DEPENDING ON GOD

“I went to church on the outside, and even read my Bible, but it was only after coming to jail that I started depending on God. While I was on the outside I depended only on myself.” This is what one man said to the group last night in Bible study.

With all the talk in Christian circles about how we should read our Bible’s more, go to church every-time the doors are open, pray more, give more, witness more etc. It all still comes down to one thing. Are we depending on God?

We have been making our way through Romans and last night we were in chapter 4. This chapter is all about Abraham and what we can learn about being justified, or made righteous, with God from what we glean from his life. The Bible tells us “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness.” It wasn’t anything Abraham did himself it was all about God giving Abraham a promise and Abraham believing Him.

God’s promise to Abraham was that he would have an heir and not just any heir but an heir by which the whole world would be blessed. For those that know the story you know that Abraham, and Sarah his wife, attempted to help God out at first by coming up with a plan that involved Abraham and Sarah’s handmaiden, Hagar. Seeing how Abraham and Sarah were so old, Sarah suggested that maybe the way God would fulfill His promise would be through the union of Abraham and Hagar. Well, this of course didn’t turn out so well because while it did in fact produce a son, Ishmael, he wasn’t the one God had promised.

Without retelling the whole story here let me just say what God was promising Abraham involved something that was absolutely impossible apart from God himself performing it. You see Abraham and Sarah were well passed child-bearing years and yet God was going to give them a son. The scripture tells us Abraham “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken…” In other words even though Abraham couldn’t see how in the world he and Sarah could have a child, he simply believed God. We are told  Abraham “being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.”

It seems God simply wants us to believe Him and yet more times than not it requires us to get backed into a corner before we will. As we talked about faith, and how God is the God of the impossible, I had the guys turn to Psalm 139. As we read through the Psalm we stopped for a moment to let verse 5 soak in. It says, “You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me” (NIV). Wow! God wants us to believe Him; because He wants what is best for us, so much so He will even back us into a corner so we might finally look to Him. This is what God wants from us and exactly what these men in the jail are discovering and it lights up my spirit to hear them tell of how they are trusting God now like never before.

I realize many think this is what is commonly known as jailhouse religion but for me it is God speaking. While many want to discredit the people in jail saying, “just wait till they get out again, then we’ll see if it was real or not.” All I can say to them is okay. When it comes right down to it most of us are foxhole conversions in one way or the other aren’t we? I mean for me it was addiction for you it may be a lost job, a sick loved one, a death in the family or any number of things. The truth is the gospel is a message for the desperate and if you haven’t found yourself desperate yet more than likely you aren’t ready to receive Christ. Just as this man said, even though he went to church and read his Bible, he never really depended on God until he was locked-up and hemmed in by God.

Louie

 

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THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

Everyday it becomes more and more apparent to me that we all have the same problem at the root. Each of us may have a different flavor of hangup but if you look close enough you will discover the same source.

Whether your problem is anger, lust, drugs or sex they all find their cause in a false sense of independence. Since the Garden of Eden debacle we have all been born under the delusion that we are self-operators, self-sufficient, self-motivated. In other words we are just ourselves and everything else is here to serve me and my purposes. We are our own boss, the masters of our destiny and it’s up to us to make our lives work and succeed in the manner we see fit. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have talked to three young men who are in jail over the past three weeks, and even though I say I know these things, I am still amazed how similar their stories have been. When in jail you are left with plenty of time to think, particularly about things going on outside. Swirling or racing thoughts are one of the main things they have to learn how to deal with the most. How do you remain in a jail cell with no ability to do anything without going mad? What is the key to finding peace in such a situation?

I have found the source of peace is the same no matter what the physical setting; it’s Jesus Christ. You see as long as we see ourselves as independent, and able to run our own lives, we will continue in the delusion but once we find ourselves in a place of powerlessness we are forced to see things otherwise. In a way being locked up can become the greatest thing to happen. It is one way God uses to force us to wake up to the fact we are in charge of nothing! In that environment you can’t even leave a room without someone else opening the door for you.

In the end we all have our own reasons to give as to why we are where we are in life whether it’s because you never knew your father or grew up poor or have witnessed some very horrible things. Each of us at some point in our lives have to come to the place where we see and understand we are not in charge. I know that may sound like one of those “Duh” moments but if your honest we have all lived as though we were our own boss at one time or the other. Thankfully God love’s us so much he finds a way to corner us.

Psalm 139:5 tells us “You hem me in–behind and before, you have laid your hand upon me.” NIV

Louie

COLLEGE COURSE IN SPIRIT LIVING

Most of us think being in jail or prison would be the worst possible thing that could happen to us or those we love. We say, “I don’t think I could handle it.” Well, I’m with you on that. I’m not so sure how I would do it either.

There is one aspect of being in jail and prison that isn’t so different than our lives on the outside and that’s dealing with other people. One of the biggest issues I hear about on the inside is frustration and difficulty on how to deal with others. This is something that is the same no matter where you live right? You go to work and there are co-workers you just can’t seem to please or a boss that is unreasonable, so what do you do? You either adjust or you stay in a state of conflict and tension all the time. So, what’s the solution?

As far as being locked up in jail or prison you may be in an environment that doesn’t allow you to get away. You might be in a cell with others that simply will not bend or compromise. Well this is when walking in the Spirit has to happen. You have to learn to live by faith and not by feelings. In a way being incarcerated is like a college course in Spirit living. For us on the outside we would probably avoid the conflicts at all cost and never really learn the lesson. In there you would be forced to deal with it. I’ve seen parents deal with children in this way. They might make their young son and daughter hold hands with each other in order for them to get the message or even go as far as to make them wear a shirt with two neck holes. This way they are forced to be along side each other and eventually they have to come to an agreement and settle their dispute.

If you were to boil the Bible down into one sentence I think it would be something like this. We are to love God and love our neighbor. That’s pretty simple sounding isn’t it? If we are required to love others maybe God is giving us these opportunities for our own good. The Bible also tells us to owe no man anything but to love him. From God’s vantage point maybe prison is the ultimate chance to do that. It’s like a final push to get us to wake up and discover what life is really all about.

God loves us so much he refuses to let us get away without moving us into situations that will require him. The fall deceived us into believing we are independent, and God is all about showing us the truth. Psalm 139:5 says, “You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.” God loves us so much he continues to put the squeeze on us until we look to him. For some this means jail or prison for others it may mean lost jobs, friends, reputations and so on. Whatever it takes to get our attention; because everything in life is an opportunity to sin or an opportunity for faith; the enemy of course wants us to fail but God wants us to look to him.

In the end walking by the Spirit is the only way. If we continue to live in our soulish emotions and thoughts we will always find ourselves in conflict. There is another person just around the corner placed there just to rub us the wrong way. How else are we going to learn how to live in the Spirit rather than the flesh? We must be tested. A faith that isn’t tested isn’t really faith at all is it? The next time you find yourself in a tight spot look to God and say, “I can’t love this person, but I’m willing to let you love them through me today.”

Louie