Born (Again) Free

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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, NIV 1974).

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.  (Galatians 5:13, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Those who are in Christ (saved by grace not merit) have been freed from the “yoke of slavery” to measure up to the law.  Nevertheless, this does not give us carte blanche to “indulge the sinful nature.”  Rather, as we grow in Christ, we choose (exercise of freedom) to live our lives in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord instead of pleasing the flesh.  It is a mark of maturity not a sign of slavery.

My Advice – Stand firm in the faith, freed from the law but choosing to be obedient nonetheless.

 

The Road Less Traveled

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Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.”  (Genesis 1:26, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Humans are distinguished from the rest of the God’s “creatures.”  We have self-awareness (conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires).  We have imagination (the ability to form ideas, images or concepts that are not observable by our senses).  We have a conscience (an inner prompting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior).  We have an independent will (the ability to make decisions and choices and to act in accordance with those choices and decisions).  We have principles (fundamental truths or propositions that serve as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior). To name just a few.  This is, in part, what it means to be made in God’s image (not to mention the fact that we are more than just a physical creature).   The animal kingdom, for example, when confronted with a stimulus, can only respond to that stimulus (based on instinct, urges, conditioning, fight or flight, etc.).

Stimulus ——-> Response

Humans are different.  Because of things such as self-awareness, imagination, conscience, will, and principles, we have the freedom to choose how we respond to the stimulus.

Stimulus ——-> Freedom to Choose ——->Response

While we may be pre-disposed to certain “determined” responses due genetic determinism (your DNA or nature), psychic determinism (your upbringing, or nurture), and environmental determinism (something or someone in your environment that influences  you one way or another), in the final analysis we still have the freedom to choose.  Our choices cannot ultimately be blamed on these factors.  Our choices, our behavior (response), is a product conscious decisions that we make and that we are responsible for.

Despite all of this, from the very beginning, and all too often, our lives are characterized by so many wrong choices.

Stimulus – When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom,

Freedom to Choose

Response – she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

(Genesis 3:6, NIV 1984)

My Advice – Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some “magic” eraser that would let us start over with a clean slate?  The truth is, that there is.  There is a choice we can all make that will make up for all of our poor choices, as if we had never made them at all.  “In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (Ephesians 1:7, NIV 1984).  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12, NIV 1984).

Stimulus – “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8, NIV 1984).

Freedom to Choose

Response – “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  (John 1:12–13, NIV 1984).

The Choice Is Yours.  Choose Wisely.

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Adapted from “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen R. Covey

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”

 

 

 

 

 

Response Ability

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Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”  (Joshua 24:14–15, NIV 1984).

Other People’s Musings – The current social paradigm (view of how things work) tells us that we are conditioned to respond in a particular way to a particular stimulus.  How we respond is determined by one or more of the following:

Genetic Determinism – Says your grandparents did it to you.  It’s in your DNA (nature).  You inherited it.

Psychic Determinism – Says your parents did it to you.  Your upbringing (nurture), your childhood experience.

Environmental Determinism – Someone or something in your environment did it to you.

But in between stimulus and response is freedom of choice.  How we respond is not determined, it is chosen.  We have the ability to decide within ourselves how we respond.  Our behavior is a function of our decisions (choices), not our conditions.  We are responsible for our own lives.

From “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey.

My Musings – We are responsible for our own choices.  God has set before us life through His Son Jesus Christ.   We either choose life (Heaven) or death (Hell). It is not determined for us based on nature, nurture or environment.

My Advice – Choose life.

 

 

In My Time

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My Musings – Coming soon, to a location near you.  We’ve been blessed in the United States.  Up until a generation or so ago, the rule of law and Judeo-Christian values were rarely in conflict, with the glaring and shameful exception of slavery.  The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  A veritable two-way street; no imposition of a state religion and no impediment to the free exercise of a citizen’s religion of choice.

That may soon be coming to an end.  The cracks have been visible for quite some time now, and they are rapidly growing deeper and wider.  And if permitted to mix my metaphors, the handwriting is on the wall and our days may be numbered. On that day, and it may be soon, we may be joining our Christian brothers and sisters in certain third-world, communist and Muslim countries where the free exercise of our faith, or at least certain aspects of it, become illegal.  Even to the point of confiscation of property, imprisonment, or even death.  This should not surprise us. Jesus said we would be hated because of Him (Matthew 10:22).  But, “we must obey God rather than men!

