Land of the Free

Shameless Plug:  Don’t miss the video at the end

I love my country.

There are a few things that can bring me to tears every time.

The sight of a baby being born.

The thought of my Savior dying on the cross to save me.

The words and melody of the Star Spangled Banner.

“Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

It sends chills up my spine.

Freedom is something that we talk about so much in this country.  Freedom of religion, freedom from religion.  Freedom of speech.  Sexual freedom.  Freedom to choose your own identity.

Lately, we are debating the freedom to go to the bathroom in whatever location we choose.  Seems to have fallen from the lofty ideas that it originated from, but, that’s where we are.

Side note:  Any man who chooses to exercise their right to go to the bathroom in the ladies room while my daughter or wife is in there, better be ready to go through me.

Anyway…

As I have watched these debates, and various other debates throughout the years, it would appear that we are running from freedom, not to it.  Sexual orientation, pornography, drugs (marijuana, opiates, whatever), hate crimes and hateful song lyrics do not release us.  They and the other ideas that surround these arguments do not bring freedom.

I have many friends that are mired in these things that speak, sometimes so eloquently, about the freedom they are experiencing.  But, it’s all eyewash.  It’s all smoke and mirrors.

Satan has been doing this since he first made contact with humanity.  “You can throw off God, be God yourself.  You’ll be free if you disobey His commands, run from His love, despise His perfect design.”

And for all these years, we’ve believed satan’s lies, and the lies we now tell ourselves.

I know slavery.  I now know freedom.  Real, healing, blessed, calming freedom!  God never wanted slaves.  God never designed us to yield to anything or anyone but Him.

We can still be the “Land of the Free”, and it doesn’t even matter where we call home.

It’s the wrong question

A friend of mine asked me the other day, “So all the religions, anybody who believes differently than you Christians, we’re all just screwed?”

And the short answer is, “yep.”

But as I thought about it, I realized what I should have said.

The idea is that there have to be multiple paths to a loving, compassionate Father.  If He wants us to make it, why not provide a thousand ways to get to Him.  COEXIST, you know (with all the different symbols).

But, of course, this first denies that all religions are exclusive.  A good heaven-bound Muslim cannot follow other faiths also.  A nirvana-bound Hindu can believe all sorts of things but they have to believe in multiple gods, not one God.

It also denies our depravity.  We are so lost, so already screwed, that we don’t deserve a way to God.  We can’t work hard enough, think holy enough, live righteously enough to make it.  It shouldn’t surprise us or offend us that there is only one way.  The miracle, the grace is that there is anyway to make fallen humanity right with a Holy God.

And finally, it denies the gift.  The death of humanity began when we said, “I don’t trust you, God.  I don’t think you know what is best for me.  And, if you do, you are hiding it from me.”  And then we sewed fig leaves together.  We made a way to cover our nakedness and religions were born.

And, just so you know, God doesn’t like any religion better than another.  I wonder whether He has a particular loathing for religious “Christianity”.  How many have been turned away from knowing and loving Him by the cruel, proud words of the people who think they’re so holy?

So, yep, we’re screwed.  But equally, we’re blessed.  God made a way.  Jesus did come as God in the form of man.  He did die on a Roman cross as a Holy sacrifice for our sin.  And He rose, victoriously conquering sin and death, paying, fully, the price for all I’ve done, all we’ve done wrong.

I don’t need another way to His presence, His peace.  I’ll take the one He gave.

Then, He can answer all my other questions.

Asherah

I don’t feel so good right now.  I feel ugly, fat, numb, so, so sad.  I think I’ll take a trip down to the old Asherah pole.

Throughout the history of early Israel there was a goddess named Asherah that was worshiped along with the worship of God.  Solomon had her images set up in the temple.  Religious prostitution was the normal practice in worship of this deity.  And it was a constant downfall of the nation.

I often wonder how it came about.  What caused the nation to succumb to the temptation to follow this idol.

God’s word is demanding.  Life for Him will cost you everything, it really will.  I mean everything!  Can I say it a little louder?  It costs you everything!

You don’t keep your money for yourself, or your time, or your love, or your sex.  You are supposed to be fully devoted to the one who died for your sins.

But, that’s too heavy.  We need a little levity, a little self in there.  And it costs us, we lose.

Jesus gave everything to win our hearts.  He wants us to love Him back, totally love Him.  He is worth it.  Life for Him is worth everything.  Trying to feel good will only leave you feeling empty.  Living for Him will bring love, joy, peace, all that we truly want to live for.

It’s His promise and He never breaks His promises.

The Empty House

I’ve read “The Hunger Games” series multiple times and am reading them again now. It is interesting to me that, even though I know what’s coming, I still react so strongly to so many of the scenes.

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭12‬:‭43-45‬ ESV)

My reaction to these words is just as strong. One particular phrase stands out from the rest. “It finds the house empty…” In my opinion, this is one of the saddest commentaries on the human condition. If we remove all vice, take away all spiritual influences, in and of ourselves, we have an empty house.

For those of you, like me, who have known so much emptiness, I submit that there is a better choice than order, than rules, than religion. What Jesus offers is so much more, more filled, more true, more life.

We can try to fix ourselves. We can try to be good people, kind and loving. And some people are really nice people. But, it’s empty. And satan will fill that void. We can try to be religious, even Christian religious, but, it is empty. IT IS EMPTY!

Jesus said he came to give us life. He called it an abundant life. He is the only way to get it.

The only way.

What’s Your Flavor?

The question caught me off guard.

It could’ve been asked different ways.  What’s your color?  What’s your background?  What’s your heart?

What’s your flavor?

He was trying to see what made me tick.  We were playing a song together and he saw through my attempts to sound like someone else, to immitate, to comply.

What’s your flavor?

I think Jesus asks us that some times.  He doesn’t want us to try to be like others.  He isn’t looking for us to fit some mold of contrived religion.  He created us as unique individuals that bring various facets of His nature, His beauty to light.  He didn’t bring us into creation to be like anyone.  He wants us, all of us.  He wants our light to shine, our purpose fulfilled – which is really His light shining through us.

So once again, I ask, what’s your flavor?