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the Manna | July 2013


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the Manna | July 2013

Columns

19 | Freedom to Fail

07 | Signals 09 | On The Air

20 | Patriots

Features 12 | Patriotic Passersby What government can, and cannot do.

14 | Land that I (Sometimes) Love

Stay in Touch

Failing without fear.

Loving Christ and country.

22 | Expiration Date A hope that doesn’t expire.

24 | The Captive Mind Loosening our grip.

A great country making bad choices.

17 | God Bless America How does God do it?

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the Manna | A Publication of Maranatha, Inc. Editor-In-Chief: Debbie Byrd Creative Director: Joe Willey Editorial Coordinator: Karen Tull Contributing Writers: Phil Bohaker, Jeff Friend, Josh Millwood & Karen Tull Media Client Liaison: Adam Riggin and Randall Stapleton

Frequently Asked Questions Who We Are The Manna is published by Maranatha, Inc., a Christcentered ministry called to proclaim the Good News of faith and life in Jesus Christ through various forms of media, as God directs, until He returns. “Maranatha” (mer-a-nath´-a) is an Aramaic word found in I Corinthians 16:22. It is translated, “Our Lord, come!” Joy! 102.5 WOLC is also part of Maranatha, Inc. Its call letters stand for “Watch, Our Lord Cometh.” Maranatha!

Disclaimer Non-ministry advertisers are not required to subscribe to the “Statement of Faith” printed at right; nor are their businesses and products necessarily endorsed by the Manna, Joy! 102.5 WOLC, or Maranatha, Inc., whose viewpoints are not necessarily represented by the opinions or statements of persons interviewed in this magazine; nor are the viewpoints of its advertisers.

Statement of Faith We Believe… that the Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible and authoritative source of Christian doctrine and precept; that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; that the only hope for man is to believe in Jesus Christ, the virgin-born Son of God, who died to take upon Himself the punishment for the sin of mankind, and who rose from the dead so that by receiving Him as Savior and Lord, man is redeemed by His blood; that Jesus Christ in person will return to Earth in power and glory; that the Holy Spirit indwells those who have received Christ, for the purpose of enabling them to live righteous and godly lives; and that the Church is the Body of Christ and is comprised of all those who, through belief in Christ, have been spiritually regenerated by the indwelling Holy Spirit. The twin mission of the Church is worldwide evangelization, and nurture and discipline of Christians.

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Signals Time My grandmother was a patriot. She is buried in Arlington National Cemetery alongside her husband and not too very far away from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I remember vividly the three gun salute that unseasonably warm day in November of 1973 when we saw her home. When I was a child, I heard stories about her son, my uncle, whose Navy submarine went down in the China Seas. I heard stories about my grandfather, a World War I Army veteran who lay in Walter Reed Hospital Center dying when he received the telegram of his own son’s death. Photos and commendations of my grandfather and my uncle covered the walls of her apartment, along with those of her other son, my dad, a Merchant Marine. I watched as Grandmar dressed in her all white uniform, bearing symbols of her designation as widow of World War I and a Gold Star mother. I watched as she, already in her sixties, proudly carried the flag of these United States in ceremonies and parades throughout Washington, D.C. And, at the end of those days, watched as she gently lowered herself into an easy chair, back aching from the weight of the flag and the duration of the walk, and soaked her aching feet. She was one of those women that planted victory gardens and saved metal for the war effort. Any sacrifice was no sacrifice at all in the face of what our boys were giving up abroad. As I hold the telegram in my hands this side of time, my heart breaks—and I didn’t even really know my uncle Donald. It breaks for my grandmother and the unimaginable pain that knock on the door and

that little piece of paper brought into her world—and the world of so many like her through the decades. Do I love my country unconditionally? Yes, I do. When the armchair pundits criticize, which is all they really do, my anger boils with their empty words and the apathy reflected by their consuming lack of action. To be a patriot requires action—and sacrifice. It’s sad to realize that the patriotism of so many secured the complacency of so many more. Do I love the politics and the bureaucracy of my country? Of course not. But I can’t confuse politics with patriotism, or red tape with the red stripe of our flag. We live in a world where the young men and women of our military are off fighting the vague enemy that bears the banner of terrorism. Is the bumper sticker on a mother’s van the only thing that brings their sacrifice to mind? I never saw the tears that telegram brought more than a decade before I was born. But I saw Grandmar’s resolve thereafter to honor those that gave their life so that we might live freely and peacefully. And, yes, I most certainly do thank God I am an American! Debbie Byrd is General Manager of Maranatha, Inc., a ministry that includes Joy! 102.5 and the Manna.

