"Count it all joy when you fall into various trials."

Archive for July, 2012

The Back Row Guest

Nick hadn’t planned to be in a men’s recovery center ever again.  He had been clean for five years until three days ago.  For absolutely no reason, he went on a three-day bender.  The hang-over was familiar yet he knew that he wasn’t that person anymore and he didn’t want to go back This is how he found himself as a guest at the shelter.  They were having a speaker that was seeing people set free.

Nick’s father and grandfather were both pastors and his religious upbringing had been oppressive.  He knew that God had called him when he was twelve years old to be in the ministry.  The commitment and price his family paid daily caused him to run.  He started drinking shortly after he heard from God and never looked back.  He was forty-five and until five years ago, he seldom been sober.

Now, here he found himself sitting on the back row of the center and the speaker was saying things that made sense – things he had longed believed but never heard in church.  The man was talking about an encounter with God, not rules and doctrines.  He felt a fresh wave of the Spirit wash over him.  He leaned forward.  Everyone and everything around him fell away and he was totally engrossed in the message.

The speaker called for people to come forward for prayer.  He didn’t remember getting up and found himself almost gliding down the aisle.  The man-of-God turned to him and told him the truth he had been running away from.  “You have a call on your life and you have known it since you were very young.  It’s not too late.”  Then he laid his hands on his shoulders and the Presence of God was so strong that he found himself on the floor.  He had an encounter with the Holy Spirit and he was being renewed and refreshed.  He got up changed.

The evening meal was served to them and the founder of the shelter and the speaker were sitting at a table at the far end of the room.  They were engaged in conversation.  He hesitantly approached them and ask the guest speaker a question.  He was invited to join them and felt unworthy of the honor.  He was encouraged to do so and sat.  Several hours later, they rose up.  He recognized that he had been holding unforgiveness toward his family and he now released them.  Life would never be the same.

That night, he stopped at home.  His live-in girl-friend shouted at him, “What have you been doing?”  He became defensive.  “Nothing.”  She angrily replied, “You have been up to something!  You look so different.”  He knew then that he was forever changed.  He told her of his encounter with the Most High God.  She was skeptical, but could see the change.

Nick has moved into the shelter and is no longer a guest.  He is engaged in becoming the man God intended.

If the Door is Open, Why are You Still in the Cage?

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The eagle was restless.  He had been in this cage in the zoo for several years.  It was where they brought him after he broke his wing.  He moved back and forth within the confines of the space.  He knew somehow that he was made for more but all he knew was the four corners of his prison.  He really didn’t even have room to fly and it was something he no longer remembered.  His handler would open the door and he would hop out on his leather glove and he would feed him.  It worked, but something was different.

When his handler came today they moved him to a smaller cage after the feeding.  This was unacceptable and he cried out his distress.  They put the enclosure in a van and they began moving.  He was confused and frightened.  They drove for a long time and when the vehicle stopped, a new emotion hit the bird.  His heart was racing and he felt like it would explode in his proud breast as panic overwhelmed him.

The handler removed the cage and sat it on the ground a few feet away from the van.   Then a remarkable thing happened.  He opened the door to this small cage and stepped away.  The eagle sat there looking at the opening.  What did it mean?  Usually, he put his hand with the leather glove in the space and he would get on it, but today, he just opened the door.

The mountain air was refreshing him and he raised his head.  The man knelt to the side of the cage and the leathered hand offered him food to leave the enclosure.  He tentatively took it.  Stepping back, he offered more food and the eagle knew that to get it, he would have to step out of the cage.  Tentatively and with apprehension, he slowly inched forward in ‘un-eagle’ like fashion.  He took the food and turned to go back in to the cage, but the door was closed.

He was free!  Free to sit on the ground.  Free to fly, but to the frustration of his friend was that he just sat there, puzzling over his new situation.  He began to walk around on the soft mountain turf.  He walked over and climbed on a rock and looked out over his new domain.  He longed to see more.  He longed for  . . . something.

In the distance, he heard the cry of another eagle and something broke inside his heart.  Without fanfare or preamble, he spread his wings and lifted into the air over the canyon.  When he heard the call of one like him, everything came into focus.  He didn’t need a lesson on how to fly.  Flying was part of who he is.  He is an eagle.  Soaring higher and higher, moving toward the other eagle, he was truly free.

Years ago, I was with an early morning prayer group, when God gave me a vision as I sat on the steps that led up to the platform in the church.  I was looking out over the pews that would soon be occupied by the congregation.  In the vision, I could see them sitting there inside cages with the doors open.  They were free, but they had chosen to stay enclosed in the prison of their own beliefs and laws.  They didn’t understand the fullness of what Christ had done for them.  They were eagles who were sitting in parlor cages like chickens unable to take their freedom.  My heart broke.

The Scripture in Galatians 5:1 in one translation reads, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”  This troubled me greatly as I was saved and in the church, but I was not free.  I told a friend of mine, a pastor’s wife, that ‘I knew Christianity worked.”  She asked me to call her when I figured it out!

We can be blind guides leading others.  We have an open door.  Jesus Christ is the door.  We have stepped inside and we are free, but we are paralyzed because we don’t understand what the freedom means.  So, how do we fly?

What has made us prisoners and enslaves us when the promised freedom is readily available?  We are caught in church doctrine, rules and the judgement of others and as well as

ourselves.  We want to do right but it seems that we do just the opposite much like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7.  What ties us to the cage?  When we are tempted and fail, we beat ourselves with our failure and then we step away from the door.  We are still free but we have no knowledge of how to fly – how to delight in the freedom.

The enemy knows that we are free, but he hates us and uses the only tool in his tool box:  condemnation.  He knows our weaknesses and so he arranges temptations.  When we give in, he then unleashes a barrage of words into our minds that sounds like us, but is really from him.

To illustrate:  Sue decided to eat in a healthy way and to stop eating sweets.  She did well for two weeks and was invited to a party.  They had the most beautiful array of desserts and she succumbed to the molten chocolate cake.  She savored each bite.  When she got home later, the pain began.  ‘Why did I do that?  I had promised myself I wouldn’t eat sugar and now I ate a huge dose of it!  I am a failure.  I can’t do this.  I will never be able to eat healthy!”  At that, she goes into the kitchen and opens the refrigerator door and begins to eat whatever she can find.

What Sue didn’t understand is that the molten chocolate cake wasn’t her enemy.  All she had to do was confess this to her God, forgive herself, and continue on the healthy eating path.  But when she listened to the lies of the enemy, she went back under bondage and entered the cage.  The door is still open, but she is in prison.

Listen, the voice of your Redeemer Who is calling to you.  Move toward it and begin to fly.  The truth is you are free!

 

Cheryl Meakins

FREEDOM – we celebrate our freedom today, this Fourth of July.  We remember the Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the Revolutionary War that cost so many lives but gave us our life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

 

But freedom was challenged when our nation divided two generations later, experiencing a Civil War.  Brother fought and killed brother – in the name of freedom. The Civil War was launched by the South’s rebellion against a national government’s policies regarding what they believed was personal property: slaves. When Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, the war’s rationale was transformed from states’ rights to freeing slaves.

 

Just as freedom rang clearly from our Liberty bell after the Revolutionary War, after the Civil War it rang for repressed African-Americans in our land. The next swing of liberty rang for the freedom of women – voting and workplace rights.

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