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Freedom—It’s an Inside Job

I was out picking up bagels this morning, part of our “goin’ on a road trip” ritual. I greeted the first man I met with “happy Fourth” and he said “Happy Independence Day.”

The next one I greeted, I said “Happy Independence Day” and she replied, “Do you really think we’re independent?” Thinking about living in a country where some politically appointed folks and take our freedoms away in the blink of an eye, I replied with something lame like, “Not as much as we used to be,” and went on my way.

When I got back in my car, I was pondering how wrong that was, my comments that is. I’m free, and there’s nothing that can change that. My freedom is an inside job. Let me say that again:

My freedom is an inside job!

Jesus freed me from the inside out. I was the slave to sin, captive in the dark cave of the evil one, forced to war against my God and my Maker. In chains I couldn’t see serving a master I hated.

Then Jesus, by a supreme act of violence rolled the stone away from the mouth of my prison, and with nail scared hands broke the chains that bound me.

I’m free, but my independence is an inside job.

Now, no matter where I am, or who holds the prison keys, I am free.

Like Daniel in the lion’s den, like the Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, like Joseph in the Pharaoh’s dungeons, like Paul and Silas in the jail in Philippi, I’m free.

My freedom is an inside job!

If you don’t know this freedom, you can! His name is Jesus. Ask Him to show you the way to freedom. He’s got the key to whatever prison holds you.

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:34-36 NASB

benheadshot1Have a great day.

Be free.

Ben

2 Comments

Can’t Buy Me Love.

Can't buy me love

If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love,
It would be utterly despised.

Song of Songs 8:7 NASB

One day Jesus decided to pass the offering plate Himself.

The rich folks were so happy.

“Now He’ll see how important I am to His movement.
Wait till He sees how much I give.
This will ensure me a place on the board of directors.
Maybe if my offering is enough I can talk to Him about that “Eat my flesh” stuff He keeps talking about.
The tax deduction alone makes it worth giving into this ministry.”

But there was this one widow.

Homeless.
Dirty.
Bent over by years of lack.
She had sold everything she cared about years ago just to stay alive.
Her offering would not even pay for the postage for one His newsletters. For that matter, it wouldn’t even pay for the envelope.
She would not lift her head as she approached to give her gift.

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.” – Luke 21:1-4 NASB

Yes—both rich and poor were putting money in the treasury, but for the rich, it was surplus not sacrifice. The widow put all she had in the box. God doesn’t want our money, He want our life.

Don’t get me wrong here. He’s not looking to make us hurt by sacrificing for His kingdom. That’s wrong thinking too. There are sections of the Church world who would have you believe unless God sees us inflicting pain on our selves, He will see to it that pain enters our life another way. This is just religion at it’s worst.

The Father wants the best for us, and the best is giving Him our full trust. This is the lesson of the widows meager offering—meager by measure—major in kingdom value. She gave her life into the hands of the Lord. She trusted the Lord for His care and provision.

benheadshot1I’m so glad you stopped by.

Don’t be a stranger.

Ben

2 Comments

Who Is Unholy?

who is unholy

Holy, as you may know, means set apart, separate.

We know that God is a special kind of Holy—in fact He is thrice holy—Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts! He’s surrounded by angels protecting the unsuspecting passerby of this immense holiness, as if the throne and smoke and shaking and all that were not enough.

In Jewish culture there were two classes of stuff. Stuff here refers to people and things. There were holy things and holy people, those set apart from the rest of the stuff for God’s service, and then there was rest of the stuff.

The interesting thing is that objects and people who were not holy would be called common. Of course there were extremes of common and unholy, but as a class anything that was not set apart specifically for God’s service was considered unholy—common.

But the cross changed something—drastically.

It was so drastic that it was years after Pentecost before the apostles even got what was going on.

The book of Acts jumps the time line in decades more or less. If you look at the chapter number, staring with about chapter 10, you will find yourself more or less that number of years beyond the cross. OK—it’s a really rough estimate, but Peter’s encounter with Cornelius in Acts 10, was something like ten years after the death and resurrection of Christ.

Ten years after Jesus told them to go into all the world and preach to everyone.

Ten years since the blood of Jesus washed away all our sin.

Ten years since: God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. – (2 Corinthians 5:19 NASB)

So Peter’s up on the roof and is drawn into a trans where an angel offers him a ham sandwich.