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Thank You God Happy Independence Day July 4, 2013


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he basic purpose of any government is to uphold and protect the rights of its citizens. For Americans, this means our government has the obligation to preserve certain “inalienable” rights, namely, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” With the door of freedom flung wide open, we can seek happiness anywhere we choose—money, food, sex, work, you name it. The law only forbids pursuits that disrupt society in some way. Although our government asserts the right of all people to pursue happiness, it does not—and cannot—define happiness for us. The government can only ensure we have adequate freedom to pursue it. That is where the church comes in. C.S. Lewis wrote, “The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life...In the same way the Church exists for nothing else than to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs.” The church has a mandate to do what government cannot—to point people to Jesus, who offers complete, eternal satisfaction. The question for Christians becomes, “Do we forsake all political involvement for the sake of a heavenly vision?” Or to put it another way, “Is it immoral to be

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patriotic?” While some have chosen to retreat from active involvement in government and politics in the face of this question, the evidence from Scripture and church history points to a different path. Scripture, though scant in its treatment of the roles of Christians in society, nevertheless seems to point to a favorable outlook on patriotism. Jesus, though certainly not a politician, espouses the dutiful remittance of taxes (Matthew 22:21). Similarly, Paul exhorts the church in Rome to obey the authorities governing over them (Romans 13:1-7). We see from these passages that being a good citizen and a good Christian are compatible. And beyond that, Scripture encourages virtues that accompany healthy patriotism, such as courage, integrity, and conviction. The problem is that devotion to country can become an idol. If we as Christians place our hope in the success and security of our nation, we are doomed to disappointment. God appoints rulers, and He topples them. He builds empires, and He breaks them down. He uses kings to accomplish his divine purposes, even wicked kings (Ex 9:16). So, why would we look to government leaders to supply our happiness, safety, or freedom when they can only come from God?


Patriotic Passersby By Phil Bohaker

In City of God, Saint Augustine writes of two coexistent realities—the heavenly city and the earthly city. The earthly city only seeks to perpetuate itself as a peaceful society in order to “attain the things which are helpful in this life.” In other words, the earthly city is motivated by its own selfinterest without looking to God for provision or direction. As a result, citizens of the earthly city exalt themselves, rather than acknowledging God’s supremacy. This is unbelieving mankind, whom Paul addressed in Romans 1:22-23: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal men and birds and animals and reptiles.” Christians, however, are citizens of the heavenly city, the Kingdom of God, which is unseen. While the people around us think of the visible, tactile world as the only reality, believers invite them to take up refuge in the city of God, to enter into the eternal life promised by Jesus, whose “kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). We join with the heavenly angels in the worship of God, even as we sojourn here on earth.

This reality forces a delicate balance on the Christian life. We have to learn how to participate in the life of the two cities simultaneously. On the one hand, we are called to reach out to our world, to engage it, and to harness its potential for the glory of God. On the other hand, we are to keep in mind that everything we see around us is temporary. We seek freedom and peace in our nation, even with the awareness that these goals do not provide lasting hope. As Augustine observes, “The heavenly city, or rather the part of it which sojourns on earth and lives by faith, makes use of this peace only because it must, until this mortal condition which necessitates it shall pass away.” We must, therefore, champion the cause of freedom in society and make use of that freedom to lead our fellow citizens to Christ, in whom we can find lasting happiness. Political freedom is not the goal but only a means to an end. Although we live according to the rules of the earthly city and seek to be peacemakers in this world, we also remember that our true citizenship is in the heavenly city (Philippians 3:20). Even as we plant our feet on earth’s soil, we fix our eyes on our true home and place our hopes in the only true King.

wolc.org | readthemanna.org | July 2013

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Land That I (Sometimes) Love By Karen Tull