My Advice – “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.  “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”   (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring).  All we have to decide is,  do we “obey God rather than men?” “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15, NIV 1984).  Who’s with me?

 

Times and Exact Places

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My Musings – To what extent will God go to save us?  He gave His only Son, what more could we possibly expect?  Though the cost was high, He doesn’t force Himself on us.  He gives us freedom to choose for ourselves.  Yet, He wants that choice to be an informed choice.  So much so, that “He determined the times set for them and the exact places they should live.”  Why? “So that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him.”  And that’s not all.  He stays close.  By our own efforts He is beyond our reach.  So He stays close to us and reaches out to us.  But we still have to “reach our for Him.

There is a parable called the prodigal son.  It is more aptly called the prodigal’s father.  For “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”  (Luke 15:20, NIV 1984).  That’s our father.  He’s waiting and watching while we are “a long way off,” “though He is not far from each of us.

My Advice – Don’t question why you are where you are and the time that you are.  There is a reason.  You are in the most likely time and place for you personally to find Him.  Seek Him. Reach out for Him. He is not far off, even though you may be.

The Wretched Refuse

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My Musings – Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” (The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus).

If these words sound familiar, they should. They are lines from a sonnet she wrote in 1883, and whose lines are inscribed on a bronze plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The Statue of Liberty is a famous landmark and symbol of freedom in U.S. history. Located on Ellis Island in New York harbor, millions of immigrants passed through the Ellis Island Immigration Station seeking a better life.

Now I really do not intend for this musing to be a political statement, or otherwise be offensive, although many will take it as such.  It is rather, an appeal to compassion.  For who among us cannot trace our roots to someone among the “huddled masses” that found their way to these shores? Were our ancestors not aliens once “yearning to breathe free” (we breathe free because they dared to come)?  Were we not grafted into the vine?

I can fully understand the desire to protect our borders and our land from those with motives other than a “yearning to breathe free,” who otherwise wish us ill and desire to destroy our way of life, or who are only seeking a free-ride with no desire to contribute.  But surely there must be a way to humanely take in the tired, poor or homeless who are tempest-tossed, but are willing to embrace their new land and make a contribution?  A way to separate the sheep from the goats?  A way to pull out the weeds without uprooting the wheat?

“America represents something universal in the human spirit. I received a letter not long ago from a man who said, ‘You can go to Japan to live, but you cannot become Japanese. You can go to France to live and not become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey, and you won’t become a German or a Turk.’ But then he added, ‘Anybody from any corner of the world can come to America to live and become an American’ …
This I believe is one of the most important sources of America’s greatness. We lead the world because unique among nations, we draw our people, our strength, from every country and every corner of the world … Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge; always leading the world to the next frontier …” (from Ronald Reagan’s last speech as President).

My Advice – “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor.‘”  (Zechariah 7:9–10, NIV 1984).  For “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,” and “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:40 & 45, NIV 1984).

Finally, anybody (even “wretched refuse”) from any corner of the world (yes, aliens) can come to Christ and become a Christian.  “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37, ESV 2016).

 

What Are You Pursuing?

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My Musings – We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – Preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

God gave us life and liberty (freedom to make our own choices).  The pursuit of happiness is a bit more problematic.  Man has a tendency to find (or think he can find) happiness in all the wrong places and with all the wrong things.  More often than not, these rob us of the very thing we are pursuing.  We would be better off pursuing joy (which is not dependent upon things or circumstances) rather than happiness (which usually is dependent upon things or circumstances).

Better yet, as the above verse states, we should pursue righteousness and love, which results in life, prosperity and honor.  We need to remember, however, that an abundant life is more about quality than quantity, lasting prosperity has little to do with an abundance of “things” (which moths and rust can destroy) and honor has more to do with our character than it does with how much fame an adulation we can achieve.  And how ironic it is, that when we get it backwards (we pursue long life, prosperity in things and honor absent humility), righteousness and love (and happiness) often eludes us.

My Advice – Let’s make sure what we pursue is not only worth the chase, but is also worth catching.