I knew something was up...I could sense it in my spirit. I couldn't pinpoint it but something just felt different today....it felt like something was about to happen, something was coming about. It was different. We were early for church today, an hour early cause Brandon is doing video during the service today. As always, I walk in and I feel like I'm home...I love church, it's my home away from home...sometimes I feel like taking a sleeping bag there. Roger says to me, "You could be here all the time." Yes, I could. But something is different today. I'm working on some pictures in the church office and I hear the praise & worship band practicing, and tears come to my eyes and already my heart becomes full just from hearing the practicing of the songs. My first thought was, "oh boy, what's gonna happen in me today?"
Sunday school was great...we're taking a video series on the land of Israel...now of course, it's so much more meaningful to me because it's all the places we'd walked when we were in Israel. Today it takes place on location at Chorazin (photo on the left) and the Mount of Beatitudes (photo on right and bottom with tree) where the sermon on the mount had taken place. That was one of my most favorite places when I was in Israel, one of the most spiritual places for me. Ray Vanderlan, the leader in the video, is talking about how his mother (who had now passed away), this had been her favorite place, up here on this mount - tears came to my eyes instantly because the Mount of Beatitudes was one of my definite favorite spots. He went on to say that 2,000 years ago, there were very proud mothers who stood on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (bottom left) as they watched their sons leave their fishing nets and go follow Jesus and be his disciples. Ray's own mother passed away a very proud mother as well because her 4 sons were all following the Lord and had given their lives to serving God. What a wonderful legacy. She loved the Lord and she lived it. Ray Vanderlan was emotional as he was speaking and I became emotional listening to him. What legacy am I leaving? What message am I giving my children, my husband, my neighbors? What reflection/aroma am I leaving when I leave a group of people or I hang up the phone after speaking to someone or speaking to my kids about their rooms or the choices they make? My heart was full already being in Sunday school class - it was so good. So much to chew on and think about.
As I walked into the sanctuary, I felt something, I felt different, I felt...I don't know...hard to explain....almost like an anticipation of some kind. As always, the songs move me, one more so than others...never fails, I'm always moved by at least one song. Today it was "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now I'm found, was blind but now I see".....I couldn't even sing the songs cause my heart, my soul, my throat, was so full and tears just sprang to my eyes. Then a new chorus came into the song, "these chains are gone, I've been set free, My God My Savior has ransomed me...amazing love, amazing grace" and the picture on the screen was of a man with raised arms and a bright white light was shining down onto him from the heavens through his arms....what a beautiful picture. My heart is so full, my throat is clogged and I'm overwhelmed with how great God is and how much He loves me and how he saved me. I'm thinking, "are my eyes opened, do I see? is my heart open, do I really see?" Well, then the pastor starts talking about Moses, Mount Sinai, God, the 10 commandments, the Israelites....coming from Israel just a month ago, of course my heart overwhelms even more and I'm getting fuller by the moment. Seeing those places in my mind, knowing I'd been there, and hearing it anew because of that....I'm having a hard time taking it all in, cause my heart is so full. The sermon was on Transformation...pastor was talking about Moses coming down from the mountain and having a veil over his face because the people can't stand to see his face cause it was so bright after being in the presence of God. I thought, "when I've felt that I've been in the presence of God, how have I looked to those around me, to my kids, to my husband, to my family...do I reflect Jesus so much or am I just a resounding gong, a religious traditionalist, a hypocrite." Yes, by now I'm more/still teary eyed and my heart very very full by now. "How do I take this all in?" The pastor's words, I'm trying to catch them but my heart is too full to hear, God's doing a work in my heart. But the pastor says, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." My heart bursts, "what is this? I've heard it before but why is it affecting me in this way?"
Moses was transformed when he spent time with God...Paul was transformed when he met God. What was the difference between the two of them? Moses had the law - the old covenant, and Paul had the new covenant, he had Jesus...Moses wore a veil until the brilliance faded, Paul's message was available to all - it was the new covenant...he announces freedom in Christ - our chains are gone, we've been set free. The Israelites got into the habit of complaining, never being satisfied, wanting to go back to the way things were in Egypt, wanting to worship idols and wanting Aaron to make them a golden calf - which he did within a month's time while Moses was gone on the mountain meeting with God. Complaining had become habitual....yelling at kids becomes a habit, complaining becomes a habit, allowing the world to become first in our lives instead of God becomes a habit. At first the Israelites only wanted Moses to talk to them, and not God because they were afraid that they'd die if God talked to them.....and then a short time later, they wanted Aaron to make them a golden calf that they could worship. What happened?? It became habitual to turn away from God. What ways have we developed habits over time to take us away from God's brilliance, his freedom he desires for us? "It's a slow fade...black and white turn to gray...the choices we've made...we've given our life away....it's a slow fade" - Roger had leaned over and whispered the words "it's a slow fade" into my ear and then the other words of the song echoed in my heart and mind. It's a slow fade. The Israelites had so easily forgotten God's goodness and all he'd done for them and how quickly they'd turned to complaining.
