Archives For Freedom

I suppose the word I’ve been dancing around is disappointment. We know that Jesus came not to make our lives better, but rather to give us better lives. Lives with purpose, meaning, depth, fulfillment. Yet we so often find ourselves frustrated, and dare I say disappointed. Because somewhere along the way we’ve heard that “God loves us, and has a wonderful plan for our lives.” While this is, in a certain sense, true, it also comes far short of the reality of walking with a God Who didn’t spare His own Son.

I mean we’re not stupid, right? We don’t like pain. And the message of the church, by and large, has been come to Christ, and He’ll solve all of your problems. As if. He came to solve the problem of sin, but this being a fallen world sin however is still very much with us.

Because we don’t embrace suffering as a path to enlightenment, because we buy into the lie that we can have it, we can have it now, there’s a great disconnect between our expectations and our experience. We should be farther along with the Lord, we shouldn’t still be struggling with _______.

Thus it is that we become discouraged, feeling like that Jesus hasn’t kept up His end. “I came that they might have life, and that more abundantly.” Where? Where is this abundant life He promised?

Could it be this is it? I sure hope the hell not. Where everyday is a struggle just to arise from bed, where there’s never enough rest, nor enough hours in the day to accomplish the things we want, and need, to do.

Why is everything a struggle?

Our best life now? Um, excuse me, but screw you Joel Osteen. Right in your lying mouth (metaphorically speaking). If your answer is that we don’t have faith, what of David, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus? Who were maltreated, abused, suffered, and died? And yet were most definitely approved of God.

What of the hall of faith in Hebrews 11? “Of whom the world was not worthy” is what is says there.

It seems to me that we’ve got it backwards. Jesus never lied, never pulled any punches, never truckled. If we’re disappointed in Him, we’re projecting, having believed lies.

We should be disappointed in ourselves for falling for it. Again.

For His is the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering. We don’t like to hear that, but it’s indisputably, undeniably true.

What lies have you believed? What agreements–consciously, or otherwise–have you made with the other team?

What walls need to fall down in your life today?


Chad Jones
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'girl with braids' photo (c) 2008, dmarklaing - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

She was always there. When life got hard, she was there with open arms, and a warm smile. She understood me, knew everything about me, and never turned me away.

She was always there. Down through the years, over the highways and byways, she never let me down. There was solace at her bosom, and a great warmth in her heart. To be near her was to know life.

She was always there. Oh, her visage changed over the course of years, but that was to be expected, right? No one stands immune to ravages of time… Except her. She was somehow perpetually youthful.

She was always there for me. Until it was time to be free.

Her name was not “grandma,” or “mom, ” or even “wife.”

No, her name was pornography, and she lied to me.

Even so: she never made me look. I was the mook who let himself be carried away by her Siren song.

She was always there, until I understood that she was never there at all.

Who, or what, has always been there for you? Have you sought solace in places, or things, you shouldn’t have?

Yesterday was hard. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. In my quest to achieve a better today (all that each of us truly has anyway), I’ve been delving into the root causes of some my habitual behaviors.

Those patterns of relating that are borne of the intersection of nature, nature, and inclination.

What I’m finding is sobering.

I’m finding that seemingly innocuous, well-meaning words have the power to shape the course of a life.

Don’t believe me?

Consider this: as a small child, when I got a scrape, a bruise, a “boo-boo,” in an effort (I suppose) to toughen me up, I was told to say “I’m alright.”

Thing is, scrapes hurt. There wasn’t the “Are you okay?” Rather, I heard “You’re alright.”

Repeat something enough times, and it gets internalized. Becomes a part of our inner monologue.

So it was, on a visit to my grandmother’s house, and while playing hide-and-seek, I fell through the well cover. Did I cry out “Help?” Or “Help me?”

No.

Louder and louder I shrieked “I’m alright! I’M ALRIGHT!!! I’M ALRIGHT!!!!”

But of course I wasn’t–I was a small boy on the verge of falling into a well, with the very real possibility of drowning. Fortunately, my grandmother found me, and kept me from falling down the well.

“I’m alright” became my modus operandi, my life philosophy. Even when, especially when, things were most decidedly not alright. Here’s the thing: rather than toughen me up, prepare for the harsh realities of life, this little phrase served instead to crush whatever empathy my burgeoning soul possessed.

To this day, I have to work at feeling with, and for, someone. Because they, too, are alright.

Even when they’re not.

And that is the big power of little words.

