Preparing for Advent 2012: Setting Captives Free

Luke 4:14-19

14Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus had just come from a forty-day fast in the wilderness, where he had battled (and won) intense temptation direct from Satan himself. Upon his return to civilization, Jesus ended up in his hometown of Nazareth, making his way to the synagogue where he announced his life mission statement, direct from the book of Isaiah.

As I read these words, “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives,” I am reminded of the scene in “A Christmas Carol” when the ghost of Jacob Marley, bound in heavy chains, visits Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve.

Scrooge looked very unsettled by this, and quaked all the more violently. “You are fettered Jacob!” he said, his voice shaking. “Tell me why!”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” I told him, repeating what Mortimer had told me in the courtroom. “I made it link by link and yard by yard. I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it! Is its pattern strange to you?”

Scrooge shook his head, his lip trembling.

“Would you know the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full, heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago, and you have labored on it since. It is a ponderous chain you’re making, Scrooge!”

  • I believe we are all captives, bound with chains, mostly of our own making.
  • But the Good News is, Jesus came to set us free from those chains.

What are the chains that hold you captive? What hurts, habits or hang-ups keep you fettered in life? What keeps you from fulfilling your life’s mission statement?

Whatever it is, Jesus came to set us free. My prayer for you and for me is that this Advent season, we will take time away from our chains of busyness, stress and anxiety that tends to bombard us during the holiday season and simply rest in the presence of our liberator, Jesus of Nazareth.

Advent Application: Commit to taking 5-10 minutes each morning to read a devotional during the season of Advent, which begins the first Sunday of December. I will be offering daily devotionals on my blog: www.spiritualsidekick.com or you can find other great resources online, such as this one: http://www.d365.org/todaysdevotion/

If you prefer reading “hard copy” devotionals you can find some at your local Christian bookstore.

Christendom Must Die!

You may have heard it said we live in a “post-Christian” era. That term used to make me a little sad. It was as if we were admitting the church had lost its ability to influence our culture. But in reality, as I gained a better understanding of what post-Christian really meant, I actually began to appreciate the idea of living and ministering in a post-Christian era.

I believe post-Christian really means post-Christendom.

As I studied church history, I came to realize that Christianity was forever altered in 313 A.D. under Emperor Constantine in his Edict of Milan. After that point, the Church became involved in politics and power, thus turning Christendom into a sociopolitical polity. Whole countries “converted” to Christianity. Clergy gained enormous social and political power. The Church began to gradually look less like the early church movement we read about in the New Testament, and instead grew to look more like the powerful Temple of Jesus’s day, which fought against him his entire ministry.

Under the rule of Christendom, the Church began flexing her muscles, intimidating converts into submission through fear, demanding conversion through shame, condemning dissonant voices through inquisition and fighting wars all in the name of Christ. While these practices were most prevalent in the Middle Ages, I think we can still see remnants of Christendom attitudes in 21st century America.

But I don’t believe Christianity was ever meant to rule over nations through power. Instead it was meant to infiltrate through love. John Stott said, “The essence of love is self-sacrifice.”  Christians are called to take up our crosses, not our swords. We are called to wash one another’s feet, not use ours to step all over one another. We are called to serve, not be served. We are to live in peace as peacemakers. While governments keep the peace by enforcing laws, the church is called to make peace, by promoting love.

So what kind of Christian are you? Are you one who dreams of going back to the day when Christendom ruled over the empire or one who envisions living forward in the Kingdom of God. The beautiful thing about living in the Kingdom of God is it doesn’t depend on a specific location or set of laws. It doesn’t matter who the president is, because there is no president, only a King. The Kingdom is not a location, past, present or future, nor is it an ideology; It’s a reality. It’s wherever Christ-followers live in love and truth. And that can be anywhere in the world, under any form of government.

I desire to be a Kingdom Christian, living in a post-Christendom world, understanding that:

Christendom was a temporal man-made empire, while Christianity is a God-gifted movement of the Holy Spirit.

Christendom has always sought power and position, while Christianity seeks humility and service.

Christendom demanded everyone to conform to the law, while Christianity encourages everyone to be transformed through freedom in Christ.

Christendom started wars in the name of God, while Christianity seeks to end wars in the name of Jesus, our Prince of Peace.

Christendom birthed powerful churches guilty of persecution, while Christianity births powerful churches in the midst of persecution.

Christendom sought to change nations through majority rule, while Christianity seeks to change nations, one heart at a time.

Rest in peace, Christendom. Long live King Jesus!