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I

f you don’t love it, leave it. So declares country music legend Merle Haggard in his song “The Fightin’ Side of Me,” in which he dares anyone in his hearing to criticize the United States of America. I do love this country because, well, it’s mine. It’s where I’m from and where I will hopefully spend the rest of my days here on Earth. I’m thankful to be an American. I am free to make a life for myself. I have the ability to go to church and hear the Gospel preached without fear of persecution. My tax money is not helping to fund the extravagant lifestyles of a functionless monarchy (my enjoyment of William and Kate’s wedding notwithstanding). I’m a patriotic person—I like the history of why and how our nation began and the godly principles on which it was founded. Yes, I have love for this nation...but not always. Martin Luther once said, “Love God? Sometimes I hate Him.” When we have a love/hate relationship with something or someone, it’s usually because it—or he or she—is important to us. Regarding Luther, he recognized that he was a sinner, and in the light of God’s perfection, his occasional feeling toward Him was an apt one. Only, God never changed; Luther did. It’s when we don’t change but what who or what we

love does change that our affections and allegiance begin to feel precarious. As R.C. Sproul, Jr., explains, “Sometimes that which we love behaves in an unlovely way, and our love flees. Still worse, sometimes that which we loved changes so radically that love is difficult if not impossible.” There are unlovely things about America—both within the government and among its citizens. This country has shirked the godly values with which it began. We are a secular nation that is steeped in immorality and debt. Women have been granted the freedom to kill their unborn babies. Last month, the Supreme Court further advanced the marriage rights of homosexual couples. Our children are being educated in state schools where the name of Jesus is not permitted. It’s maddening and disheartening. But there is comfort for the Christian. For those of us who have called on Jesus for salvation, we know that the U.S. is not our true home. Scripture says that “we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same power with which He will bring everything under His control” (Philippians 3:20-21 NLT). As I wait for that day, my love/hate relationship with my earthly abode will no doubt continue. I feel the same way as Sproul: “We live in what once was a great country, which has now embraced a great evil. Can I love a country like that? Sadly, yes. Am I deeply, profoundly, ashamed to be part of such a country? Not as much as I should be.”

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God Bless America By Josh Millwood

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t was afternoon, September 11th on the steps of The Capitol when men and women from both sides of the aisles joined together in singing “God Bless America.” It was a rallying cry for Americans to set aside their differences and unite in care for our wounded and to bring our enemies to justice. And what could we unite under? The legacy of faith that the nation was built upon! There were tears and cheers and pats on the back. This is the united front we would present against terrorism. And it lasted for about three and a half minutes. The video is on YouTube. Faith plays a huge part in every human being’s life—whether that be faith in the One True God or faith in humanity or faith in a million modern idols that we construct. There’s also faith in one’s nation—patriotism. Just underneath the surface of patriotism is the ideology that we are the good guys; we deserve what we take and should not be trifled with because we are favored by God. And get this: there’s Biblical precedence for this attitude. The nation of Israel was known far and wide as God/ Yahweh’s children. Americans have adopted this mantle, feeling a sense of pride in our special place before God. Except we really aren’t that special. Before America was the seat of Western Christianity (and civilization), God’s people were from England. Before that, France. And Spain. And Italy. There’s a direct correlation between the ruling empire and who claims to be the blessed people of God. History is recorded by the victors—the winners get to claim they were the good guys, and ever since Constantine united the dwindling Roman Empire under the banner of Christianity (313 AD, those winners have claimed to be favored by God. Sounds pretty cynical, right? Who’s to say that these nations and ours are not blessed by God. Afterall, Romans 13:1b says “For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” Well, the context of that verse is to challenge Christians to submit to authority—to live in peace with their communities (Romans 12:18). We quickly forget that God allows some pretty corrupt, evil authorities to exist, and for a time—even thrive. Babylon was used by God to

rule and ravage the nation of Israel. The Roman Empire subjugated the Israelites as well. Today there are warlords in Africa using children as human shields. There are rulers who subjugate their people so that they can live a life of lavish luxury while the vast majority of the nation clings to life on the edge of starvation. Are these authorities there because God wants those people to suffer? That’s a question the people of God should ask. Alongside that difficult question, we should ask, What is our job in this world so full of victims? The good news (Gospel) is that Jesus told us point blank the answer to that question. It’s called The Great Commission. So, how do we best accomplish Jesus’ command to go make disciples in a world full of violence and exploitation? Do we legislate rightness? Do we send aerial drones to pick off morality offenders? Perhaps we could post a YouTube video of our nation’s leaders singing a song about God’s blessing? Or, maybe we should identify less with our nation of birth or choosing and more with the Kingdom of Heaven. When questioned if He claimed to be a king, Jesus said “My kingdom is not an earthly kingdom” (John 18:36). God’s Kingdom has no border. God’s Kingdom does not segregate based on race, genealogy or net income. And, while you can’t get a passport identifying you as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, a relationship with Christ automatically registers you for the Lord’s army. Being a part of God’s Kingdom doesn’t entitle us to special privilege in this world. In fact, Jesus said it would make us enemies of this world. That’s a far cry from the Manifest Destiny doctrine of the United States. But should you choose to join the struggle for the hearts and souls of mankind on behalf of the King of Kings... well, let’s just say the pension plan is pretty epic. The next time you hear someone singing “God Bless America,” don’t respond with cynicism or blind patriotic devotion. Rather, ask yourself the question How? How does God bless America? If we are living our faith the way Jesus commands, the answer to the question is God blesses America through us.

