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ABRAHAM LINCOLN: MERIT YOUR FREEDOM
In the last days of the Civil War, the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia, fell to the Union army. Abraham Lincoln insisted on visiting the city. Even though no one knew he was coming, slaves recognized him immediately and thronged around him. He had liberated them by the Emancipation Proclamation, and now Lincoln’s army had set them free. According to Admiral David Porter, an eyewitness, Lincoln spoke to the throng around him: "My poor friends, you are free—free as air. You can cast off the name of slave and trample upon it ... . Liberty is your birthright."
But Lincoln also warned them not to abuse their freedom. "Let the world see that you merit [your freedom]," Lincoln said, "Don’t let your joy carry you into excesses. Learn the laws and obey them."
That is very much like the message Jesus gives to those whom he has liberated by his death and resurrection. Jesus gives us our true birthright—spiritual freedom. But that freedom isn’t an excuse for disobedience; it forms the basis for learning and obeying God’s laws. It gives us direction in action.
(From a sermon by Christopher Surber, All Things are Possible with God, 8/15/2012)
Steven Simala Grant
Let me tell you a story from Alberta history: Cree Chief Maskepetoon met Rev. Robert Rundle, and at their first meeting declared "I will never become a Christian as long as there are horses to steal and scalps to take." Nevertheless Maskepetoon became a staunch friend to Rundle and his attitude towards religion began to change. He became a great and feared warrior, but then later became a Christian and a champion of peace.
John McDougall (son of pioneer missionary George, for whom McDougall United is named) later told about the murderer who stopped to shake hands with him while he was traveling with Maskepetoon. When John said "This man wants to shake hand with you," Maskepetoon, apparently under great strain, gave his hand in greeting. He later said to John, "that man killed my son and I often longed to kill him but because I wanted to become a Christian I have kept, with great effort, from avenging my son’s murder. Meeting your father and sitting beside you has softened my heart and now I have given him my hand. It was a hard thing to do but it is done and he need fear no longer as far as I’m concerned."
The story continues: on another occasion the Crees were camped near what is now the city of Wetaskiwin when the Blackfoot asked for a truce. The truce was granted and the Blackfoot came to smoke the pipe of peace. One of their number had murdered Maskepetoon’s father years earlier.
Maskepetoon saw this old warrior, his father’s killer, approach with the others. He ordered his best horse saddled and brought to the tent, then ordered the culprit to stand before him. The murderer expected to be killed. Instead he was asked to be seated. The Chief handed him his best, richly decorated suit. Then Maskepetoon spoke, "you killed my father. The time was when I would have gloried in drinking your blood, but that time is past. You need not fear. You must now become a father to me. Wear my clothes, ride my horse. Tell your people that this is the way Maskepetoon takes revenge."
"You have killed me, my son!" cried the old murderer. "Never in the history of my people has such a thing as this been known. My people and all men will say ’The young Chief is brave and strong and good. He stands alone.’"
Do you see the power of forgiveness? It turned a fierce warrior, who desired nothing more that to steal horses and men’s scalps, into a man who could shake the hand of the man who killed his son. It turned him into a man who could look his father’s murdered in the eye and say, “you killed my father, you must now become a father to me. Wear my clothes, ride my horse.” I want to leave that image in your mind, because it is almost the exact thing that God says to you and I: “Your sin hurt me deeply. You killed my son – your sin killed my son. Wear my clothes, ride my horse. You must now become a son to me.”
My wife tells of two high school graduates who had grown up in the wide-open spaces of the Texas Panhandle. Both received basketball scholarships to attend a small college in the dense forests of the Piney Woods of east Texas. Although they were eager to come and play basketball they both left after only one semester. The problem...They stated that they felt like they were going to "suffocate" not being able to see further than the East Texas woods allowed. Spiritually, we are much like that. Once we have "Breathed" in the wide open spaces of God’s grace we find it hard to live anymore in a confined space. Maybe that’s what Isaiah 49:20 speaks of when it says "This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in."
A NATIONAL PRAYER OF REPENTANCE
Joe Wright is the pastor of Central Christian Church in Wichita, KS. On January 23, 1996, He was asked to be the guest chaplain for the Kansas State House in Topeka. He prayed a prayer of repentance that was written by Bob Russell, pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. According to an article in the Kansas City Star from January 24, 1996, his prayer stirred controversy, and one member of the legislative body walked out. Others criticized the prayer.
