June 14, 2010

Morning is Broken

Do you remember that song from the 1970's? It was one of my Mom's favorite songs, and we often sang it in church. I remember the version Cat Steven's recorded, but didn't know that this song was originally written in 1931 and was a very popular English hymn prior to Steven's re-recording of it in 1971.

Morning Has Broken
Lyrics by Eleanor Farjeon

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the word

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day

I am not sure why I thought of this song first thing this morning, but perhaps it simply was due to the beautiful morning that greeted me when I awoke. My boys (my three cats -- two adult males and new 7-week kitten) were actually polite this morning. I got up at 5 to feed them, and then was able to sneek back into bed until 7:30! Hurrah!

As I made my coffee and settled into my morning routine, I started to think about this week and the plans the Lord has in mind for me. My son is off at Quest Kids Camp for the week. This is his second year as boys counselor, and he so looks forward to going to the mountains for a week. It is an old fashioned Bible Camp -- no entertainment, not even a camp store. It is just cabins and a good dining hall with 3-square meals a day. The games, the program, everything must be hauled in by the church group. I like it too, because it reminds me of how I did camp when I was his age. We never had anything to do, other than old fashioned games, quiet sing time around the camp fire, and spending lots and lots of time together. It was sweet recollections for me, and I am so glad my son is getting his chance to form similar memories.

Morning has broken, just as the song says, in my spiritual life as well. I have undergone a spring renewal of sorts, and am experiencing that wonderful bounty of spring blessing. My life was once very dry, and not so very encouraging, spiritually-speaking. Sure, I looked the part on the outside. I walked the walked, and I talked the talked; but on the inside, I was dying. I simply believed that God was God, but that He didn't care much about my circumstances. He saved me, but as for how I walked in this life, well, that was up to me. I knew what His word said, about how I was to walk, and after giving that a go and failing, and then hearing for the umpteenth time that I was incapable of living that way, I gave in and up. Oh yes, I knew of Grace, God's Grace -- I just didn't know how it worked, or if it even worked outside of salvation. I understood that I was saved by Grace, and that faith had something to do with it; but short of that knowledge, I was a walking example of natural flesh trying to live a spiritual life. It didn't work, and I felt miserable.

My good friends commiserated with me -- this was afterall -- Satan's plan. He confounded and confused you, and then made you feel guilty about your shortfall in the Grace department. I came to live a very defeated life, belieiving that it was the NORMAL for Christians.

The problem was that spiritually-speaking, I was not living according to the truth in God's word. I was living to some of the truth, believing in salvation and Grace, just not living in the full truth of God's word.

Several times throughout my younger years I had the opportunity to study the Word. Through Precept Bible Studies and the induction method, I came to read the Word as it was written -- word for word, literally. I read some commentary, but mostly just read the words on the page. I looked them up in the Greek or Hebrew to see what they really meant, and in doing so, I began to get a different picture. I will never forget Kay Arthur's illustration about how we say no to sin. She was teaching through the Book of Romans and said that we are to "check sinful thoughts" at the door of our mind. We check them up and down, turn them around, and THEN if they do not align with the word of God, we shut the door. We simply do not allow them access to our minds. It was radically different for me to hear a teacher say that we could say NO to sinful thoughts. I believed that Satan put those thoughts into my head, and then I had to deal with them. Kay Arthur rejected that notion -- she said that the Holy Spirit of God, living inside of us doesn't allow sinful thoughts and behaviors to take over us -- only our self-will can allow them access. If we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us into checking things out, we will exercise His Power of Grace and can then say no to these old patterns and behaviors. Her words to me were life changing. For the first time in my Christian life, someone told me that I had the power to say no. Someone told me that I could choose to sin. I got the "old man" vs. "new man" analogy from Paul's writings, but her simple illustration told me in no uncertain terms -- "You no longer are a slave to the old way. You simply stop those behaviors from ever crossing the threshold of your mind."

As I walked through those years, I kept that illustration in my mind. Her words often would resurface and remind me that I could say no to this or that. The problem was that I still didn't feel empowered. I still felt pretty helpless. I know now that the problem was that I was still looking to my own strength to do what I simply could not do -- I wanted to defeat sin in my life -- but that was not in my power to do so. The real truth was that it had already been defeated for me -- at the cross of our Majestic Savior's death. Sin's power no longer held sway over me because Jesus overcame the power of sin and of death when He died on the cross to save me. Sin's power was broken in my life, and I only had to accept this fact, and then acknowledge His Power of Grace at work in me, for me to be able to do the work -- to say no. It wasn't about me at all, but it was about me trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ. As I started to put His words into my mind, I began to trust in what He had already done for me. I realized that the empowering of Grace was always there -- I just wasn't using it correctly. I was trying to pull Grace out of the closet and whack sin with it. God said, "No Dear Child, simply confess my Name, and then rest in the Grace that is at work in your life already. Trust that it is sufficient to overcome whatever you need at this moment." I did it, I trusted what God said, and BINGO! I felt renewed, strengthened, and able to say NO when I needed to do it. It was not of me at all, it was all of Him and it was all for His Glory and His Namesake.

The years have flown by and now I am at a different walk in my Christian faith. I am far more diligent to draw on Christ's power and authority, then to try and do anything in my own strength. I simply fail whenever I do anything of myself. But, when I stand on His Word, trust in His Authority, and acknowledge His Grace at work -- well, just watch out. Things happen, things really do happen.

I wish all Christian's would recognize the power of God at work in them this day. But most live as I did -- defeated and powerless lives. They believe they are sinners and not saints. They look to themselves, trying to live a Godly life in their own power and under their own direction. Even Pastors teach this to their congregations -- they teach that you do your best with the Word of God, trying to figure it out, and trying to navigate through life. Then you HOPE that God will be pleased with your attempts at living the Christian life. It is rotten doctrine, poorly thought out and illogical reasoning. God has not sent His Precious Son, given us His Complete and Authoratative Word, and indwelled us with His Powerful Holy Spirit just so we can HOPE to make it through to the end. No, no, no. God has done everything from beginning to end -- it is all done. He has chosen us, He has saved us, and He has redeemed us from the power of sin and death. We are free today because of what Christ purchased for us on Calvary's Cross. We can say NO and we can live Godly and Christ-like lives -- not of our strength -- but with the Power of God and His Grace fueling and empowering us.

Why will they (those in leadership) not preach this truth -- preach the Word correctly? Why do they continue to preach that we are broken down wrecks AFTER Grace? No, no, no. May this not be, may this not be.

Dear Sister or Brother in Christ --

You are a child of Grace now, and that doesn't just mean you are forgiven (isn't that everything? Yes, yes, and more yes!) It means that under Grace you have the power to overcome sin in your life. You can choose to submit to God's authority, you can choose to live as the Word commands us -- you can keep His Commands! It is not of your strength, no it is all of His, but you have the power of God at work in your life right now to be victorious and to live a fruitful and pleasing life -- honoring and glorifying to God. Do not continue to believe the lie that says you are defeated, a sinner first and saint second. No, you are now a Princess or Prince in God's Kingdom -- you are of the Royal Priesthood, and as such, you do have the Power to say NO to sin and sin's influence on your life. Stand up today and be bold -- take confidence in the purchased freedom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! May God be Praised this day and forever more. Only He is Worthy to be Praised!

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