Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Another lesson from the Doolittles: Walking in Victory

"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." Galatians 5:1

There's a scene in the classic, "My Fair Lady" where Alfred P. Doolittle (Eliza's dad) visits the home of Professor Henry Higgins, proposedly to fetch his daughter, Eliza, after he has learned that she is staying with him. Alfie doesn't know of the experiment or bet that Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering have made with one another regarding Eliza. But he has learned from another flower girl that Eliza sent for her things and didn't ask for any clothes! He incorrectly assumes that his daughter has begun selling herself as a prostitute. So, Alfie, being that he is her father, has decided that he should get a cut of her "earnings" and proceeds to see what he can get from the arrangement between them. He knows the professor is obviously wealthy and asks for a simple five pound note from him.

When questioned by Colonel Pickering as to whether he has any morals, Alfie gives him a puzzling glance (that basically says, "do you?"), pauses and responds with, "No. I cannot afford them. And neither could you, if you were as poor as I am." Then he proceeds to launch into a whole monologue about how he is of the undeserving poor, and how he "plans to remain so, because I like it." Professor Higgins is so intrigued by it, that he offers him more, but Alfie turns him down, asking for only the five pound note. (He doesn't want to be launched into the middle class.)

This entire scene is so typical of the human condition, isn't it? Just like Alfie Doolittle, I think people sometimes come to God with the hand out, asking Him to bless us with a (fill in the blank as to whatever your petty "five spot" might be.) We know we're undeserving and we plan to stay that way. No need to get caught up in all of that religious or moral "stuff"... just get what you think you deserve from God and go back to things the way that you want them to be. No harm. No foul. Others are doing things that are worse, and who am I to judge them or they me, right?

To that argument I say, HOGWASH! As long as you or I continue in the life of habitual sin and fail to see the need for walking with Christ on a daily basis, we will always remain a slave to sin and we will never see victory. Sin will always hold a defeated audience in captivity. Freedom comes when we willfully turn away from whatever it is that holds us in bondage, and turn to Christ and begin to follow Him.

Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23)

Time to give habitual sin the boot! Then willfully turn and start following after Christ. The journey is long, but the rewards are sweet!

P.S. Can I be real here? I am adding this on Wednesday morning, the day after I wrote this post. When I was writing this yesterday, I began to think of the issues in my own life where I fall short. But I failed to place them here. And this morning, the Holy Spirit has been convicting me to "'fess up" as we are fondly known to say in the South.

In the past seventeen years, I have put on more than seventy pounds! I really struggle with overeating. I have been to Bible Study after Bible Study to try to help with this, but until I simply learn to put down the fork when I am full and walk away, those Bible Studies are all useless! I can fill my head and my heart with all sorts of knowledge about how to eat, but I will never be an effective servant of Christ until I learn to do battle with the Little Debs and the carrot cake! There's nothing wrong with those things by themselves, but if I am not hungry, those things should never enter my mouth.

I have learned the rules: Food for fuel is fine. God intended for food to be fuel. We don't continue to put gasoline in our cars if the tank is full, do we? But eating for the sake of eating (just because it's there) is not. If I am using food to console myself instead of running to God for consolation, then I am living in disobedience to God, and that would be sin. If I am using food as a means of celebration when I am not hungry (such as at a party or a church function), then that, too is also sin. If I am loading up the plate at a buffet line when a half spoonful will do, I have overdone it.

But as long as those rules are in my head, and I don't apply them to my life, the pounds are going to pile up and the scales are always going to read higher. Until I learn to walk away from the Swiss Cake rolls, and say no when I am not at all hungry, then I am living a defeated life!

So I am asking you to pray for me. I need to be held accountable here. This is an area where I need to shrink and He needs to increase.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Center Stage...

"But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." - John 12:32

This past week I have been in rehearsals for a local theatre company's production of "My Fair Lady." I am in the pit orchestra as a hired musician. I have enjoyed playing with this particular group a couple of times now. Most of the players are Christian musicians and are playing in local church groups around town.

One night earlier this week, there was a stage direction given to the cast for a particular scene because of some changes being made in the way that some backstage scene changes were going to have to take place.

And then it dawned on me.

When it comes to corporate worship, Who takes center stage of our worship services????

The correct answer should always be Jesus! But I had to ask myself whether we always make that happen. Do I make that happen? Do you?

I remember a few years ago, when a couple of friends and I wrote a Choir musical called, "For Thou O Lord" there was a scene where Jesus was at the wedding of Cana. And we had choreographed Jesus to be watching while some of the party goers were dancing, as would have been the custom at any Hebrew wedding reception... At one point, Jesus and His disciples join into the authentic dance with the bride and groom. Some of the folks at our church got a little upset with us because they were not expecting that our Lord would dance!!!!

