Archive for the ‘Christianity Today’ Category

I agree with atheists?

Monday, August 18th, 2008

I was shocked this afternoon to find that I agree with some atheists!

A group of atheists in Italy have sued to ban baptisms.  At first I thought, “these guys are crazy.”  On what grounds would they want to ban baptism?

 I read the news article a little further and found that they were not seeking to ban all baptisms, just the baptism of infants and children.

I found myself somewhat in agreement, though not for the same reasons.  They say that it infringes upon the right to free religion for parents to have their infant or child baptized.  I say it infringes on God’s law — a much higher domain.

Now, to be clear, I certainly don’t think that this is a matter for temporal courts to decide.  There should be no law telling parents what “religious” activities they should be involved in, and what activities are suitable for children.

However, I would say that it is silly for parents to have their infants baptized, in light of what the Bible says.  The Bible very clearly gives us baptism as an ordinance for professing believers, not infants or children incapable of understanding the Gospel.  It is wicked to have a man in a dress sprinkle water on a child, then let that child grow up believing that they are a part of the Church and have been baptized because of that ceremony.

Not until someone has sought and obtained the absolution of their sins through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross should they ever be considered as a candidate for baptism.  Before that point, it is just meaningless ceremony.

 So, I do agree with these atheists that baptism of infants and children is a bad thing.  I do not agree with their reason for it being bad, and I certainly do not agree with their solution.

Here’s the news article:  Atheists abandon attempt to ban baptisms

On being a servant

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

 “Why, why won’t he come to visit me?”

Jimmy lay in a hospital bed, dying of congestive heart failure. He had been a member of a local church for three or four decades. Now, as an ailing old man, he wanted more than anything in the world to see his pastor come and visit him.

He knew that his time on earth was almost up. He knew time was short. Yet he had been in the hospital with a failing heart for several days, and his pastor had not been by to see him.

“I really wish he would come see me. He knows I’m here. Why won’t he come?”

I was in the same hospital room with Jimmy two days later as he drew his last breath. He was unconscious all that day, so I don’t know if his pastor ever came to visit him.

But, God impressed something on my heart that day that I will never forget.

When God calls us to be pastors, He calls us to be ministers. A pastor is a care-taker. A minister is a servant. He calls us to be the servants of His church – the foot-washers of His people.

Our purpose is to serve the flock. When a church member walks into church on Sunday morning, we should look at them and think in our hearts, “I am their servant.”

That’s a hard thing. Our pride intervenes and cries out, “but I must be their leader! That’s what God has called me to do!”

The best way to lead is to serve. Jump in and show them what it means to serve. Show them what Christ meant when He washed His disciples feet.

If we seek to be great, we shall be least of all in His Kingdom. But, if we seek to serve, to be the least, then we shall be greater.

We should not be too proud to plunge the church toilet; to get on our hands and knees and wash the floor; to help serve the food at a church dinner. By serving we are not only fulfilling God’s commandment and call on our life, but we are also providing an accurate role model for the Christians in the church.

If we model everything that the world expects from a “leader,” then that’s the model the folks in the church will try to emulate, and we’ll have all kinds of worldly “leaders” and no one to serve. But, if we model service, if we model the servant’s heart, then people will emulate that.

It’s ironic that the greatest leader is really the greatest servant – which is why one cannot learn to “lead” well until they have learned to serve well.

A mayor, a bureaucrat, a police officer, a town manager, a legislator, a judge – all are servants of the people in the worldly sense. They are our servants. We pay their salaries, we pay their health insurance, we give them their office, their car, their authority – everything is given to them by us in order for them to serve us. Many do it very well. They remember that, above all, they are servants, and they do a great job working for the public good. Others, however, get a little power, a little money, a little authority, and they become consumed with pride and lord over us instead of serving us; or, they seek solely to advance their own careers and fortunes instead of promoting the good of the people. They decide that they are better than us and, although they are nominally a “public servant”, there is not a servant’s thought in their whole mind.

Our nation suffers greatly because of public servants who have forgotten their calling.

Our churches suffer greatly because of pastors who have forgotten their calling.

When someone in the church is sick, we should visit them. Not just the ones who have a little money and influence, but all of them.

We should be ready to set aside our busy schedules to go and sit with a sick person, to spend an afternoon with a lonely person, to help a church member build a chicken coop, to counsel someone who is in crisis.

