Isn’t Enough:

From the beginning of time, God invited the human beings he created to be in relationship with him. His intention was never to give religion to the human race. His intention was to offer human beings a relationship with himself that was personal and intimate. God wants a relationship with us. God is love, and he wants to shower that love on us. God always has and always will be available to be in relationship with those who choose to respond to his invitation for a relationship. He rejoices when one of his children responds to his invitation and enters into a relationship with him, becoming part of his family.

Those of us who are human parents give our children rules to live by because we love them. The rules provide needed boundaries for our children, protecting and guiding them. In turn, we want our children to follow our rules because they love us and value the relationship they have with us, not because they are afraid of us. The same is true for our heavenly parent. When God gave the Israelites, his chosen people, his family, rules to live by he was taking care of them, protecting them. He never meant for the rules to replace the relationship he had with them. As a matter of fact, God gave the Israelites rules to highlight the relationship he had with them. He wanted the Israelites to be set apart from the nations surrounding them. He wanted them to live by a higher standard than the people around them and to be identified to other nations as his people, his family.

Somewhere along the line the Israelites got the idea that they had only to follow God’s rules to be acceptable to him and to become part of his family. They forgot that though God had sent them into exile, he had not ejected them from his family. He continued to be their Father. He was merely disciplining them for their misbehavior.

God did not want the Israelites to follow his rules so that they could become his children. They already were his children. God wanted them to follow his rules so that the world would know that they were his children. When people started misunderstanding the purpose of God’s laws, and then started acting off that misunderstanding, religion was born.

Important Note: When I speak of religion, I am not referring to any particular denomination. I am referring to Bruxy Cavey’s definition of religion which is “any system of rules, regulations, rituals, and routines that people use to achieve their spiritual end-goal.”

As a result of this misunderstanding, the Jews shifted their focus from their relationship with God to the rules God gave them, putting their trust in the rules and in their own ability to follow the rules, rather than putting their trust in God. Their view of God as a loving parent who would take care of them was replaced by a view of God as an angry parent who would punish them if they disobeyed him. This is understandable in light of their experience of having been sent into exile. They moved from being dependent on God to being dependent on selves. This is the very essence of religion. Bruxy Cavey puts it this way: “Religion offers a system that promises to lead to salvation one day. Jesus offers salvation as a gift, now. Everything after that becomes a joyful opportunity to express what is already ours, a celebration of salvation, not the method of it.”

When Jesus came to earth, he was coming to restore what had been lost: a personal relationship with God.

Throughout his earthly ministry Jesus was continually trying to tell people that the way to God and to eternal life was not religion (a.k.a. following rules), it was relationship (believing that he was who he said he was, the Son of God, and following him).

When an individual decides to follow Jesus thereby becoming part of God’s family, all of heaven rejoices. Angels are Dancing, Sunday Shoes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSUq099PZhk

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