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Freedom to Fail

By Karen Tull

H

ave you noticed that the world loves to zero-in on failure? Most days when we turn on the TV or open the paper, we’re bombarded by some kind of news about the recent downfall of a seemingly reputable public figure, be he or she an athlete, politician, company executive, pop star, and in recent headlines—a celebrity chef. While a few can manage to “rehab” their public images by announcing they’re in treatment or having a tearful interview with Oprah, the overall attention and scrutiny directed at them makes it clear that the world does not tolerate failure; rather, it has very high expectations. God, too, has very high expectations. After all, Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” The standard for living doesn’t get any higher than that. But while God and the world expect much, the expectations are entirely different—and only One tempers His with mercy. The world tells us that we have to achieve, and achievement means wealth, prestige, and power. Being desirable means looking a certain way, as portrayed to us in magazines and movies. The world advises that we purchase specific gadgets to organize our lives...iPhones, iPads, iPods, iWhatevers. “You need these things,” the world conveys. “This is how people in a modern society should live!” God sees life differently... He sees us differently. God looks at our heart, knowing it is imperfect but loving us in spite of it. He takes us as we are—wrinkles, warts, and

all—and offers the invitation to come to Him through Jesus Christ. In choosing the Lord, we’re picked up, cleaned up, and given chance after chance. While the world wants the perfect and polished product right now, God works to gradually mold us into that image which speaks perfection to Him. And when we screw up (which we all invariably do), we can find security in knowing we won’t be tossed aside. When we look around us, however, there is anything but security. We live in a place of turbulence and constant change. One day you’re an integral employee at the office, the next day you’re handed a pink slip. One day you’re driving your car, the next day you’re watching the floodwaters carry it away. One day you have a spouse, the next day you find yourself alone. Life often brings problems and perplexities without any solutions. But when we trust in God and rest our future in His hands, we are granted freedom from the worry and fear. Our lives take on a stability that the world can’t provide. Not only does God promise future rewards, He gives us help for now. So, when you feel beleaguered by the world, when you’ve not measured up according to its barometer, when you’ve been labeled a failure, understand that the Lord sees your true worth and stands ready to redeem you and make your life one of authentic purpose and meaning. In God’s eyes, the one and only way to fail is simply to refuse Him.

wolc.org | readthemanna.org | July 2013

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Patriots By Jeff Friend

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luttering flags and red, white and blue bunting. Marching bands and decorative floats in a parade down Main Street. Families gathering around a backyard grill awaiting the sizzling meat. Magnificent fireworks displays illuminating the night skies. If there is one thing that Americans excel at, it’s celebrating the freedoms that have been handed down from generation to generation. We won’t even start a baseball or football game until everyone stands to sing The StarSpangled Banner. We love our sports, but the game is just going to have to wait until the national anthem is over before the umpire can yell, “Play ball!” Patriotism is one of the few unifying factors in America these days. There are endless heated debates about political and social issues, but even still they are ‘family arguments’. But let someone attack our buildings, cause destruction at a marathon, or dishonor our flag in a foreign country, and folks all across the United States are ready to stand as one. We may have different lifestyles, various cultures and heritages, and speak a wide range of languages, but the one common thread is we are Americans. But what about Christians? Is it alright for followers of Christ to be so loyal to an earthly nation when the Bible clearly tells us we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom (Philippians 3:20)? Shouldn’t all of our loyalty and devotion be to God? The Bible is full of examples of people used by God to play major leadership roles in governments or to rally a nation to accomplish His will. Esther became queen and was able to save the lives of her people from a royal edict of death. Isaiah used the phrase “my people” over twentyfive times in his book, echoing his strong bond with his fellow Israelites. Moses was called to lead God’s people as a nation on earth while also keeping them focused on their heavenly lineage. The Psalmist clearly proclaims his love for his Jerusalem: “If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy” (Psalms 137:5-6, NIV). In the New Testament, Paul is recorded to have called upon his Roman citizenship to escape beatings and to lend credibility and authority to his audiences in his epistles. Roman citizenship held significant benefits, and Paul did not hesitate to use them when necessary during his ministry. Although he clearly encouraged the believers to remember their true citizenship is in heaven, he did not

