"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him." - John 4:23
And..... We're back! :) Hopefully, you have all recovered nicely from a great Christmas break and the New Year is well under way for you by now. My husband and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary on New Year's Eve during our break. I am so thankful for him and grateful to God for the gift I have in him as my husband. He is my best friend, and my soul mate. And I love him dearly!
Are you ready for week five, friends??? Shall we review just a bit as to where we've been thus far first? Let's do that quickly. In week one, we learned that we need to drop the masks and get real with one another and with God. In week two, we talked about our prayer life and we learned to pray the way Jesus prayed. In the third week, we first learned about loving others and then in part two, we learned about fully loving God. In week four, we learned about wreckless abandonment, and how we allow God to do with us as He pleases, all within the love relationship that we have with Him as His child.
Ok. Take a deep breath, and lets begin thinking about our freedom in Christ this week.
Let me start with a story.
When I was a child, I grew up in a neighborhood filled with lots of playmates on our street. All of us were from various backgrounds... My dad was a computer guru in the retail industry. Other dads worked in insurance or sales. We had a nurse, a pilot, a mechanic, a truck driver... and then there were the Baptist preachers... Yep. Just a few doors down from us and across the street was a parsonage belonging to the church that I would attend in my teen years... and in that parsonage lived several different pastors and their families over the years. So, I grew up with some PKs being in my peer group during most of my childhood.
I remember one particular family who lived in the parsonage.... and the oldest daughter was just a few months older than me, but a year ahead of me in school (she started at age five, even though her birthday was late in the year.) Anyhow, this particular girl was the first one to invite me to her church. She knew that I loved music and invited me to come to youth choir with her. They were going on a youth choir tour to Texas, and she knew it would be fun for me. And so, it began....
Well... a few months into the journey, they had youth council elections, and the pastor's daughter was elected to the council. I had NO clue what a youth council did in a Baptist Church. I had not been raised in the Baptist Church. My family as a rule wasn't a church going family, except on Easter when we would dress up in our new Easter clothes and go to the grandparent's houses and show them off.
So, anyway, one afternoon not too long after the elections had been held, I was over in the backyard at the parsonage, hanging out... and I congratulated the PK on making youth council. Then, I said (in my great naiivety), "So.... Are you guys planning some great dances soon?" My little PK friend's face turned ashen, and said, "Bitsy, Baptists don't dance!"
Now, I am sure that my little face turned about as red as a beet because I was totally embarrassed. And I proceeded to find out all of the other dos and don'ts of Baptist life... And in my warped little brain, I think I began to believe that it was all of those things that I did, and all of those things that I didn't do that made me a Baptist, and then, true to my nature, I took it one step further... I thought it was what made me a Believer... So much so that I carried that belief all the way through to my adulthood years.
Going to church faithfully all those years, and taking so many classes and learning doctrine from the pulpit, my Sunday School teachers, at college, in church classes, I learned all about what it meant to live the Christian life, but I had NO CLUE about what it meant to be in a relationship with Jesus. I knew all of the right words to say and all of the right things to do, but I did not have a love relationship with the Living God! I just didn't. I didn't know how to even begin to have a relationship with God. I just thought that because I didn't drink, I didn't smoke, didn't do drugs, kept myself "pure" (well, I did up to a point, but that's for another time and another post), didn't dance, didn't curse (or "cuss" as we would say it in the South), didn't gamble, and I voted Republican that made me a Christian! Seriously. I was even baptized... or well, I should say that I got wet. What's worse, I actually was serving in leadership roles in our denomination's state convention office!
Anyway, a few years ago, God began teaching me and showing me some truths. I didn't know it at the time what that was.... But I remember watching some movies from the "Left Behind" series and some similar in content with a group of singles from my church. And I started identifying with the Associate Pastor in the movie who had been left behind. I knew a lot of Bible stuff! Hey, Christianity was one of my double majors in college.... I knew the Book well! And I could argue with the best atheist you could throw at me! But I didn't know the Author of the Book... the Author of Salvation...
I didn't know God.
I was caught up in the world's biggest religious rat race... And sadly, I was one mighty big rat.
All I was doing was spinning my wheels... and going nowhere...
Like a hamster on a wheel.
Round and round I went. And I was going everywhere that I thought I was supposed to go, but in truth, I was going NOWHERE.
I had absolutely no purpose in life. I jumped from job to job to job. I was so insecure, no real motives, no real goals... No real life. Yeah, I had a lot of stuff... and on the outside, it looked like I had it all together, but inside of me was a turmoil that would make Don King want to shave his head! I'm telling you!!! It was the truth! I was one giant mess.
Ok. So back to the movies... I started having nightmares... and lots of them. My first husband had died a couple of years prior to that... and I began having nightmares about him. And I had nightmares about being left behind. This went on for a couple of months... During all of this time, I was still faithfully attending church, and going to choir rehearsals, singing in a ladies group that I directed...
I remember that the Easter production came, and I was at the end of my rope. I had been several months without a job, and was financially in the worst shape I had ever been in my life. I was close to losing my home, had no money, horrible credit (due to no fault of my own) and was struggling with nearly every relationship I had. I felt deserted..... abandoned.... and completely at my wits' end.
And it was there that I finally gave in and talked with a dear friend (my former worship pastor and one of my closest friends), who led me to Christ in his office. Those chains of legalism were unlocked that afternoon of April 18, 2001!
God took the shackles off my feet that day.... And He is still teaching me to dance.... I won't be so arrogant to say that I understand complete freedom at this point in my life, but I can tell you that He is still teaching me how to be free... And there are still some areas where I need to be unshackled. But the taste of sweet freedom is beyond anything that I ever dreamed before.
" To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?" Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." - John 8:31-36
Mary Mary made this song popular a few years ago.... I hope it ministers to you.