God help me.

image

Time was, people were entertained by watching grown men hack other to death in an arena. As the times have changed, likewise our entertainments.

We have moved on, right?

We are more evolved, and are no longer entertained by the fighting and suffering of others.

Oh, wait…

We watch grown men pummel each other on the gridiron, beat the snot out of one another in the ring (or cage), and play video games where we (vicariously) do the killing.

This shows me that, while the entertainments have changed, we have not.

Human nature is exactly the same as it was during the days of the Roman arena. And what the Romans said then still holds true: give the people bread and circuses (food and entertainment) and you can govern them.

It’s working, and has for years. I don’t presume to speak for anyone, but it sure seems to me that, generally speaking, we care far more about our entertainments, and our three squares a day, than we do about the oppressed, the downtrodden, we pass everyday. All one needs do is hit the Internet, and one will see a plethora of passionate posts, or podcasts, debating the merits of this, or that, show, movie, what have you.

Don’t get me started on sports…

Point is: bread and circuses works because our basic human nature has not changed. And people are up in arms, wanting to fix this, that, and the other. There is no nip and tuck, no quick fix.

(For instance, change the gun control laws, make them much more restrictive, and we have changed nothing. We create a thriving black market. Criminals will still get guns. Did we learn nothing from Prohibition?).

We don’t need a “fix,” because fixes are like bandaids: they slough off, or like stitches dissolve. Fixes are temporary.

Contemporary society poo-poos it, the media ignores it, but the fact remains: no external stimulus has the power to change a heart. Certainly, we can enforce compliance, but this–like a fix–is again temporary.

We need something permanent. We all need to die, and be remade. Last time I checked, governments could not do this, laws cannot.

Yes, all laws are legislated morality; yet even God’s law, as given in the Old Testament–perfect as it was–did not have the power to change the hearts that fell in the garden.

Only the one called Jesus can reach into the morass of a selfish, prideful, sinful soul, pluck out its heart, and tranplant it from the inside out. For instance, Saul of Tarsus–killer of Christians–became, after an encounter with the risen Christ, the Apostle Paul, missionary, and author of most of the New Testament.

This is why Jesus came to die: to make us new. And to be made new, we must die to: pride, vanity, selfishness, shame, mistrust… To ourselves, and daily take up take up the cross that we bear; namely, these flesh suits that seeks to distract, annoy, tempt, and lead us astray. That is our burden: that we are new creations housed in old bodies.

We have to daily choose the new. Live it. And it starts with the only thing we can truly control: our attitudes.

It’s up you, and it’s up to me. The watching world is waiting.

So my question to you is: will you be satisfied with bread and circuses, or do you want the bread that came down from heaven?

“He has shown thee, o man, what is good and what the Lord requires of thee: to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God.” Micah 6:8

A note about the picture above: it comes from today’s entry in J.I. Packer’s Knowing God desk calendar. Personally, I think it makes a great (in Donald Miller’s words) “decision filter.” That is, with it in mind, and once we have it settled in our hearts, the real priorities come to the fore. Because what’s more important than knowing Him? And do we want anything to interfere with that? Just something to ponder.

We live in a world where it’s all too easy to blame, and cast aspersions, rather than take personal responsibility. This always works so much better, right? I’m broken, we’re broken, because of our parents, our life experiences… It’s always the other guy’s fault.

Guns, and pornography, for instance, are always hot button issues. We keep trying to legislate around them.

It’s a losing battle.

Because neither guns, nor pornography, are the problem. No, the problem is the needy beast of a thing which beats within our chests. The brokenness which compels us to shoot, the desires which bid us look.

Porn doesn’t make us look, nor do guns make us shoot.

Beyond that, what rights do we, the bond slaves of Christ, truly have? We are free in him, of a surety, but freedom apart from responsibility is mere liberality, and is a license for all manner of justifications. (I speak here from experience). 

We each of us need to look to our own hearts, and stop blaming the man, the system, the government… All are broken because we are broken. And as long as we live in this world–in Act III of history–freedoms will be abused, evils will be done. That is what free will means: we have the freedom to choose the right, or the wrong.

And the consequences of these choices unfortunately affect more than just us. Some drop like a pebble in a pond–causing ripples–and others crash like an avalanche of destruction.

Yet without this very freedom, we would not know love. Without evil, we would not know good. Without the choice betwixt the two, we are mere automatons.

Choose love today. Choose, even if hurts you–even if it takes from you something you want.

And pray with me, Maranatha! Even so, please, Lord, come.