Memory Lapse

memory lapseAm I the only one who this happens to? It’s evening time and the family is getting ready for work and school the next day. Everybody is making their lunches, setting out clothes, going through backpacks, etc. The parents are multi-tasking. Then something sparks in my brain: I need to grab something out of the garage for the next day. So here I go, out to the garage. Once I get out there, my brain goes blank and I have no idea what I came for. So I just stand there scanning random items in the garage and attempting to scan my brain hoping for some clarity. Complete memory lapse. And back into the house I go, empty handed.

I hate it when that happens. It could be worse though. I could have a memory lapse of far more important things. Things like my anniversary date or my kids’ birthdays. Or a promise I made to a friend. Thankfully, I generally just have memory lapses on small things. Things like: I can’t remember what I ate last week. Because really, that doesn’t even matter much. But I do know this, I did not eat at a five-star restaurant every day for the last month. I would definitely remember that.

The Israelites though… their memory was a little off when they recounted their days in Egypt. In case you don’t know the story, they were slaves. The work was hard and they were abused. They couldn’t worship God freely. It was not a great life. I’m guessing slaves don’t eat at five-star restaurants very often, either. But when God freed them and led them out of Egypt, they seemed to have a complete memory lapse when it came to their living conditions.

Exodus 16:3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Really? I mean, really. You were a slave with a mostly full stomach. Now you are free man who is hungry. Let’s look at the bigger picture here, people!

I’ll be honest, I scratch my head when reading about the Israelites. How is it possible that God did something so great in their lives a few days ago and now they are complaining? I mean, I would never…. oh, wait.

We do that, too, don’t we? We allow our present situation to shape our outlook. We forget all the great things that God has done in us and for us. We get overwhelmed and stand in the middle of the garage without a clue. Yet, if we just scanned our brains for a moment, we might remember what Christ has done for us. We might be able to recall what our life was like or would be like without Him. The Israelites believed that their days in slavery were great compared to their current situation. It wasn’t true; it was a complete lapse in memory.

I’m hoping that WE can get OUR memories straight. I hope that when we face hard things, we start remembering how great God is in our lives rather than make up stories about how our old lives used to be. Because when we start remembering correctly, our faith is built. Peace shows up. Hope pays us a visit. Let’s get our memories straight, people. The truth is: Egypt wasn’t that great.

Bad negotiation

Genesis 23:10-13 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. “No, my lord,” he said. “Listen to me; I give  you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.” Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.”

NegotiationHave you ever negotiated something before?  I have, plenty of times.  I have negotiated cars, musical instruments, and random stuff in Mexico.  Here’s how a negotiation is supposed to work: the buyer looks at the seller’s price and offers less.  The seller counters with a higher price and the buyer counters again with a lower price.  Generally you meet in the middle somewhere.  Recently, I was negotiating on something and the seller actually ended up coming in below my starting price.  Holla!

This negotiation in Genesis 23 is just plain odd.  Abraham asks if he can buy some land to bury his wife who has passed away.  A guy named Ephron says, “You can have the land, Abe.  We really like and respect you, so just have it.  It’s all yours.”  Now any rational human being would simply say something like, “Thanks Ephron.  That’s very generous of you.”  But instead Abraham says, “No. I want to pay for it.”  I don’t think Abraham passed his Negotiation 101 class at community college.

So why would Abraham insist on paying for something that he could have had for free?  I think it was because Abraham knew that something of value costs something.  He knew that someday when Ephron wanted to change his mind on the land, he would be able to hold up the receipt and say, “I paid for this, you can’t take it back.”  Yes, things of value are worth paying for.

Jesus paid for something of value, too.  He paid for you.  It was a bad negotiation, really.  You had nothing to give in exchange, nothing to offer.  But He knew that you were worth everything, so He laid down His life for you.  He purchased your life and your freedom.  You are like that land that Abraham bought – you have value.  And like Abraham, Jesus wants to hang on to you forever.  You were worth a bad negotiation.

*What goes through your mind when you think about what Jesus did to pay for your life?