God forbid that Jesus might actually participate in something that was completely biblical and customary for Him to do as a Jewish male at a wedding during this time! I am being totally sarcastic here. But I think you understand my point.

Here's a deeper question: Do we try to "work around" the Jesus Who is fixated at Center Stage ???? Or is He involved in everything you and I do? Is He permeating all of our worship, or is He so attached to the place that we have set as center stage that when we are downstage or upstage or backstage that we leave Him behind?

It's almost expected that God would be able to comfort us when we are sad, be a friend when we're lonely, heal us when we are sick...

Do we allow Him to dance with us through every act of celebration? To get overjoyed with us??? To get happy feet with us???

Is Jesus pleased with all of our worship???

I hope He dances!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What We're About: Namely, Christ

"My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." - Colossians 2:2-3

When the Apostle Paul wrote these words in the letter to the church at Colossae, they were to a group of people he had not had the pleasure of meeting face to face. He was wanting this particular group to know that he was laboring alongside them (in Spirit) for the cause of Christ, though not physically nearby.

These two verses really sum up Paul's purpose for the entire book of Colossians. He was clearly burdened for them (v.1.) He wanted them to be encouraged, united in love and to have a complete understanding -- "the mystery of God, namely, Christ"!

When I consider a purpose or mission statement for the Mourning into Dancing blog and ministry group, I would like to adopt these verses. This is what we are entirely about.

First and foremost, we are about encouragement. The word encouragement in both the Old and New Testaments simply means, "Comfort." Whether it is a matter of helping a young widow through a time of or a fellow Christ-follower in a time of need, it is my desire to offer encouragement to those who would seek it.

Secondly, Paul mentioned unity. The Greek here implies a knitting together of lives in love, in the same way that woven yarn can be used to make a garment or a blanket. Those strands of yarn are woven together and together serve a purpose that alone they could not accomplish. In the same way, Paul was saying that we, as Christ followers are also woven together with the purposes of love.

The reason we are woven together in love has to do with what Paul says next. It is so that "they may have the full riches of complete understanding in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in Whom are hidden all the treasures of mystery and knowledge." The mystery of God is Jesus. The knowledge would be like gaining an unlimited wealth of knowledge, and an unfathomable spiritual treasure that would last through eternity in Christ!

Simply put, it is our chief desire to point others to Jesus, and to Him alone.

He is our Salvation.
He is our Redeemer.
Our Savior.
Our Deliverer.
Our Friend.

I'm glad that you've joined us for the journey we'll take together! As we search for God's hidden nuggets of truth together, it is my sincere prayer that you will find Him as one who finds great treasure!
If you've been reading this blog for a while now, you've been hearing me talk a lot about Jesus! And I would say that probably several of my faithful readers already have a relationship with God. But perhaps you are someone who doesn't know this Jesus I've been talking about all along. Maybe you just stumbled upon this blog while surfing.... And you kept reading. And in reading, you realize that you want to know this Jesus I've been writing about.

It's no accident that you are here!

God loves you and desires to have a relationship with you! The Bible says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

Because we live in a fallen world, we cannot enter the presence of a holy God on our own. The Bible says, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) The word "Sin"comes from an archery term. To have sinned, it means you simply miss the target for which you are shooting. When we sin in spiritual terms, we have missed God's mark... that mark of perfection that He requires as a Holy God to enter His presence.

The Bible also says that, "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ Our Lord." (Romans 6:23) The word "wage" here means payment. The payment for sin is not only physical death, but more importantly, the payment for sin is spiritual death. Without God's Salvation, we cannot live!
It is God's free gift -- but it was not without cost. God's gift of Salvation to us, cost His Son, Jesus, His Life. You see, Jesus, Who was without sin, gave His life on the cross in payment for the penalty of our sin. (Romans 5:8) It is up to us to accept this free gift of Salvation.

The Bible tells us in I John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."You can do that by simply asking Him to take over your life. (I think I just said something to the effect of "Jesus, please be the Boss of Me." And then I gave Him complete control of me from that day forward.) Romans 10:9-10 says, "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."

When you accept God's free gift of Salvation, you become a child of God! You are adopted into the family of God and receive all of the rights and privileges of being a joint heir with Jesus! (Romans 8:15-17)

If you have decided to become a Christ-follower and have entered into a personal relationship with Him today after reading this blog, please let me know! I would love to rejoice with you in your new found relationship with God! It's also important that you find a local Bible-believing church in your area that will help you grow in your new relationship with Christ. If you need help in finding a church, I will happily connect you with folks who can help you do that, and most of them can give you materials as well that can help you get started in your walk with God.

It is my sincerest prayer that you would begin that relationship with Him today!