Every Man For Himself


cruzThis morning as I watched Senator Ted Cruz speak from the Senate floor, I became engrossed in the details he shared about what had happened to the original 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence and the sacrifices they made in their quest for liberty. These were well-educated, successful men who had all they needed for themselves and their families yet they valued liberty more than their security. As a result many lost everything they had. Most of them had nothing to gain personally and everything to lose when they made the choice to put their signature on one of the most well-known documents in history, certainly in America’s history. Their personal sacrifices were made in part because they saw the bigger picture. They knew what they would have to endure for the remainder of their lives in order for generations to come to live in freedom would be worth it. They knew the costs yet they were still willing to lend their signatures because it was not about them, it was about freedom.

selfieAt this point I will now do what I vowed never to do when I was a teenager – sound like an old person complaining about “young people these days”. Heaven help me. But seriously, have I become that person I disliked so much as a teen or were the older folk really right and I was just a dumb teenager? Or is there something truly disturbing about the behaviors of the next generation? I’m not sure but there are a few things that I do know for sure that I’d like to share. My generation certainly had issues, there’s no doubt about it. Like all younger generations, we were viewed as self-absorbed, lazy, know-it-alls who were lacking in knowledge of what the “real world” was like. And while every younger generation, including the current one, has plenty of those same qualities to go around, I dare to ask the question – is it just me or are young people today, generally speaking, taking self absorption to a whole new level? The good kids, the questionable kids and the completely rogue kids today all seemed obsessed with themselves. I’m pretty sure they spend more time taking pictures of themselves than they do anything else in their lives and the term “selfie” will soon be an official dictionary word if it’s not already. If I never see another duck face selfie again I’ll be just fine but I somehow doubt that will happen. Social media and reality/competition television shows have driven the desire and pursuit of instant fame through the roof. The need to have more Instagram and Twitter followers than anyone else they know is bizarre to me. And the lengths at which they are willing to go to become known is scary. And I’m pretty sure the use of the word “scary” when referring to young people throws me directly into the old people category.

But it’s not just the young people in our society. Adults too are willingly crossing moral and ethical lines to get ahead in the workplace and justifying destructive and hurtful behavior because they “deserve to be happy” no matter who gets hurt in the process. We’re living in a time where the sacrificial mindsets of the 56 individuals who signed the Declaration of Independence would be mocked and ridiculed. Maybe it is just me but it seems that there are fewer and fewer people who are truly willing to sacrifice so that others (outside of their immediate family and friends) would benefit. It’s an every man for himself kind of world we’re living in.

declarationAnd as I listened to the devastating consequences that many of those 56 men and their families endured because of their dedication to the cause of independence, I questioned how we all can be so selfish and so unwilling to sacrifice at that level today. What has changed in our human nature since their time? What would those men and their families think of us today if they could see how we treat the freedom many of them sacrificed everything for?

And then my thoughts went, as they often do in those melancholy moments, to my Lord and Savior. I thought of the ultimate sacrifice that He made on our behalf. I thought about how different my life would be if Jesus had thought “I’ve got nothing to gain personally and everything to lose by sacrificing myself.” I thought of what my family’s lives would look like if He only thought of Himself in that moment instead of knowing that His personal sacrifice would give freedom and liberty to those held captive by sin for generations to come. I thought about how different our world would be if Jesus had an every man for himself mentality instead of an attitude of “my life for every man”. I gave thanks in that moment that no matter how discouraging things may seem to me at the times when my focus is on the negatives, I know that if I’ll just turn my thoughts back to Jesus, I find peace.

freeMy peace is in knowing that when I was still a self-absorbed, lazy, thought I knew-it-all young person, He loved me. My peace is in knowing that when I’m a self-absorbed, lazy, think I know-it-all “somewhat middle-aged” person, He loves me. My peace is in knowing that because of Him and the sacrifice He made, there is hope for those who are drowning in their hopelessness. My peace comes from knowing that the only freedom that REALLY matters is the freedom HE died for, the freedom from the bondage of sin. My peace comes from knowing that I live in a country where I can still be free to share the good news of the freedom in Christ thanks to the 56 men and their families that sacrificed so much for that freedom a long time ago. My peace comes in knowing that I have the choice to be that crabby, “somewhat middle-aged” person complaining about young people or I can choose to love them as Christ loves them and as He loved me at their age. My peace comes from knowing that the Son set me free therefore I am free indeed.