Here’s the verse that really nailed it for me this morning though:

And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. – Acts 10:28 NASB

Let me emphasize:

I should not call any man unholy or unclean.

Hmmmmmm

Do you suppose there were wicked men in Peter’s day?

Do you think some might have been considered evil?

Let me be clear. This did not mean they didn’t need to repent and believe. This did not mean they didn’t need to hear the gospel. On the contrary, the command was to preach to every man, woman and child that Jesus Christ is Lord.

What it meant in context was, instead of being against these non-jews and seeing them as the enemy, Peter needed to treat them as the precious harvest that the Lord Jesus wanted to bring into His garner.

The darker it seems, the more the world needs the light of the gospel to shine. The Lord can work in any amount of darkness to change hearts—to call His enemies in His service.

I urge you today (Ben, I’m talking to you, dude) to look through the eyes of Peter and see, no man is unholy today. No man is beyond the reach of the gospel. As I have said many times, Jesus can speak anyone’s language.

benheadshot1Thanks for sticking it out to the end today.

Shine where your plugged in,

Ben

10 Comments

Who Broke Marriage?

Marriage is broken!

BUT…

Who broke marriage?

Did the Supreme Court break it?

Did the LGBT community break it?

OR…

Did no fault divorce break it?

Did free love break it?

Who broke marriage?

I have a thought.

Fifty years of caring less about fidelity, about loyalty, about commitment may have cracked the shell.

Forty-two and a half years of children as a choice rather than a gift from the hand of God may account for some of these fragments.

Decades of absentee dads—some were in prison—others were at work—may have chiseled away an edge.

Year upon year of prayerless couples might have caused some havoc.

Scores of stupid TV dads might be culpable a bit.

Drunken rage replacing disciple and understanding—yep that had a hand in this mess.

A dearth of good examples to follow might own a share or two.

Those girls who preceded you down the aisle when you promised “for better or for worse” bad mouthing your man at every turn—perhaps we should send them the bill.

The men who toasted your wedding who drag you away every weekend—could we ask them to bear some blame.

Who broke marriage?

Yeah, let’s blame the Supreme Court—That’s easy.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by.

See you again soon.

Ben

12 Comments

Marriage – What did we lose?

My Wonderful Bride and I

My Wonderful Bride and I

We have lost a word, marriage.

Let’s use a different word.

We have not lost the holy union of a man and a woman in the sight of God and man.

We have not lost the bonds of love that stand strong together against the onslaught of the world, the flesh and the devil.

We have not lost the superior supernatural strength of a three stranded cord, Christ, wife and husband, bound together by commitment and devotion.

We have lost a word.

So let’s get a new word.

We don’t have to tell anyone else about it, but we’ll know.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by,

See ya’

Ben

3 Comments

To Remain Teachable. « J.S. Park

I always want to know when I’m wrong. Really. I’m aware I’m never the smartest guy in the room. I want to remain teachable. Being wrong is not the end of the world. I want to be open to a thought I’ve never had, even if it threatens what I’ve always known. Even if we disagree in the end, I want to have considered every possibility before landing on solid ground.

If there’s a better way or some angle I’m not seeing, I’d like to know. If even one percent of what we’re saying can help someone see a little further, it’s worth saying and worth learning. There’s no pride or joy in holding onto an idea just because “we’ve always done it that way.” Some convictions are lifelong and eternal, but there’s so much that is fluid and flexible.

Read the rest of the post here: To Remain Teachable. « J.S. Park.

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Caught in the Act – A Parable

They broke into the room in a furor. Caught in the act! All their suspicions confirmed, and the truth, right there in my arms.

Before I knew what was happening, they grabbed me, one by the hair, and two others took my arms. My feet stumbled to keep up with their pace but soon I was just so much luggage, pulled along behind them. Out the bedroom door, down the stairs, each step down sending pain up through my legs. All my kicking and struggling just added to my agony.

At first I was screaming for help, then I realized who my attackers were. This angry mob that broke into my home and dragged me out into the dusty road, was made up of those who were supposed to protect me, the ones I was supposed to call when I was in trouble. One wore a police uniform, two had the backward collars of the clergy. I recognized store owners and local businessmen. Even the mayor was there. I thought I recognized the pastors from three local churches.

Amid the shuffle, I heard someone ask, “What do we do now? Where to?”