If our pastoral duties keep us too busy to do that for the members in our churches, then we need to start shedding some of those other, less important duties and get back to being a servant of the people.

Let the deacons be CEO, manage the money, and conduct the “business” side of church activity. That’s what they are there for: to handle the temporal things so that we can be about the eternal. Our first responsibility is to our calling as pastor and minister, as servant to God’s church.

Will we be spared?

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Yesterday I wrote about the food shortage that is not at our doorstep, but already in the door and sitting at the kitchen table.

The smug say, “I don’t care. I’ll be raptured before it gets too bad.”

Who do we think we are? Millions of faithful Christians and their families throughout history have died in famines, persecutions, and war. Why do we think that we are immune to these things?

Because we’re American? This stiff-necked, rebellious, worldy, sin-filled nation with it’s stiff-necked, rebellious, worldy, sin-filled Christians is headed for difficulty and divine judgment unparalleled in modern times. I’m not talking about the Great Tribulation, I’m talking about old fashioned divine judgment.

Think we’re immune? Think again.

Read the Old Testament again. When Israel and Judah were judged for their infidelity and rebellion, the faithful and upright in their midst suffered loss, were carried away, died in famine and war, right along with the unjust and unfaithful. It was a national judgment.

Daniel stayed faithful, and God blessed him abundantly even in the face of loss. Ezekiel stayed faithful, and God blessed him. Others, like Jeremiah, continued to suffer hardship and persecution despite their faithfulness – but God made it up to them on the “other side”.

Are we so much better, by virtue of our nationality, than all of the just, faithful men and women who have died in famine, war, natural disaster, persecution, and hardship over the last 6,000 years? Why won’t those woes overtake us?

We’re not promised an easy life here. There is no promise that my family and I won’t starve to death in the coming famine, no matter how faithful we are. Our hope lies not in this world, but the next.

Let’s be ready, sober, and vigilant. There are things that we can do to prepare, and I do believe that God will bless the preparations of His faithful. A little preparation now will save a lot of difficulty down the road.

What does God want you to do today?

“Letters of Commendation”

Monday, July 14th, 2008

I remember how obsessed President Clinton was with defining some sort of legacy for himself during his last couple years in office. He was determined to achieve something to be remembered by. Of course, he had a legacy already, and no matter how much he tried to undo it, we remember him today for his women and his compulsive lying, not any political achievement.

People know us by our fruit.

The Apostle Paul had a legacy, but it was a much better one. Part of his legacy was the young church at Corinth, which God had used him to nurture, train, and grow.

Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
2 Corinthians 3:1-3

Paul said that the church at Corinth was a “letter of commendation” for him, written not with paper and ink but “in fleshy tables of the heart.”

In those days, as was typical until 30-40 years ago, if you went to a church you had never been to before, you were not accepted into membership without a letter from another church stating that you were a member in good standing there. Many traditional churches still, even today, have a policy of admission to membership “by letter or by baptism” — in other words, you can become a member by presenting a letter from your previous church, or by being saved and baptized.

This system helped to prevent people who were removed from membership of a church, such as the man Paul speaks about in I Corinthians, from simply going to another church for fellowship. As Christians grew in numbers and multiple churches grew up within the same city or town, it became easier for someone who was removed from fellowship on one church to simply “go across town” to another church and continue to live their life of sin. By requiring a “letter”, a church protected its members somewhat from this type of abuse, and against people who wanted to do them harm (Roman or Jewish spies, greedy con-men, etc.).

Paul asks the Corinthians if he needs to present them with a letter in order for he and his teaching to be accepted in their church. He answers his own question by stating that the church itself is his letter, written not in ink and paper or carved in stone, but written in flesh. They themselves were his witness and testimony – he had no further need for a “letter”.

Even today, people judge a tree by its fruit.

People judge a church by its members. When folks out in the world meet a church-goer, they can very quickly form an opinion about the church based on the member(s) they meet. For instance, they will decide if the church is friendly based on how friendly the member is. Many of the character attributes of the member(s) they encounter will be inputed to the church.

People will judge a college by its graduates. Even within church circles, a college is known by its fruit. If you meet a couple graduates of the same college, and they both have the same unbalance, the same weakness in doctrine, the same obsession with a particular doctrine or style, then you have a tendency to judge the college by those graduates you meet.

It’s sobering to realize that people judge Christ based on the Christians they meet.

