Freedom! It is a word that naturally brings emotion to most Americans. That is because we know our history and we know what it cost (and what it continues to cost). But for believers it is not a word that stirs us as it should. I really think that it is because most of us never really experience true freedom, the freedom that Christ died to bring us. We have been doing a series on Galatians in our Lifegroup and a couple of weeks ago I taught on chapter 5. I had been longing to do this for some time because I feel that it is one of the two most important chapters in the Bible (the other being Romans 8).
Why is it so important? In verse one Paul begins by saying that it is for freedom that Christ set us free. When one has been freed, he pursues one of three paths. One path is to be fearful of the new found freedom and to go back to the old ways which even though is bondage, it is safe and familiar. For the believer, this means going back to living under the law. By that I mean that we go back to trying to appease God by doing a lot of good things and hoping that the good outweighs the bad. That works when we compare ourselves to each other, but fails miserably when we are brought in the light of a Holy God. The second path is to go the other extreme and use the freedom to pursue all sorts of wild and crazy things. Obviously, this is not where we want to go either. Of course the right path is the middle path where we use our freedom to serve one another in love.
Now for the good stuff! In verse 16 he says to live by the Spirit and we will not satisfy the desires of the sinful nature. This is the middle path we talked about. Not satisfying the flesh is not a hope, but a truth, a reality that we can count on. Of course it does not mean that we never sin, but that we do not live in continuous, repetitive sin. But remember that there is a war going on (see Romans chapter 7) for our soul, and many of us try to walk the fence, doing just enough to satisfy their conscience and hopefully God.
But what is this sinful nature (or flesh) that we conquer in the Spirit? I think that there are three levels. The first is obvious (see v.19-21) and most believers that try to follow God do not have a major problem with this. The second is not so obvious. It is the vain attempt to put ourselves on the throne of our lives and try to control our destiny. This is the flesh taking over. The third is even less obvious but is more likely where we are. That is to pursue things that in and of themselves are good, but in our pursuit of them we get sidetracked from that which is best. These are such things as family, work, sports, ect. When we make anything other than God ultimate in our lives we are living in the flesh.
So how does one live by the Spirit and not the flesh? I wish I could give you a ten step plan that you (and I) could follow, but I cannot do that. If I could I would have done it because that is my personality. I have tried doing it all on my own and it definitely does not work. But I can give some ideas that have been helpful to me. First is to spend the day setting your mind on the things the Spirit desires (Rom. 12:2). Second is to pray, asking the Spirit to help us in our prayer (Rom.8:26-27). Ask the Spirit to direct your day and do this all throughout the day. Be ready to follow Him with unquestioned obedience. Indulge in meditation and waiting on God. Lastly, develop a passion for Jesus. All of these things affect our mind, will and emotions which is our soul. Go for it with reckless abandon.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Cookies, cookies and more cookies. What is it about cookies that causes one to drive 100 miles and everyone else to stop what they are doing and come together during the busy Christmas season? Nothing other than the famous anual Sudan Cookie Decorating Contest. What exactly is this? Well every year in mid December all of the Sudans (usually with friends) get together and decorate sugar cookies. We start out from scratch and roll the dough, then punch our favorite shapes, put them in the oven and get ready to decorate. We have of course the traditional colored icing but over the years have added all sorts of sprinkles, red hots, colored lining and so much more. We all sit around the table and work diligently to make the best cookie. There is no limit to the number of entries. When all have been decorated we vote for the top cookies. This year Blake came out on top (again) and I got second (first time that I have ever placed), Mary Beth third, Christy for honorable mention and best theme. In fairness though, all agreed that Jason put forth his best effort and should have been awarded a prize, if not the top spot.
So how did this all get started? It began when Iwas a little boy and my mother would make sugar cookies with icing. I loved eating them (still do) and so one year early in our marraige, I asked Luana if we could make some. We did and the kids helped out. As they got older , they were really able to decorate and the natural competiveness of the Sudans came out, each of us vying for accolades as the best cookie. Thus we resorted to the judging and a tradition was born.
How long have we been doing this? No one is sure but we think it has been at least 12-15 years
What is the big deal? Again I am not sure but it has become one of those traditions around which families are built. My family did not have many traditions when I grew up, but as we started having kids Luana and I realized the importance of these in bonding as a family. So slowly over the years we have developed a number of them, mostly not intentional but just by doing the same thing each year. And out of all of them the cookie decorating has become the most popular and the one most likely to be passed to the next generation. I encourage you parents with young kids to begin thinking about establishing your own traditions.