 

Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall


On June 12th, 1987 Ronald Reagan stood behind a podium in front of the Berlin Wall and issued a challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev, the General Secretary of the Soviet Union. President Reagan, in referring to the wall that had become known as the symbol of Soviet oppression, said “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”. Those words are known as the most famous words of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Twenty-nine months later on November 9th, 1989 East Germany finally opened the Berlin Wall and by the end of that year work began to dismantle it completely. Although there is much debate over the amount of influence President Reagan’s words had on the destruction of the wall, it was an important moment in Cold War history.

During that time period there was an “invisible” wall of mistrust between the Soviet Union and the United States. Secretary Gorbachev had openly expressed his desire to increase freedom among the people living in the Eastern Bloc countries through glasnost meaning “transparency” and perestroika meaning “restructuring”. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall ushered in a change among the political climate of the time which eventually led to the dissolvement of the former Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War by the early 1990’s.

The invisible wall between these two superpowers is very similar to the invisible walls that exist in our own lives – walls created by things that have become a stronghold that keep us imprisoned in the bondage of sin and unforgiveness. Many times these walls of strongholds are built by unforgiveness we have toward someone, by a feeling of rejection or betrayal from broken trust, unhealed wounds caused by hurtful words and actions of others and guilt from our own actions we deem too shameful to ever be forgiven.

Over the years I’ve come to know many women with such great potential to experience freedom, peace, joy, financial breakthrough, and fulfilling, loving relationships with their spouse and families. Many have come so close to seeing the sledgehammer swing to begin demolishing the walls that hold them captive. But each time they get close to demolition day the same lies, doubts and insecurities upon which their walls were built begin to consume them once again and all bets are off. God stands by waiting to shower us with His love, forgiveness and freedom from strongholds but many times our walls are so fortified that even a Navy Seal couldn’t break through them. And every time we turn away from God’s wrecking ball of freedom before our walls are shattered, the walls become even higher, stronger and more fortified.

During the Cold War the relationship between the former Soviet Union and the United States could not move forward until the invisible wall that separated and divided the two was torn down. It was not a physical barrier that kept the US out but a symbol of the guarded, protective and fearful nature of the communist government.

After we have been hurt, rejected or betrayed by someone, it is our nature to react the same way. Much like Mr. Gorbachev, our desire to be transparent and allow others to see what we are really hiding behind and our desire to bring into the light all that we have covered in darkness, must be stronger than our desire to continue to hide behind our walls.

Mr. Gorbachev spoke of being transparent but until his actions backed up his words, the Soviets remained veiled behind deception. We too must take action in order for the process of eliminating the barriers to our freedom in Christ can take place. We must not simply say we are forgiven, we must believe that when Jesus died on the cross and we confessed with our mouths that we believe in Him, then our sins were forgiven. Period. Until you truly believe that, you cannot begin to walk in the victory that freedom in Christ offers. You will remain in a perpetual cycle of discontent marked by an inability to find fulfillment no matter how hard you try. When you try to repair your problems on your own, you will find yourself continually striving to breakthrough what only God is able to tear down. You may come close to breakthrough when you try on your own but you’ll find yourself giving up every time just before it happens. True breakthrough happens when you surrender to Jesus Christ and allow Him to heal the broken places of your heart. You were never meant to do this life on your own. You were created to be in relationship with your Creator.

Are you tired of laying more bricks in an attempt to further fortify the walls around your heart? It’s time for the walls to come down so true and lasting healing can begin to take place. Stop trying to fix everything on your own and stop believing that over time things will get better. The truth is that the innermost hurts and insecurities that hold us captive from the freedom we long for can only be healed by the love and forgiveness found in Christ. Just as President Reagan in 1987 spoke to the oppression against the people of the former Soviet Union, my challenge to you today is to Tear Down This Wall! Your willingness to respond allows for your relationship with God to begin to move forward and for perestroika to take place. Let today mark the start to the restructuring process of your life being built on the foundation of the Rock.