Then the pastor started talking about how one feels the freedom to have a glass of wine with a meal while another feels the freedom to not have any wine....another feels the freedom to sing praises in church with their arms raised and another feels he has the freedom to keep his hands in his pocket...one feels he has the freedom in Christ to dance or move during worship while another has the freedom to stand absolutely still. Well, the dam burst and I started shaking and I started crying....how can I explain what came over me? The pastor is explaining how can one dictate how another is supposed to act if there is "Freedom in Christ?" The Bible says, "Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." If there's freedom, why can't we raise our hands or go down on our knees if that's what we feel God prompting us to do? Why do I feel like I don't have the freedom to do that in my own church or in front of my family? We have freedom in Christ-----not freedom to dictate how someone else should act or not act in worship if that's how God is moving them. I can't explain what came over me....I cried for the years that I've been in bondage believing that all this was so wrong, I cried for the years that my parents lived and still live in steep traditionalism, I cried for those that the scripture says "woe to you" because we've allowed religion to overtake us rather than the freedom of Christ, the freedom of the spirit of the Lord. I cried for the times that I myself have thought that others needed to be like me in order to lead the right Christian life, I cried for the years that I have longed to feel freedom in my home church to worship freely the way God is moving in my heart to worship, I cried for the times that others have felt that I was sending the message to them that "I was much more spiritual that they are or ever will be." I cried for the phariseeism/traditionalism in myself and how I've thought of others because of how they worshiped or nor worshiped, I cried for the longing that I've had in my heart for years for others in my church to live in freedom, I cried for the longing to see myself and others that I love so to live in victory and not defeat....I just cried and cried and cried and I could not stop. I cried at the liberation and freedom that I was feeling because of the words I was hearing from my pastor, I cried because of the burden that was lifting off of my shoulders, I cried because of the bondage that my parents are living in, I cried because of the religious bondage that I myself have been living in. I felt that a part of me WAS BREAKING FREE. from what all....I have not figured that out yet, but I know that God will show me.
Even though I don't quite understand what all happened to me this morning or why the message affected me the way it did, I know that it will come to me in time, in God's timing. I am excited about the new Bible study coming up next week that we will be walking through until April. I believe that God ordained this 'moment' for me today in preparation for what's to come in this study. It's called Breaking Free by Beth Moore. It's all about what our pastor spoke about today, freedom in Christ....making liberty in Christ a reality in life. The study is about things that have held us in bondage and about breaking free from those bondages. I know again that we are on the right track, because whenever God is doing a mighty work, he always confirms it around us, not just once all the time, but many times over again. He is doing a mighty work in my heart....he's not done with me yet....Thank the Lord. He's continually working on my heart and breaking my walls and bringing me to my knees. Our pastor said this morning that "Habituation takes place when we lose our reverance." I never want to lose my reverance for Christ - and I yearn to have a deeper, and better understanding of reverance - and I never want to lose my joy and my desire to go to church and be with God and other members of my family there. I never want to feel that church is just another thing I do.......oh, I want it to be ingrained in my soul and in my life and in the lives of my children. I yearn for them to be transformed by God's mighty work and to never think that missions or serving the Lord in camp or other parts of the world are not "work" or are not worth it. I want to be broken free from thoughts and habits of tradition and religion and truly learn how to live in freedom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
The above were all the thoughts that tumbled out of me on Sunday afternoon after church. Now it's Thursday, and the 1st Bible study session of Breaking Free has started. GOD IS SO GOOD!! The video started with a poem being read as chains were falling of the arms of a person...very powerful...and then the words "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!" WOW! Those were the very words that our pastor spoke at church this past Sunday where I was so deeply moved in the sermon. God preparing me! Then, Beth's teaching in this introductory session was on the story of Gideon and how God chose 300 soldiers by the springs to go and fight in the battle against the Midianites...how God chose the 'runt' of the group, the least of the least, Gideon, to be a mighty warrior for Him. God choses! Man doesn't! God chose Gideon who was the youngest and who came from the smallest tribe, He chose that spring for the soldiers to kneel at and drink - he chose the ones who drank with one hand and the other ready with the sword, ready for battle. When I was standing at this spot listening to our tour guide share the story of Gideon, I was so moved....and I was also moved by the personal story that our tour guide, Ari, shared with us too. When he was 24 years old, he was in the Israel army - as every man had to be - and on Yom Kippur-their most holy day-Egypt attacked them and they had to rush out of the synagogues to go to war. Ari was a commander of 11 tanks and over the speaker to all these men under him in these tanks, he shared this story from the Scriptures of Gideon and how they were few but God was with them...so he told his men the same thing, "we are few but God is with us...let's go to battle". And they did, and for 6 days they drove the Egyptian army back to the outskirts of Cairo and Egypt surrendered. Israel had won this war.....even though they were outnumbered...God was with them and they won the battle.
Hearing this personal story of Ari just made the story that took place over 2,000 years ago, that I've re-read over and over again in the Bible, come alive even so much more. WOW!
Now I'm looking forward to this Bible study even more and can't wait to see what God is going to do in the hearts of the 45 women that are taking this journey of BREAKING FREE together. God is preparing the hearts of His people, His women, and He is preparing us to be mighty warriors...and the freedom to be who He wants us to be. God is soooo Good and He works all things together for good. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Freedom.