When a person meets a Christian who is critical, hypocritical, noncommittal, ungraceful, brash, grumpy, judgmental, doctrinally weak, unfriendly, arrogant, or [fill in the blank], they will often judge Christianity and Christ based upon that Christian.

It’s even more sobering to realize that we, as individuals, may be the only Christ that someone sees. We may be the only “letter of commendation” that an unsaved person sees, and based on our actions and words they might judge whether or not they want to fellowship with Christ.

We may be the only testimony for Christ that our coworker sees. We may be the only “Christ” seen by our neighbor, friend, or family member.

In a day when we use the label “Christian” so casually, when Christians are so casual and lazy about their relationship with Jesus, it is so important for us to be sure that we show others an accurate picture of Christ.

This doesn’t mean we have to work harder to look like better people. It means we need to be more surrendered to Him, more rejecting of the flesh, in order that Christ himself might shine through more clearly.

Remember, we want people to see Him, not us. It won’t do us any good to try to polish ourselves up so that folks see how good we are. Instead, we need to show less of us, so that more of Him shows through.

We have His Holy Spirit within us. We can choose to either yield to His Spirit or to yield to our flesh. By choosing the Spirit, we enable Him to have more free rein in our life, which means that when people see us, they’ll be seeing more of Him, which will give them a clearer picture of Christ and a better testimony.

Yes, we can choose to yield to the flesh and give Christ a bad name among our acquaintances, but I don’t like to think about what that would lead to when we stand before the Judge. The words I most want to hear from the Judge are, “Well done thou good and faith servant….” After what Jesus has done for me, anything less would represent abject failure on my part. He has given me life eternal, so why shouldn’t I give him this temporal life?

If we have yielded to Christ, what will folks see when they look at us? I talked about the “fruit of the Spirit” last week, but we can also see some hints right here in the this same passage (II Corinthians 3).

Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
2 Corinthians 3:6

If you have your Bible handy, read the verses around this, too. The Old Testament Law was a fleshy manifestation of a spiritual concept. It seems that our inclination is always to write laws and create standards so that we can, with eyes of flesh, see how close we are to God. We try to earn our way into God’s favor and Heaven by doing good works.

It just doesn’t work that way. Paul tells us elsewhere that the Old Testament Law was given as a “schoolmaster” specifically for the purpose of showing us that we can’t please God that way. After all, all our righteousness is as filthy rags in comparison to His glory.

Mankind has such a fixation with rules and laws, with presenting a form of godliness without the power. God wanted to show us, for all time, that this is not a fleshly battle that will be won by fleshy methods, such as abiding by the “letter of the law”, but it is a spiritual battle. The letter brings death, while the spirit brings life and power.

Paul uses the Old Testament Law as an example, but we needn’t stop there. We are so prone in our own churches to resort to a works-based religion. Works are something that can be seen and judged with our eyes of flesh, so our natural man inclines toward the letter of the law.

As James writes (James chapter 2), if the Spirit is really there, His fruit will be manifest in good works; but the opposite is not true – we cannot invoke the Spirit by doing good works. We can do all the good works we want, but that doesn’t mean the Spirit is present with it. It just makes us a good imitator.

Let’s finish by looking a little further down in II Corinthians 3.

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
2 Corinthians 3:17

Where Christ is, there is liberty. If Jesus is in a church, there will be liberty in that church, not a spirit of domination and bondage.  If Christ is in a person, that person will be known for their grace and moderation (in the biblical sense of the word), not their law and judgment.

Let us yield more to God in order that more of Him might shine through us, making us better witnesses and testimonies of Him.  This is the first and greatest step we can take to winning souls for His kingdom.

“Here am I, send me”

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

I mentioned “martyrs for Christ” in yesterday’s entry, and it got me thinking about the special place in God’s heart for those who give their life by dying for their faith.  We see the souls of these martyrs and the special place they have in Heaven in the book of Revelation.

I believe that God also has a special place for those who give their lives as a living sacrifice, those who do not die for Him but who live for Him.  I don’t mean those who just call themselves “Christians” and go to church on Sunday.  I mean those whose sole purpose in life is to serve God.

Even at the height of the missions movement of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Hudson Taylor lamented that he had secured financial backing for dozens more missionsaries.  The difficulty, he said, was finding people who were willing to go.

It’s even harder today to find people willing to “go” (to the foreign mission field, to the streets of America, to a bus route, to their neighbors).  We are surrounded by such material abundance and comfort that we are somehow comfortable giving God part of us — as long as it doesn’t mean going.