The forward motion stopped and then they let me drop to the ground, face in the dirt. A foot pressed into my upper back holding me to the ground.

Then I heard a voice I knew. “Our law calls for stoning.” It was my rabbi. This man witnessed when my parents named me. He taught me the Torah as I came of age. He officiated at my wedding.

There was general agreement.

But then a voice I didn’t know called out, “Let’s take him to the teacher who just arrived in town. Let’s see what He’ll do.”

Everyone seemed to love this idea, so they took up my arms again. Again my feet tried to gain purchase, but someone tripped me so I couldn’t get my balance. The short walk through town seemed to take hours to me. My mind was racing. My emotions skittered from fear to rage to shame and back again.

What would this man do with me?

When they found Him in the dusty square, they dropped me at His feet. As I looked at His dust-covered sandals, the stories of this man—Jesus—came to me. He’d been teaching in the square, and healing the sick. He healed dozens of men and women in the two days he’d been in town. Lame men were walking. The blind woman I see in the market every day could see. But I knew He was a Jew, like me, and they called Him a rabbi.

By now all my accusers had rocks in their hands, and some of them called out hurtful names.

My rabbi now addressed this outsider.

“This filth was caught in the very act, in the arms of a man. Our law says this abomination should be publicly stoned to drive this evil out of our land.”

Then he left me there in the dirt and backed away, stone at the ready. As he backed away he finished with “What do you say, what should we do?”

A cry went up from the angry pack, “Stone him” and then the vile epithets came in a wave, “Homo. Queer. Faggot. Queen.”

At the sound of these words, my tears began to flow into the dust inches from my face. The bile was rising into my mouth as everything I held dear slipped through my fingers. My life was over, and I felt I had hardly lived. Twenty eight short years ended by these hands of hate.

Part of me wanted to agree with this mob, and part of me hated them right back. Somewhere inside me was a voice screaming with the crowd that I deserved this scorn, a voice that called along with them, “Your broken.” How could it all end like this? If I could, I would go back and make it right. I didn’t want to hurt my wife this way. I didn’t want my kids to be fatherless. I didn’t want to die with this sin, this betrayal, this ugliness, the only legacy I left behind.

Then this rabbi they called Jesus, bent down. I turned my head toward Him to see what He was doing. It looked like He was drawing in the dust. I wiped the tears from my eyes so I could see what He was doing. He was writing. With my face so close to the ground, I couldn’t make anything of the words.

He stopped writing, still crouched down near me, and looked up at the army of hate surrounding us. He raised His hand to quiet them and said,

“The one of you who has no sin should throw the first stone.”

All the shouting turned to a murmurs, and soon silence.

I raised myself up enough to see what He was writing.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall not bow down to idols.
You shall not take the name of the Lord lightly.
Keep the sabbath.
Honor your father and mother.”

My heart told me I had broken each of these, and many others too. Now my tears came in torrents. I was sobbing.

The Rabbi didn’t finish. He didn’t have to. Through my tears I was astonished to see we were alone in the street. The mob was gone, and the street was littered with stones. They just let their hate fall in the dust and moved away.

Then Jesus crouched down; He put His hand under my chin, and raised my eyes to meet His. Our eyes met.

He took the sleeve of His well-worn robes, and wiped the tears from my eyes.

“Son, where are your accusers?”

With my voice shaking, I said, “There’s no one left,” then cautiously, “except You.”

“Then, I don’t accuse you either. I want you to go and turn your life around, no more life of sin.”

He helped me up to my feet.

I hurt all over, bruised and battered from head to toe, but something deep inside was fixed, healed. The brokenness I felt minutes ago was gone. The confusion I lived with since the day of my bar mitzvah left with the mob. There was something rising up in me. Free? Forgiven? Clean?

I went home. I asked my wife to forgive me. Tears flowed again, from both of us. I sat with my children and repented before them. My humility before them broke the shame they carried because of me.

I can’t say meeting Jesus has made my life easier, but He gave me a path to walk, and gave me a desire to walk it. For the first time I can remember, I’m free from shame and regret. I’m free from the confusion. I’m free to be the man God created me to be.

I’m free!

===

Does this picture challenge your heart as much as it does mine?

Let me know how your heart reacts.

benheadshot1See you again soon.

Walk like Jesus.

Ben

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