Prison Break


I confess – I watch too much television. One of my favorite new shows is Alcatraz, a drama that revolves around the prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco and the efforts of a team of investigators to track a group of missing prisoners who mysteriously reappear decades after they disappeared from the prison. On a recent episode an inmate appeared at the home of a friend who thought he had died while being held prisoner at Alcatraz. When the friend saw him he said “I thought you were dead! When did you get out of prison?” The inmate answered, “When you’re in prison, you never really get out. You just move from one cell to another.” Many people today are being held in captivity. They are a prisoner to some form of bondage, desperately seeking the key to freedom. They believe the key lies in the “ifs” of their lives. If I had more money. If I was with someone who really loved me the way I deserve to be loved. If I could forgive them for what they did to me. If I could just find a way to overcome this addiction. If I could lose 50 pounds. If I could get a better ____________ (fill in the blank…….job, car, house). If only I were prettier, smarter, funnier, more confident. They keep wandering from one cell to another searching for their elusive freedom.

What I found in my own life is all of your “ifs” can be overcome. You can conquer every perceived obstacle and still be a prisoner. The freedom most find is only a temporary freedom and after the initial break from captivity they find themselves right back in bondage. They may have found short term liberty in a new relationship, new job or a move to a new geographic location, only to find that what they thought was freedom was simply a move from one prison cell to another. There is only one true key to freedom and it is found in Jesus Christ. He alone is the lasting key to a life of liberty. It was never God’s plan for you to be captive. His desire for you is to live a life without limits, an open and expansive life. (2Cor. 6:11-13 MSG).

If you are prisoner to the bondage of addiction, lonliness, insecurity, depression, unforgiveness or anger it is time to be set free. It’s time to break away from that which holds you captive and seek the only One who can truly set you free. All you have to do is ask. Jesus stands waiting to open the door to the wide open, spacious life. (Matt. 7:7). Isn’t it time you break free? You have nothing to lose and your freedom to gain.

Time Heals All Pain


Time heals all pain, or does it? I am the primary caretaker for my 99-year-old grandmother. Each morning about this time I get up and set the necessary things out in the bathroom for her and then knock on her door to wake her up. Most mornings she’s already awake and responds with a chipper “come in”.  For her age she is in remarkably good health. She is on one medication, she reads the entire newspaper daily and she loves to watch Dancing With the Stars. Of course she is slow in her movement, especially in the morning when I help her out of bed but she walks without assistance. Her body isn’t what it used to be but she has very few limitations considering her age. But ironically it’s her emotional limitations that are most paralyzing in her life. She is gripped by fear – fear of death, fear of falling, fear of someone breaking in the house, fear of not having enough money to pay the extremely minimal bills she has, fear of being alone, and fear of not being in control. I remember earlier in her life she had a fear of flying which prevented her from traveling anywhere beyond a reasonal driving distance. Her fear of driving in snow kept her homebound whenever there was even a minimal snowfall in our town. Her fear of water kept her from enjoying time on the lake with family. And her fear of germs created extra work for her as she felt the need to sterilize everything before it was used. But back then her fears were more of a hassle than a handicap. My theory has always been that over time things would get better – that at 99-years-old and having never had to experience any extreme illnesses or tragedy in her life that she would be living carefree with not a worry in the world other than the obvious physical concerns. I thought she would feel free to not worry about the things in life that caused her such concern when she was younger. Based on her life experiences I assumed she would find enjoyment in her twilight years with a peace of mind that she has lived a fulfilling life, is blessed with family who loves her dearly and with the comfort of knowing all her financial needs are securely met.  But what I have found in not only my grandmother but others, is that over time the things in our lives that go unchecked, unhealed, and unanswered only get worse. The roots begin to go deeper in our souls and take hold of our lives with a grip so tight we become bound by whatever it is that has us held prisoner. For some it’s unforgiveness toward someone who has hurt them, for others it is insecurity and fear of failure, for others it’s the fear of rejection rooted in someone they thought loved them and would always be there for them leaving them unexpectedly. For many it’s a sense of shame and guilt associated with something they did that consumes their thoughts and affects their relationships and behaviors years later. We falsely believe that over time we will feel better – that the hurt won’t hurt so bad, that the guilt will diminish and that the anger will subside – but it doesn’t. We become a prisoner to our past. There is only one option that will bring the true freedom we seek. Only One who can set us free from the things that keep us bound from living life instead of just trying to make it through it. His name is Jesus and He died for your freedom, He died for the forgiveness of the sins that hold you captive and for the unforgiveness toward others that keeps you bound. It’s time to cut whatever it is off at the root before it goes any deeper. It’s time to surrender it to God and let Him begin healing those deep-rooted wounds and hurts in you. It’s time to heal all pain.