It happens to all
when going for a drive
we get distracted by marketing
Meant to make businesses thrive
They are seen when our eyes wander
when we are not looking ahead
They try to sell us goods
expecting us to believe what we just read.
Some are for public service
warning us to stay on track
to keep our lives together
giving us information we may lack
Others may be rather crude
selling things we dare not buy
for fear of a tarnished reputation
with messages so sly
I am interested in a message of hope
one that will take away my pain
not another gadget
to flush my money down the drain
There was one billboard I heard about
displayed back in ancient times
One that advertised love
through a man paying for his crimes
The odd thing about this ad
was he didn’t do anything wrong
But this marketing piece
seemed to sing a different song
The one on display was called a fake
for the whole world to see
shown on the side of the road
I still can’t help but think
there was something good about this guy
The one they called Jesus
With compassion in His eye
I hear he came for joy
and to set the captive free
a billboard painted in blood
a marketing piece meant for me.
A married couple sits in my office and there are long minutes of weeping and silence. They are trying to navigate their emotions, and the anger they feel for one another. The wife has committed adultery, and the husband doesn’t know it yet. I know it as the pastor, because of a previous private conversation with the wife. Both have spiraled downward in their walk with God and their relationship with each other. If it is possible to describe it this way they would say that they hate each other, but still love one another deeply.
The husband drinks a lot. He also has been frustrated with his wife because of her lack of interest in times of privacy. It all makes sense now.
They used to have so much fun together….they thought. They used to stay up late, party, and live however they wanted to live. When I asked them about their spiritual history the wife rolled her eyes and described a legalistic religious past that drove her away from the Church. The husband nodded as if to echo a similar history. “All they ever talked about was things we shouldn’t do”, she said “you can’t drink, you can’t smoke….you can’t have sex…..can’t, can’t, can’t.”
This couple was so broken. As a pastor, I could have sat there and told them everything they did wrong….and believe me there was going to be a time soon for stern guidance…..but right now I was there to listen.
I am not sure if it was because she was caught or she was frightened that she would lose her family as she knew it but she wept bitterly at the thought of divorce. I wish I could give a happy ending to this story, but sadly I can’t. As would be expected the couple split and the whole family dynamic changed.
Why do I tell this story? It is one that is all too common, and so many people are hurting because of this same scenerio. The fact is I can understand why people get frustrated with a church or belief system that seems to be so confining (can’t do this…can’t do that). It is much more attractive to seek to live a life in which one is not confined by such values. I get that. I am not one that could be called a legalist, but I do get tired of seeing lives torn apart by brokenness. At the time, these lifestyles seem to bring about so much freedom….but way too many times there are people sitting in front of me….weeping….wishing they would have chosen another path. People become captive to their own desires.
God heals….yes……but if we obey Him to begin with He will show us such incredible freedom, and a life that is defined by joy.
Looking back on my life I realize how ill equipped I was under my own power. I knew God was powerful but in my mind I still put limitations on Him. I got into the habit of thinking that my sin bound God from using me for anything significant. Then, my life changing moment occurred. Soon after I killed a man, and subsequently dealt with overwhelming guilt, I had a very unusual encounter with God. He revealed himself to me in the form of a burning bush. I have, obviously, witnessed a bush burn before …it happens all the time in the dry areas. This bush, though, was not being consumed for some reason. It’s like it was being protected from damage and decay somehow. The voice of God was audible in this setting. I felt love. I felt peace. I felt like I was forgiven.
The word God spoke to me was rather odd and, at the time, I thought it was probably meant for someone else. God wanted me to lead an entire race of people (the Israelites) out of the captivity of Egypt. Egypt, by the way, was the most powerful empire in the world. Let’s face it; there was no way this was going to happen. Imagine how angry that would make Pharaoh. Millions of people who were used as the labor force of the empire….just walking out of the country? I think someone would notice that before the plan was implemented. Also, why did God choose me? I can’t even speak clearly. Great leaders have booming, and persuasive voices. Their natural charisma compels people to follow. This was not the way people would describe me.
As I looked into the burning bush, I realized that God had the power to protect me from damage. I also realized that He was calling me in the midst of my sin and inadequacies. My obedience and dependence on Him would be my salvation. I did what God told me to do, and the rest is history.
As I reflect on my history there are things I observe about the current generation. The first observation parallels with my earthly call. The people of God still often act as if they are in bondage. They allow negativity, material possessions, selfishness, entitlement, and anger to hold them captive. They have a hard time embracing the freedom that is available to them. The last observation is that they think God can’t use them if they have sin in their past. I will be the first one to say that I as guilty of that same thought process, but I found out that God uses us….despite us.
Brothers and sisters…embrace your freedom today, and accept the fact that God has an enormous plan for your life. Don’t worry…He will protect you.