Lose the shackles

Nahum 1:13 For I will now break off his yoke from you and tear off your shackles.

Anyone who has ever been in an oppressive situation can testify to the suffocating nature of being stuck.  It may have been an abusive relationship, a terrible job situation, or actual prison.  The Israelites understood this feeling too.  At the time this prophecy was written, they were under harsh oppression by the nation of Assyria.  This wasn’t just physical discomfort – it was robbery, destruction, and murder.  This was some serious pain.  They needed a deliverer, a rescue from the pain.  Through the prophet Nahum, God spoke the most life giving words many of them had ever heard: “I will now break off his yoke from you and tear off your shackles.”

We don’t have an Assyrian enemy in our everyday lives.  But we do have an enemy.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12).  Before we came to know Christ, we were held captive by the enemy.  Sin ruled our hearts and kept us in bondage. Then Jesus came into our lives.  When He did, He broke off the enemy’s yoke from you and tore off your shackles.  He neutralized sin’s power over you and gave you the ability to live for Him!  You are free!  You are no longer in chains!  Hallelujah!

So then, why do you sometimes feel like you still are? Why are you still addicted?  Why does fear rule over you?  Why do you still have thoughts of taking your life?  It’s because even though you are free in Christ, the enemy is still hanging on like a bad hang nail.  Left untreated it will infect your body and hurt like crazy.  You see, the enemy still wants to destroy you.  He has lost your soul to Christ like He lost to Christ on the cross.  He’s ticked off and he hates God’s children. So you must press in to the fullness of life God has for you.  If you are God’s child, you don’t have to deal with addiction any longer.  You don’t have to struggle with fear.

Listen: the Lord says, “I will NOW break off the enemy’s yoke from you and tear off your shackles!”  Receive it today.  Receive His freedom.  Find a brother or sister in the Lord and ask them to pray with you.  Be done with the enemy’s grip on your life.  Find true freedom and true deliverance in the Lord your God.  Lose the shackles, friends.  Lose the shackles.  Christ set you free, so live in it!

You are free! Change your clothes.

2 Kings 25:27-30  27 On the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month of the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Judah’s King Jehoiachin, in the year Evil-merodach became king of Babylon, he pardoned King Jehoiachin of Judah and released him from prison. 28 He spoke kindly to him and set his throne over the thrones of the kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 So Jehoiachin changed his prison clothes, and he dined regularly in the presence of the king of Babylon for the rest of his life. 30 As for his allowance, a regular allowance was given to him by the king, a portion for each day, for the rest of his life. 

King Jehoiachin’s life wasn’t going exactly how he had planned it.  Not too long ago, he was basking in the glory of his anointing as the king of Judah.  He was the boss, the guy in control.  He called the shots and people followed his commands.  But lately it hasn’t gone well.  He found himself in prison, captured by the king of Babylon.  He was nothing more than an ordinary prisoner, unable to live a real life.  He was trapped, neglected, hurting, and hopeless.

Then it happened.  What seemed to be completely out of the blue, the king of Babylon released him from prison.  His sentence was pardoned and he was given a throne in this foreign land.  It was a turn of events that would change his life.  He no longer was kept in a cell under lock and key.  Gone were the days of guards watching his every move.  He was free!  And he changed his prison clothes.  Of course he changed out of his prison clothes – free people shouldn’t be wearing those.

You’ve been set free, too.  Jesus paid the price and your sentence was pardoned.  You are no longer under lock and key, but are free to live your life to the fullest in Him.  Are you still wearing your prison clothes?  Because it’s really hard to live free, when every time you look in the mirror, you see a prisoner.  Change your clothes, people!   Take off the old clothes of the past.  Because people who are dressed like spiritual prisoners end up convincing themselves that they still are.  You’re not!  You are free!  Clothe yourself in Christ Jesus today.  Take on His identity and His righteousness today.  Jehoiachin stopped dressing like a prisoner and so should you.