Our jobs, our friends, our retirement, our financial security, and our social positions are “sacred cows” in 21st century America.  We are willing to serve God up to a certain point, but once one or more of these “sacred cows” are are put on the table, we pull back.

God is still asking today, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8).  Isaiah’s response was an unqualified, “Here am I; send me!”  And God did.

God is looking for Christians who will serve him with their life — their whole life.  Maybe you won’t be asked to die for Him.  Maybe you won’t be asked to lose your job for Him.  But are you willing?

Right this moment, God is looking the earth over, asking “Who will go for me?”  He’s looking from church to church, from Christian to Christian, to see if there might be someone who is willing to surrender everything to Him.  Will you be the next one to stand up and say, “Here am I! Send me!”?

Gay man sues Bible Publishers

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

We all knew this was coming, so it’s not a surprise.  Here’s a link to the article:

‘Gay’ man sues Bible publishers

The interesting twist here, which I did not expect, is how the Bible versions issue ties in with it.

This guy is representing himself at court in these cases, so his law suit is unlikely to go anywhere, but there will be more like him (but better prepared) in the future. 

But, “… see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass….”  (Matthew 24:6)

Yes, they have removed the Ten Commandments and nativity scenes from public property.  Yes, there are now perpetual lawsuits over the “One Nation Under God” in the Pledge of Allegience.  Yes, the U.S. Treasury has sneakily removed “In God We Trust” from the face of the new dollar coins.

But, there is much worse to come.  One day soon, they will be killing us and thinking they are doing God a favor by doing so.

We should oppose every intrusion of government into religion.  We should mobilize our friends and our churches against the anti-Christ spirit in our courts, legislatures, and the executive branch.  However, let’s not get overly worked-up over it.  “All these things must come to pass.”

If you want to get worked up over something, if you want to lose sleep over something, let it be the winning of more souls for Christ.

The time is so short.  Of course the world is going to hate us.  Of course evil people will attempt to take away our rights.  Soon, they’ll be taking away our money and our property, imprisoning us, and killing us.

That doesn’t matter right now.  We know how the book ends.  We know that there are many more martyrs for Christ yet to be made (maybe you or I).  We can’t change that.

What does matter right now, and what we can make a difference with, is the winning of souls. 

We can’t change the course on which humanity has set itself.  We cannot change end-times events foretold in prophecy 2,000 years ago and testified of in the very newspaper and TV-news headlines we see every day.  But, we can win one more soul.  We can point one more person to Heaven.  We can help one more person understand that their sin can be forgiven and that they can have peace with God.

We need to understand the difference between what we can change, and what we cannot change.  Where will our effort be useless, and where will it be useful?  What is worth losing sleep over, and what is not?

Time is short.  Let’s go out and win one more.

Spreading flames

Monday, July 7th, 2008

 Everywhere around us we see symbols, types, and illustrations of spiritual truths. It seems that the greatest truths are reflected in myriad ways in nature itself.

My wife sometimes tells me that I think too much. But, when I see something that abstracts a complex concept or illustrates a profound spiritual truth, I just can’t help but marvel over it and point it out.

On Saturday we drove up to the church to pick up some Sunday School materials. Since it was a beautiful day, I drove the long way home, going down Middle Road from Kingfield and over the dirt roads in New Portland, looking at the beautiful old farmhouses that dot those roads.

I meant to cross the Carrabassett River at the Wire Bridge in New Portland, but when we got to the bridge it was closed for repairs, so I turned around and crossed a little further south and headed toward West New Portland. But, when we got to the village, there was a fire truck blocking the road and traffic was re-routed around the village.

We wondered what was going on (being nosy, small-town Mainers), so after church today I swung down to West New Portland to see what all of the excitement was about. It was amazing to see one house completely gutted by fire. To the left was another house that was partially burned. You could see where the fire jumped from the first house to this one. And, out back there was a barn with a scorched, charred front.

The fire had originated in one house, but because of the intensity of the heat, it spread to a neighboring home and almost spread to the barn, too.

What an apt picture of the true working of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life. When we’ve got the real thing, we don’t have to force it on people. We don’t have to come up with clever programs to promote it. It will naturally spread to our neighbors, because that’s simply what it does by nature.