denounce his Roman heritage, but rather found it to be an honor useful in advancing God’s kingdom. But Christian patriotism is not limited simply to Bible times. Prominent contemporary Americans have also demonstrated the compatibility of their ‘dual citizenships’. Evangelist Billy Sunday’s colorful preaching style left little doubt of his total devotion to God and his messages resulted in about one million converts. During World War I, however, Sunday raised millions of dollars for the war effort and stated that “Christianity and patriotism are synonymous.” Billy Graham fervently proclaimed the Word of God to millions of people around the world in his large evangelistic crusades, yet he was still able to condemn communism and befriended and counseled many United States presidents and other national leaders. He knew America needed to return to God, and his patriotism and love for his country compelled him to aid his fellow citizens in any way he could. America was established and built on godly principles, and many of the Founding Fathers and patriots through the years have been unquestionably Christian. Even today, many Christians hold positions of power and influence throughout the levels of government yet strongly maintain and demonstrate their Biblical values. Clearly patriotism and Christianity are compatible and believers do not need to be ashamed to proudly proclaim their love of America. But followers of Jesus Christ must remember that in reality we are “aliens and strangers” (I Peter 2:11, NIV) living in this country, and although we are instructed to be subject to earthly rulers and governments (I Peter 2:13-18), we are “a people belonging to God” (I Peter 2:9). He is our true King. Looking at the Bible heroes and our modern-day examples, Christians need to recognize that the freedoms we have as Americans are gifts from God, and blessings that should not be taken lightly or for granted. We should also use those freedoms to boldly proclaim God’s Word to our countrymen so they can also have the opportunity to receive forgiveness for their sins. By doing so, we will be improving the spiritual strength of our nation as well as increasing the number of people who will be with us in our heavenly homeland. So go ahead and sing your lungs out in a rousing version of “God Bless America”. Let the tears flow as you watch military veterans march past you in a parade. Get a lump in your throat as you recite the Pledge of Allegiance. But don’t forget to drop to your knees and thank God for the blessing of being an American, and ask Him to forgive our sins, hear from heaven, and heal our nation (2 Chronicles 7:14). wolc.org | readthemanna.org | July 2013

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he concept of “shelf life” has always intrigued me. It is an expression that describes exactly what it attempts to define. For instance, Twinkies have a shelf life of twenty-five days, after which, their existence on the shelf as something edible expires. But shelf life is also an expression that is metaphorically full. One might say of “Cabbage Patch Kids” that they were once a quite a phenomenon; shoppers were injured as the dolls were pulled off the shelves and seized by anxious crowds. But the craze was relatively short-lived; as far as fads go, the shelf life was fairly brief. In high school chemistry we took in the ponderous thought that everything has a shelf life. In fact, in many substances this is an incredibly important number to watch. A variety of compounds, particularly those containing certain unstable elements, become more unstable as they approach their shelf life. Chemical explosives grow increasingly dangerous over time and with exposure to certain factors in

the environment becoming liable to explode without warning. There is a tendency to view ideas and thoughts as having a similar aging process. When something is deemed ancient or even slightly “behind the times” it is often accordingly considered obsolete. As if it has become out-dated like a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk, the aging thought or idea, in many minds, grows more unusable with time. And in many cases, history has shown this to be an accurate picture. Certain philosophies might come to mind as movements that rendered themselves useless over time and exposure to the world. Like compounds approaching their shelf life, their collapse was inevitable and they eventually imploded without warning. Ideas undeniably have consequences and some approach their shelf lives more dangerously than others. While some have not fully burst at the seams, signs of instability appear. Grumbles of discontent from within their own ideological camps may hint at incoherence. Even so, the noticeable


We all Scream!

Expiration Date By Jill Carattini

shelf life of specific ideas should cause us to question the cause of their expiration, rather than assume it is time alone that moves an idea to expire. This is no doubt well-studied in science. Factors that increase and decrease the shelf life of a product move well beyond time itself. When certain compounds are stored at decreased temperatures, their shelf life is increased significantly. Likewise, the development of preservatives dramatically set back the expiration dates on food in our pantries. Like compounds and breakfast items, all ideas do not expire equally. We are thus badly mistaken to dismiss a thought solely because it is old. The ancient psalmist speaks of God’s hope as something that does not expire. “Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them” (119:140). Extending through generation after generation, the promises of God stand untouched and unphased by a changing environment. Personally I know how often I have learned the hard way, thinking that

surely modern thought has improved the idea, only to find myself returning to words commanded generations ago. Again and again God’s own discover a reason to love the promising hope of Father, Son, and Spirit: “I have learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever.” Perhaps God’s Spirit is the ultimate preservative. God’s love is not offered without depth; God’s promises are filled with the intention of life. They have been thoroughly tested and have yet to expire. Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Expiration Date by Jill Carattini, A Slice of Infinity, No. 2757, originally printed July 2, 2012 (www.rzim.org). Used by permission of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