Dogs and Cats: An Allegory


“The loyalty of a dog is to its master and family. The loyalty of a cat is to its territory and self. Sounds like worship change.” David Manner

Brody’s wagging tail cleared everything off the coffee table as he ran past to make his announcement to everyone in the house.

“He’s here! Master is here! He’s walking through the door!”

Brody’s deep Labrador bark resonated throughout the house. Louie and Sadie, the resident mongrels rose from their naps and ran quickly to the large vestibule to greet their master. Brody followed close behind.

As Master opened the front door, the bright afternoon sunshine burst in and enveloped the darkened vestibule, transforming it into a cathedral of light. The trio barked and clumsily scurried across the marble floor, making their way toward the shadow of their master. With tails wagging jubilant hallelujahs, they continued their incessant barking as each took their turn sniffing and postulating at their master’s feet.

Master put down his briefcase and bent low to the ground, reaching his hands toward his excited canines. He petted each one behind their ears and tousled their fur as they licked his gentle hands. Brody got a little carried away and jumped into his master’s lap, knocking him over with a thud. Master chuckled and began playfully wrestling with all three of his adoring fans. The room was filled with happy barks of laughter.

From the corner of Master’s eye, he spotted Elsie and Myrtle, his two Siamese cats perched high a top the living room sofa. They appeared mildly annoyed by the dogs’ unseemly display of emotion. Elsie turned away as she saw her Master looking her way. Myrtle was busy licking herself clean. Master stood up and began walking toward them.

Elsie quickly jumped down from the sofa and ran toward the open door. Master reached down to swoop her up but she was in no mood for coddling. She protracted a single claw and hissed herself loose, escaping out the door into the cool winter air. Myrtle sat oblivious to the scene focusing only on the comforting sensation of her own tongue licking her beautiful fur coat.

Master turned away and pushed the front door shut. The vestibule returned to darkness. As he walked down the hall toward the warmly lit kitchen his three panting friends followed at his heel.

The greek word of worship is “proskuneo” which literally means, “as a dog licking his master’s hand.”

Worshiping Ourselves

I just downloaded a cool new app on my phone. It’s called MindReader*. Basically what you do is take a picture of someone or a group of people and then when you click on their faces, it will read their minds. I recently tried it out on my church.

Here’s a picture of one of our church services. Everyone looks like they are deep in prayer don’t they?

But then I clicked on this guys face and look what he was thinking about:

I did this a number of times, and each time it appeared the person in the picture had something on his or her mind other than worship.

Or did they?

What does it mean to “worship”?

I believe it is in our DNA as humans to be worshipers. We all worship something. I’ve heard it said, we all have a God-shaped vacuum we are trying to fill. Whatever we create to fill that vacuum, whatever we place as our supreme worth or highest priority is what we worship. The English word for worship is rooted in the word “Worth”. To “worth-ship” is to ascribe worth to something or someone.

It might be another person, a girlfriend or a boyfriend, a parent or a child. It might be a hobby that takes up all our free time and extra income. It might be a sports team. It might be our career or our salary. It could be our country. Patriotism is wonderful, but if we put all our hope in tomorrow’s election, could we actually be worshiping our government as our supreme worth? Whatever we place as our supreme worth is what we worship. Now, please hear me. I’m not saying any of these things are necessarily bad or evil and some of these things need to be priorities in our lives, but if they get elevated to our highest priority, they can become an idol.

On the other hand, our idol could be something bad or unhealthy like an addiction. Whatever it is that we become preoccupied with, that is our object of worship. Food can become an object of worship for me. I can be sitting down for a meal and start wondering what my next meal will be. Comfort is another idol I wrestle with. I want to be comfortable at all times and anything that gets between me and my comfort is to be avoided at all costs. That’s why I sometimes shun confrontation, because it makes me uncomfortable. That’s why I can talk myself out of exercising or going for a walk, because it disrupts my comfort. Any of these things, good or bad, if they are elevated to our highest priority are our objects of worship.

So answer honestly for yourself, what is it you place as supreme worth in your life? What is your object of worship? Your idol? What gets priority in your time and money? Could it be your family or your country citizenship or ethnicity, or perhaps your church? Could it be an addiction to comfort or some substance like food or alcohol?

Whatever it is that we elevate as our highest priority, good or bad, I believe when we boil it all down, it really comes down to one common idol – Ourselves. When we choose our own comfort, pleasure, or our own preferences, we’re actually worshiping ourselves.

So what’s it going to take for us to reprioritize our lives and elevate Christ as our Utmost and Highest Priority? We need to come to the place where we can say, just as John the Baptist did, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

 

 

 

*Obviously this is a fictitious app. Or is it? Bwahahahaha!