Now, when you’ve got the artificial stuff, when you are trying to manufacture a move by the Holy Spirit, then you’ve got to work to “spread” your “spirit” to other people. Then, you need to tickle dead ears and entertain cold hearts to get folks into the “spirit.”

When you’ve got the “real thing,” the people around you will naturally catch it. They can’t help but be influenced (scorched) by the Spirit that is working in you, and it’s the most natural thing in the world for them to catch it themselves. You don’t need to entertain them. You don’t need to ply them with guilt. You don’t need to use crowd psychology to manipulate them. The “fire” itself does all the work.

He always does all the work. If we find ourselves working too hard to manufacture the outward signs of the moving of the Spirit, then we need to take a time-out for self-examination to see if we’ve got the real thing.

He did all the work for our Salvation, right? We can try to save ourselves, to be good enough to earn a place in Heaven, but it’s not going to work.

So it is with day-to-day life. The power to live a Spirit-filled, God-honoring, obedient life does not come from our own will, our own strength, or our own self-discipline. The power always comes from God. We are incapable of living a life pleasing to Him within our own power.

Why did the 24 elders in Revelation chapter four cast their crowns at Jesus’ feet? Because they knew that they did not earn the crowns. We may be given crowns and rewards for what “we” do while here on earth, but in the end we should cast them all at Jesus feet because everything we ever do that matters in any way for eternity – every good work, every accomplishment, every gain – will be done through His power, not ours.

What a great life! He does all the work, then He turns around and rewards us for letting Him use us to do the work. God is so good!

Let’s don’t force the Spirit on others (as if we could). Let’s don’t be artificial. Let’s don’t manufacture the symptoms of the power of the Holy Spirit in the absence of His real power. Instead, let’s prepare our vessel for His use then pray and serve until He sends upon us His real, authentic power. When we have the real thing in our life, when we are being consumed by the Spirit, the people around us will catch it.

Like fire, the most natural thing for the Spirit to do is to spread.

Cages of our own building

Friday, July 4th, 2008

I hate being limited. When I want to do something, I want to be able to just go do it. Yet, I look around and see all kinds of limitations on my life.

Some of these limitations are put there by God. I have seen many times in the past where God has limited me by circumstances in order to protect me from something. These are good limitations. These limitations are much like the moral lines drawn up in the Bible – they may seem onerous to the unspiritual, worldly-minded person, but in reality they are there to protect us.

For example, God says to keep sex inside of marriage in order to protect us from emotional damage, sexually-transmitted diseases, and shattered families. God’s “laws” are all like that – they are in place for our good, for our protection, because He loves us. It’s much like a parent telling a child, “don’t touch that hot stove.” The parent does not say it to be mean, but to protect the child whom they love.

But, most of us have many other limitations put in place by our own choosing, not God’s. We make choices or have attitudes that cause our effectiveness and our freedom to be limited.

We once had a dog that would run to the road. Every time we let him loose, he would sprint toward Route 27, where the slower traffic drives at 65mph. Because of this, we had to put him on a runner, and he was greatly limited as to where he could go after that. Instead of being able to run around the whole yard, he could only go as far as his chain and runner would take him. We did not tie him up to be mean to him, but to protect him from his own bad choices and bad habits.

He could have been free and had the run of the yards and house. But he consistently chose badly, so we had to limit him to save his life.

Often, God finds the need to put us on a leash, to limit us in some way in order to protect us from our own bad choices, habits, and attitudes.

Piece by piece, we build our own cages, in which we remain imprisoned.

Many American Christians are quick to run up credit card debts, get loans for newer model cars, etc., because we don’t have the cash on hand to pay for things out-right. “Everyone does it”, we say. “That’s the American Way.”

Since when was the crowd always right? In fact, experience shows us that the crowd is usually wrong!

The Bible points out that the borrower is servant to the lender. It’s just a fact of life. We borrow money, and in so doing add more bars to our cage while lining the pockets of the same billionaire bankers who leach the prosperity from our nation’s economy. [But, that’s a message for another day.]

Christians bind themselves with debt – cords of our own making – then when God calls and says, “Son, I want you to go build a church in Argentina,” or “Daughter, I want you to go teach people about me in Nigeria,” guess what? We can’t go. We’ve got thousands of dollars of debt binding us to our present situation, so we have no freedom to go when God says “Go.”

We are imprisoned behind bars of our own making.