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The Captive Mind By Phil Bohaker


M

Replay | This article first appeared in the July 2012 edition

I

t did not take the Israelites long to start idealizing the past after God freed them from their chains in Egypt. In a state of panic at the sight of Pharaoh’s pursuit, they asked Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt?. . . It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!” (Exodus 14:10-11, 14a) Their selective memory did not end there. Shortly after their deliverance from Pharaoh’s pursuit, the Israelites took up their complaints once again: “[In Egypt] we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death” (Ex 16:3). That’s not exactly how I remember the story before God delivered His people from bondage. Only a generation earlier, the reigning Pharaoh had inflicted genocide on the people of Israel by ordering all firstborn sons to be murdered. Several decades later, the next ruler of Egypt was tightening his grip on the Israelites with an everincreasing burden of labor. At the first sign of trouble after their emancipation, the Israelites completely forgot this former misery. They were physically free, but their minds were still held captive. I have read about Israel’s wilderness wandering many times before at a distance. When we are looking down into the story from above, it is easy to shake our heads at the ingratitude of God’s people. But when I begin to question what the story is saying to me, I can begin to see myself in the place of the Israelites. There are no chains around my wrists or ankles, nor am I locked away in a fortified cell. But I am every bit as prone as the Israelites to forget my past troubles and succumb to an idealized view of the “good ol’ days.” This is particularly true when it comes to sin. Even though Christ has offered me pardon from the penalty of sin and freedom from a life of sin, it is all too natural, at times, to think I was doing alright on my own. That message comes straight from the Evil One. Apart from Christ I was a walking dead man; it doesn’t get more hopeless than that. The best life imaginable that does not include union with Christ is just death with a pretty face. There is life in Jesus, and in Him alone. But being a believer in Christ does not make all my problems disappear. God never promised that the Christian life would be a freshly paved road with no speed bumps

or potholes. In fact, He promises that it will be a lot bumpier and more narrow than the smooth, wide highway that leads to eternal separation from Him (Matthew 7:13-14). The main reason I am susceptible to falling back into sin is that I am an expert at forgetting the consequences of my actions. When sin is crouching at my door, it is all too easy to forget about the people I have wounded with my sinful actions. I forget the pain I have caused myself. Most of all, I lose sight of the enormous price God paid to give me freedom from my sin. Where is the cross when I am entertaining the temptation to sin? I can almost guarantee it is nowhere near my line of sight. Paul talks about sin as a domain. It is like a city with its own zip code. We are all born and raised in the town of Sin. We obey its laws and live by its customs. But when we meet Jesus, He relocates us to a whole new city called Grace. The old laws of the Land of Sin don’t apply anymore. We are given a new address and a new way of life. The problem lies in the desire to go back to my old home. I can’t live there anymore, but I’m free to visit whenever I please. Thoughts begin to enter my mind, such as, “I wonder what my old house looks like now,” or, “I wonder if that building on Main Street is still there.” That kind of thinking is akin to a freed animal climbing back in its cage and remaining there with the door wide open. If the animal is in the cage, it is in captivity, whether the door is open or not. It is only free when it is out of the cage. I tend to think there are many of us sitting in our cages with the doors flung wide open. That is no way to live. Paul writes, “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1a). If someone said that to me in person I would be tempted to make a sarcastic remark about stating the obvious. But in context, Paul is addressing people who have a really hard time understanding grace. That would be me. And it has probably been you, too, at some time or another. If I am honest with myself, I know I need to hear that message every day. Jesus promised that in Him we could have life “to the full” (John 10:10), but He also promised us tribulation (John 16:33). When the tribulation comes, my natural tendency is to think that my life is not that full. But God never wastes a trial. He uses all the sorrow, all the disappointment, all the hard times, to loosen my grip on the things the world tells me are most valuable. This could include wealth, success, power, even my health. He does this to remind me that He has already given me the most precious gift He could give—Himself.

wolc.org | readthemanna.org | July 2013

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