"Life is not a problem to be solved, nor a question to be answered. Life is a mystery to be experienced." ~ Alan Watts
Welcome: An Introduction
Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Breaking the Chains: The Path to Liberation (Part 1)
The following verses in Isaiah speak of what God calls the spirit filled believer to do-to preach the good news, to speak to others about the freedom that is found in Christ, to break the chains that bind our fellow brothers and sisters to the world that bars them from experiencing the true freedom and peace in Christ that is meant to be experienced.
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners
But what happens when we are not yet free from all the chains that bind us? Or perhaps we are experiencing a dry spell, a dark night of the soul where we are feeling distant from God? How, then are we to announce the freedom promised to others when we, ourselves, are experiencing captivity, being bound by our own sins, letting the things of this world steal our peace?
Christ does set us free but it isn't as if once our hearts have been awakened by faith we will never have obstacles. I've found that it is a freedom that we have to nurture and sustain through continual refreshment and nourishment in His word. If you've never had a dry spell in your faith or never had an unguarded moment where sin or lack of peace and restlessness crept into your soul, you might not relate well with this post. For those of you that have, perhaps you will relate!
I could write a book about this topic! There is so much to it, so much so that I am going to break this post down into four parts. I've found personally a few things that have been instrumental for me in guiding my heart in moments of waywardness and restlessness back to firm ground and I'd like to share some of them with you so I hope you join me in all four parts and contribute your own thoughts in the comments section.
I am no theologian or anything, this is just what I've learned personally through my own walk with God. And frankly, most of it is common sense, but some of us, like me anyways, find it helpful to be reminded of some of the mose obvious things sometimes. It's amazing how sin can blind us to what is so readily available before us.
These are the four steps that were revealed to me that helped my soul transition itself from being a desert to blossoming once again into a garden, drenched in the light of the Spirit, bearing fruit once again.
1. reading scripture
2. repentence (serves as an active step of obedience which bears fruit)
3. prayer ( where we openly have discourse with God, admitting our shortcomings and asking Him to help us trust Him more)
4. meditation (where we can enter into the presence of God, receving peace that surpasses all understanding, being washed in His spirit and given precious insight and revelation)
I'd like to think if we are struggling with a particular sin that repentence would be our first step towards freedom. For some it might be. And I've read places where it is, but there are times where we are so entrenched in our sin that it's easy for others to just tell us to repent, and less easy for us to follow their advice.
There is a time when our hearts aren't ready for repentence. This can be a scary and dark time, when we know we are willingly disobeying our God, and sometimes don't even care (yikes!). How the world has a tragic way of hardening our hearts! Or perhaps God does...for His own purposes..that will be discussed later! This is why I put reading Scripture as the first step. Because it softens the heart that has been hardened.
There was a time when I really felt disconnected with God and I felt like I was at a crossroads when it came to my faith. God didn't seem real anymore. He seemed more like a concept whose truth I accepted but less as a reality to be experienced. The advice I got from a trusted source to overcome all of this: read Scripture, starting with the gospels.
I almost scoffed at such a suggestion! I mean I had come up with real theological questions and concerns, many of them involving God's character. How could reading the Scriptures turn all of that around? In fact, I had come up with a lot of my concerns in the first place by reading the Bible! I was doubtful, but I trusted my source, for we should always find others that are more spiritually mature (pastors, elders) that we can trust to come to for guidance.
All that I can say is that I am so glad I humbled myself and listened to the advice given. I had read a great book by Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, where in one part he talks about reading scripture mindfully and with imagination. I used some of these techniques when reading through the gospels again during the drought that my soul had found itself in. I was amazed at what I experienced!
Foster talks about putting oneself right there in Scripture while reading it. Not using imagination in the sense of perceiving what you are reading as imaginary but rather using your imagination to sense the things going on in what you are reading in the fullest sense. (He explained this so much better than I!) For example, when the gospels talk about Jesus preaching by the Sea of Galilee, let your senses smell the salt air, stand there, listening to Jesus as he preached. Feel the crowd press in around you, hear their shifting feet, feel the sand brush up against your ankles as the breeze beside the sea lifts it, sending it about in swirls. It can be a powerful way to read Scripture. And when done mindfully, each word carrying weight as you read Scripture slowly, the reality of God's truth opens itself before you, unraveling like a red carpet, welcoming you to walk the pathway back home to the inheritance you've already been granted since your heart first awakened to faith.
I remember when I first read through Matthew this way, I couldn't stop. I was picking up so many truths that in earlier times when I read that book I had failed to notice. Truths and insights were lifted from obscurity and became real and defined. I began to feel my heart soften and my soul feel that blessed assurance it had longed for and had not felt for quite some time.
I also came to know Christ a lot better. I came to know the God who is love and compassion, the gentle shepard of our souls that one shouldn't flee from, but run to. I began to trust him again as he became more and more real to me.
I don't want to write too long of a post and lose some people so I will end it here. But I would suggest, and this is just from my experience, that if you are feeling distant from God, if your faith doesn't seem as real as it used to or if you are struggling from a sin that you don't feel you are ready to repent from yet, read Scripture. I would suggest Richard Foster's book. Another practice I've started doing before reading the Bible is lighting a stick of incense or a candle. It helps differentiate reading Scripture from the other things I read. It helps prepare me for the special time I am now entering into with God and His Word. It's a great way to start prayer too. Also praying before reading Scripture is a good idea too! :)
There is a great verse in Galations:
Galatians 5 1For freedom Christ has set us free;stand firm therefore, and do not submit again toa yoke of slavery.
We need to stand firm against sin, we need to stand firm on the rock that God provides for us for refuge. But if you've found yourself off that rock or your knees buckling a bit trying to balance yourself once again upon it, I would heartily suggest you begin to find that strength once again by entering into God's presence through reading His Holy Word.
I wrote a poem after I felt my chains around my heart and soul loosen and finally break free. I'd like to share it with you. In Closing, I pray the Lord's peace over all of you. May your day, this day, and every day until God calls you home, be filled with His light and love.
Freedom leaps within me, like flames within a fire, Fed by Your Word, sustained by Your promise, I feel it grow ever higher.
The garden of my heart, once barren, color hard to find, Blooms within, now a rainbow of life, Held together by love that binds.
The bronze doors of my soul now openly ajar, As you shatter the barriers between us, Breaking in two the iron bars.
May my prayer be like burning incense, Ever rising up to you, A joyful fragrance, an offering to my King, in its darkness the world once slew.
And when the pressures of this place, Crowd around me once more, May I bring your name glory as I seek your face, That all may see the love upon your faithful you doth pour.