Sometimes it’s an ungodly attitude that binds us. Sometimes Christians get the idea in their minds that they will give God control of their lives up to a certain point and no further. God wants to bless us beyond measure, but He needs that extra bit of us that we refuse to surrender. Maybe it’s the refusal to go to Sunday School. Maybe it’s the refusal to go to prayer meeting. Maybe it’s the refusal to witness to others about Him. Wherever we draw the line, it doesn’t matter. The fact is that we have drawn a line and not only limited what we can do on God’s behalf but also limited the blessing God will give to us.

One more bar for our cage.

How clever is our enemy. He gets us to build our own prisons and to live voluntarily within them! All the while we blame God, the preacher, the economy, our parents, etc., for our inability to serve God and for the absence of His blessing upon us.

Perhaps it’s the company we keep which limits us. We don’t want to do certain things for God for fear of losing our friends.

Perhaps its the religious crowd or multi-church fellowship we run with, and we can’t study or preach the Bible honestly and with integrity for fear of losing that fellowship or our position within it.

George Muller came out of the Lutheran environment in Germany and into an Anglican-dominated England. Coming from that background and being in that kind of environment, he naturally supported and taught sprinkling rather than baptism. One day a woman challenged him to search out baptism in the Bible and to see what was the proper way to do it.

Muller had taken the personal stand that if he found something clearly taught in the Bible, he would change his ways to conform to the Bible rather than try to do doctrinal acrobatics to conform the Bible to himself or some creed. He did a thorough study of baptism in the Bible and concluded that biblical baptism is by immersion only (not by sprinkling) and that only professing believers (not infants) should be subjects of baptism. He immediately changed his belief and practice on the subject in order to bring himself in line with the clear biblical teaching on the matter.

It didn’t matter to him that he might lose some ministry support, position, or endorsement over the matter. What mattered to him was being right with God.

Muller was a great man in his time. He was a renowned Christian leader. How many Christian leaders today are willing to search out a matter and change their own beliefs and ideas in order to conform to the Bible rather than to blindly follow the party line of their fellowship, their crowd, their friends, their college, or their denomination.

More limits, more bars. Less and less ability to serve Christ.

Often we make lifestyle choices that confine us. The typical American middle class lifestyle is not one that fits well with the Bible. It is a consumption-oriented life, steeped in superficiality. God does not want us to be consumers, but providers and givers. A consumption-based lifestyle is excessively wasteful. How much we could learn from our grandparents, who lived through the Great Depression!

Every resource God gives us should be treated with thankfulness and care, not just used and discarded.

Does it really matter what label is on our clothing, or what store is was bought at? Is that flashy car really necessary? Does the lawn and house really have to look so pristine? Are sweat and dirt really so vulgar? Who in the world are we trying to impress?

When we live an excessive lifestyle, what do our children learn from it? What do young Christians, whose eyes are turned to us, learn from it?

What kind of move of God is it going to take to lift us up from our plush, comfortable surroundings and drop us into a dirt-floor grass hut in Burma?

How much more could we give to God’s work if we bought that $20 shirt at the discount store instead of the $50 one from the “cool” store? How many orphans in India or impoverished people in your own home town could be fed if you bought a two-year-old car instead of a brand new one?

Bar-by-bar we build our cages. We huddle in these prisons of our own making, saying “God, please use me” or “God, please help me,” still unwilling to surrender every aspect of our life, heart, and mind to the King of Kings.

And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

2 Timothy 2:24-26

Day by day we oppose ourselves, limiting our ability to be used by God by choosing selfishly, pridefully, or ignorantly those things which lead to imprisonment and captivity. Of the Bible-believing Christians in our country today, probably 95% are held captive by the enemy, unable to truly give and serve as He would have them.

How can such an army be effective, when most of the soldiers are bound and caged by the enemy? We holler “Amen” to the preacher, full of pride and zeal, shouting through bars of our own making, unwilling or unable to actually do something.

There’s a lot of amening in our churches and precious little doing.

Today is Independence Day in the USA. Today, brother and sister, let us not only resolve but act to break those bars that imprison us and hold us captive. Let’s have a renewed commitment to not only studying the Bible but to applying its clear teaching to our lives. Let’s be providers and producers, not consumers. Let’s begin a debt retirement plan rather than binding ourselves with more debt. Let’s surrender every corner of our selves to God, letting Him shine His light into each dark, protected closet and hide-away.

Let’s break every yoke and loose every burden (Isaiah 58:6) that we might be free to carry His yoke and bear His burden (Matthew 11:30).