The controversy didn’t end there. Later that year in the Colorado House, Republican representative Mark Paschall angered lawmakers by using Joe Wright’s prayer as the invocation. Some members there also walked out in protest.
Paul Harvey got a hold of the prayer and read it on his program. He got more requests for copies of it than any other thing he had ever done. Here’s what he prayed:
"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," but that’s exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that:
We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism.
We have worshipped other gods and called it multi-culturalism.
We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it a choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it political savvy.
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the air...
If I were to take a long piece of super-duper duct tape and stick it firmly to your hairy arm, how would you prefer to have it removed if you only had these two choices: Slowly, pulling out one hair at a time, or suddenly, ripping it off instantly?
Most of us would prefer a quick rip. Well, when we look at how Paul describes our condition under the law, he pulls it off very, very slowly. He describes in detail the pain of living under law and seeking to satisfy the righteous requirements of it with merely the power of the sinful flesh. Ouch! Who will deliver me! Let’s look at it together.
"Loose yourself from the knots of your past" B.C. King
Teachers Commentary notes this about Galatians 3
In Galatians we have Paul’s first powerful defense of the Gospel. Some from the Pharisee party in Judea who had trusted Christ apparently retained their zeal for the Mosaic Law. They traveled to the churches Paul had founded, and taught that the Gentile Christians must be circumcised and must keep the Law of Moses to be saved. In essence, they said that to be a true Christian a Gentile must become Jewish in lifestyle, and live by the Old Testament’s code.
Paul confronted this view, insisting that what these men taught was a different gospel from the Gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Paul insisted that there can be no mixture of Law and grace in the Gospel of Christ without robbing the Gospel of its power.
Now, in the extended and carefully argued bulk of Galatians, Paul explained why the Law is not for Christians now. Paul’s argument emphasized three points:
a. The Law is opposed to life (3:1-18).
b. The role given Law in Scripture is a limited one (3:19–4:7).
c. The Law is an inferior path which leads to spiritual disasters (4:8–5:12).
An Arab chief tells a story of a spy who was captured and then sentenced to death by a general in the Persian army. This general had the strange custom of giving condemned criminals a choice between the firing squad and the big, black door. As the moment for execution drew near, the spy was brought to the Persian general, who asked the question, "What will it be: the firing squad or the big, black door?"
The spy hesitated for a long time. It was a difficult decision. He chose the firing squad.
Moments later shots rang out confirming his execution. The general turned to his aide and said, "They always prefer the known way to the unknown. It is cha...
LUTHER AND MARX
1983 must have been a strange year for the German people. During that year the people observed the birth days of two notable men. That year marked the 500th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther and the 100th of Karl Marx. Marx was the father of socialism/communism. Its development led to the imprisonment of the human spirit. Luther led people to freedom from the Medieval Catholicism.
In our world we see two ideologies at work. One is from the prince of the power of the air who leads people into slavery through his deceptions. The other sets men free by the application of the blood of Christ. One works for the downfall of man; the other works for the saving of man.
A NEW SPIRIT AND OPPORTUNITY
A few years ago a young girl by the name of Sofi was born in Siberia, a bitterly cold and desolate area of Russia. A difficult place to be a child but Sofi’s life was going to be even rougher than most. She was an orphan. Then suddenly at the age of 2 she was adopted, sight unseen, by Laurie Collis a single mother in Scottsdale, Arizona.
She is now in the third grade and doing well. So well that she entered an essay contest last year and out of 10,000 applicants, she won! Toy maker Lego and The Planetary Society sponsored the event. As a result of winning her family received an all expense paid trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch the lift off of the Mars Rover.
While there she was asked to read an excerpt from her winning essay. Here is part of it: "I used to live in an orphanage. It was dark and cold and lonely. At night, I looked up at the sparkly sky and felt better. I dreamed I could fly there. In America, I can make all my dreams come true. Thank you for giving me the ’Spirit’ and the ’Opportunity’."
Today on Mars a little robot named Spirit and next week another named Opportunity will be exploring opposite sides of that world....