Dancing in undies

2 Samuel 6:21-22 21 David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’S people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

Everybody puts your hands in the air… and wave ‘em like you just don’t care.  That’s what David did.  But it wasn’t about him having fun at a rap concert; it was about worship.  This was a grown man, the king of all Israel.  He was supposed to be proper and reserved and well, kingly.  Instead, he danced in the streets in his undies – a move that would surely have made Tom Cruise’s “Risky Business” underwear dance look tame.  He didn’t care what people thought; he was free before his God.

What is it friends, that makes us grownups so boring?  What happens in our brain that causes us to stop having fun?  This summer while on vacation, I watched many parents interact with their kids.  Here’s what I saw: parents sitting on the shore (or poolside) in a chair while their kids played in the water.  I watched kids look at their parents hoping they would come join them and have fun in the water.  They wanted to be splashed, thrown, dunked, and carried.  But mom and dad didn’t want to get in, let alone get splashed.

This is not a commentary on bad parenting – there’s nothing inherently wrong with parents watching their kids play in the water.  This is however, an observation on the fact that parents were too dignified to get in and play.  Some moms didn’t want to be seen in a swim suit; some dads didn’t want to look foolish. However, I did see some parents jump in and play with their little ones.  It was those kids who squealed and giggled and splashed like crazy.  Those parents may have looked childish to other boring adults, but they were heroes that day in the eyes of their children.

Our problem lies with this quandary: what happens if I look foolish?  And by getting stuck in this self preservation, we rationalize away our freedom.  What will people think if I raise my hands during worship and sing at the top of my lungs?  What will people think if I dance to my God?  (Side note: please do not dance in your underwear at a church service.)  I would answer the previous two questions this way – does it matter to anyone but God?  We should concern ourselves far less with what other people think.  God was pleased with David; He smiled on his humility and willingness to be undignified.  So let us follow suit.  Let us set out on a passionate pursuit of a God who will make us free .  And in that freedom, may we find that the only view of us that matters is His. 

Was Lorena Bobbitt reading Galatians?

Galatians 5:1,12 1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

The first verse of Galatians 5 has always seemed trivial to me.  That is, it is for freedom that Christ set us free.  Can I hear a “no duh” please?  That’s what I’ve always thought when I read it but as I continue to ponder this statement by Paul it really does resonate.  How many Christians who have been set free by Jesus Christ are not living as though they are free?  There are likely many and it  isn’t anything new.  Apparently it has been this way since the beginning of the church. I like to state it this way: “if you believe that Jesus is alive, why are you living like He is dead?”  Here in Galatians, Paul is reminding them that Christ gave them freedom.  The problem was that they had been led astray and were trying to achieve meeting God’s standards through other means besides Christ.  And there is no other way, except by the freedom that Christ has given.  But some people were telling them to try something else.

That something else disturbs me and it disturbed Paul, too.  These other guys were telling the church that they needed to get themselves in line with the law that God gave Moses.  If they didn’t, they were told, they couldn’t measure up.  And part of that law was to get *shudder, circumcised.   Grown men getting circumcised.  I am not a fan of this philosophy for two reasons: 1. Pain. 2. It negates the power of the gospel and what Jesus accomplished on the cross.

That’s essentially what Paul was getting at and he was good and ticked off at these guys who were leading the church astray.  He was so ticked off that he wished that someone would go all Lorena Bobbitt on them.  That’s what verse 12 is saying.  He was essentially saying this – why stop at the foreskin?  You might as well go ahead and cut the whole thing off!  Then see if you are any more saved.  The only thing you will be is in pain.  Because salvation does not come through cutting off a part of your you know what.

Salvation comes from Christ alone.  He is the only one that can save you.  He is the only one that brings freedom.  It doesn’t come by being a good person and  trying to follow a list of rules.  It really was for freedom that Christ set us free.  He wants us to be free.  Watch out for verse 13 though.  He says not to use your freedom to indulge in sin.  Use your freedom to have relationship with God and strive to live for Him.  What Jesus did was enough; it was more than enough.  So let it be.