Sunday, November 23, 2014

Take it to the Cross

We pray.

We praise.

We beg.

We fast.

We stew.

We talk.

We complain.

We ask forgiveness.

We resent.

We replay memories in our minds like old movies, as if that could change the past.

We work like dogs to “make up’ for past failures and sins.

We put aside pleasure for drudgery in vain attempts to be perfect — when we already now we cannot be.

Paul, in Romans 3:23, says “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

Thank God for Grace!

And Paul picks us back up in the very next verse: “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

He goes on, in Romans 3:25: “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in this blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.”

There’s a key phrase in that verse:

“For the remission of sins …”

It doesn’t say, “only MY sins.”

It doesn’t say, “only YOUR sins.”

It doesn’t say, “only THAT GUY’S sins.”

And it also, and this is very important “It doesn’t say, “NOT the sins of the person who sinned against me.”

It says “sins” — period.

So if I’ve been replaying old sad movies in my head — dredging up someone else’s sin,

What am I doing? — I’m exhibiting unbelief.

At some point in my spiritual maturity, to grow, I have to let go of those sins — not only my sins, but the sins of others that I have continued to claim as mine to hold, mine to forgive (or not).

Moreover, I have to finally and fully let go of issues that I have given to God — again and again — issues I give to God, and then let my mind run free and go back and pick right back up.

I need to let God do His job — and to do my job — which is worshipping Him and sharing His good news.

We pray, and talk about prayer in every church service. We are supposed to pray without ceasing — but we are also not supposed to keep picking up old dead issues that God has already dealt with.
But we do. We reinforce our fears by repeatedly praying about them, rather than giving them to God and thanking him for our deliverance.

I have been considering this, and thought of a dog with an old bone — he carries it around, plays with it, chews on it, and buries it. Sometime later he goes back, digs it up, chews on it a while and buries it.

He repeats this exercise until the bone is all chewed up. Lost or someone looks at the rotten old thing and finally throws it away. Then, he’s finally free to find a new, meatier bone with better taste and some nutrient value..

This is where we as humans and children of God must exercise discernment — we’ve got to develop the level of spiritual maturity that lets us know when to finally bury that old worn out bone we’ve been worrying once and for all.

Now don’t be confused.

I’m not talking about all prayers. We have many examples of people who have been saved after years of prayer by family members and loved ones.

I’m talking about prayers that we just have on automatic repeat — the ones that wear us and God out.

“God — I want you to forgive me.” — We know in our brain that we have to repent and ask forgiveness one time. God has forgiven you. Once you prayed a prayer of repentance and accepted that wondrous, freely-offered gift of Salvation, you were forgiven.

You had only one thing to do — leave those things of your past at the cross.

One thing that is required for prayer — not a place, or a time or a posture — is that we must pray in faith. We must believe that God is our loving Father who wants only the best for us — that can be a hard image for people who didn’t have a perfect earthly father. But it’s one that we need to develop and maintain. He is the epitome of “Daddy” — Our Father God who sacrificed the most precious thing in the universe so that we might be saved, and have life more abundant.

Though I’m not quite comfortable calling my heavenly Father “Daddy,” I’ve learned from people who do. I get daily email devotionals from Max Lucado, and this month’s series is on prayer.

In one he says Jesus invites us to approach Go the way a child approaches his daddy. How do children approach their daddies? Lucado describes boy who see their fathers in the parking lot after school:

One yells “Yippee!”

One yells “Pop! Over here! Push me!”

He says what he didn’t hear was “Father, it is most gracious of thee to drive thy car to my place of education. Please know of my deep gratitude for your benevolence. For thou art splendid in thy attentive care and diligent in thy dedication.”

What he heard was kids who were happy to see their dad and wanted to talk with them and spend time with them. God invites us to approach him in the same way.

Another illustration Lucado gives is when he daughter flubbed her piano piece at a recital, and he was heartbroken for her. When she got off stage, she ran to him, flung her arms around him and buried her face in his shirt and could only say, “Oh Daddy!” Lucado says prayer starts there.

Now that, I understand. 

And often, “Oh Daddy!” “Dear Father” “Oh, Lord!” is enough. He hears that plea, and He acts to help us. All we have to do is believe.

Jeremiah 33:2 – 3 says:
“This is what the LORD says, He who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it — the LORD is His name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

And that’s what many times I’m really praying for: God to tell me things I do not know. Which is usually, “What does God want me to do?”

So there’s one last thing I must do. And it’s the hardest of all:

I’ve prayed.

I’ve listened for God’s answer, direction, or peace about the situation.

I’ve acted on that.

But what must I do that I too often fail to do?

Like the old hymn says, “Leave it there. Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there."

We must all be diligent about leaving it at the cross.

In the last months at my church, we’ve talked a lot about symbolic chains — and when I received the inspiration for this lesson, I was given a prop.

For you who are reading this, it is a cross. What are the burdens you’ve been taking back — the ones that you keep carrying to God, and taking right back again?

Find a card or a piece of paper, and something to write with. I encourage you to write that burden down as you prepare to lay it down. It doesn’t have to be a book. It might be a word, or even a symbol that makes sense only to you. It can, and perhaps should be illegible to any human. Even an X — as long as it has meaning to you, it will have meaning to God.

Put that burden down on that card, and as you pray, take your card to the cross. Hang it on that chain, which will no longer bind you.

And leave it there.

And if at any time you are tempted to go dig that old bone back up, remember, you are done with that bit of bondage. You are free in Christ, and that, my friend, is free indeed!

I pray today that you are set free to enjoy life, and life abundant in Christ Jesus, our blessed savior. For that IS God's Holy Will.

Bless you.

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