Going Blue

Today is National Awareness Day for 2014! I know there are many days on the calendar that are designated for a special purpose or cause. In fact, you can find a 2014 calendar here that shares many of these special days. There are many people who suffer with many issues. Honestly, cancer sucks, diabetes sucks, cerebral palsy sucks, and the list goes on! For this day, we turn our attention to the effects of lives of individuals and families who are affected by autism.

We are one of THOSE families!

In November of 2012, we found out that one of our beautiful sons was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, which is a high functioning form of the Autism Spectrum Disorder. Later in the next year, we received the notice that a second son was diagnosed with autism as well. It is fair to say that it was a fairly complicated year.

Do you know that 1 in every 68 children are dealing with autism, which includes 1 in every 42 boys (www.autismspeaks.org)? Children with autism are more likely to be bullied or harassed. If you are dealing with this possibility I highly recommend checking into the Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit and the Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Tool Kit. You can find information about that kit here.

One of the struggles that we face as parents is that we face the comments and concerns of other parents and “concerned” adults. Our children have emotional outbursts that they cannot always control. Some of the simplest things can send them spiraling out of control. Recently, in school, a teacher was disciplining a whole class but our son thought they meant only him. He lost it at school. Autism is hard to explain to others because our children do not experience the world the way “normal” children experience it.

I am starting to hate the word, “normal!”

What is normal anyways? What does it mean to be “normal”? Are any of us truly normal? By definition, if we truly believe that we are all unique creations of a loving Heavenly Father, we are all different. There is no normal. Actually, normal is found at the foot of the cross. There is where we are all at the same place. But, I digress…

I do not hate autism. I cannot hate autism because autism is part of my kids. It is part of my family. It is part of what makes my kids who they are. Do I wish that things were easier for them? Would I take their place in a heartbeat? Will I fight every day to make sure they get the help and consideration they need to get where they want to?

YES

So, will you join me in remembering the individuals and families who deal with autism every day?

 

Rescued from Our Past (Lent Series)

Lent_Rescued_Standard_Past_Main (1)People of Israel in slavery, not through their own actions

Sermon Series: Rescue (Lent Series)

Scripture: Ephesians 4:22-24 (teaching text), Exodus 1 (historical narrative)

Theme:  Rescued from the past, second chance, new life

The people of Israel find themselves enslaved to the Egyptians for over 400 years. The Israelites came to Egypt at the request of the king of Egypt during the time of Joseph. Verse 8 tells us that a new king has come to power who does not know Joseph and what he did for the Egyptians in the time of famine.

We all come from somewhere. We have family stories, choices we have made and past histories that bring sources of joy and sources of pain. When Christ comes into our lives, we can be rescued from that history. We can know a new life in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 teaches us that “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.” Ephesians chapter 4 tells that we are to put off our old self in favor of the new self. This week we will explore Ephesians 4:22-24. We will follow our life’s path from our “old self” to our “new self.” God can rescue us from our past.

Outline:

  1. Our old life
  2. Our second chance
  3. Our new life

Face it! We are all born into sin. Salvation Army Doctrine 5 ends by saying, “and that in consequence of their [Adam and Eve, our first parents] fall all men have become sinners, totally depraved, and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.” This sinful self can cause us, and those around us, a lot of pain. We need a “do-over.” When we were kids, if things were not going our way or if a situation was not going to work out in our favor, we would ask for a “do-over.” Some golfers still enjoy the option of the mysterious mulligan.  A mulligan is “when a player gets a second chance to perform a certain move or action.” Video games offer the opportunity to win and extra life or a 1-up. We all want the chance to try something over again and do it right. God in His infinite wisdom and love for us offers us a mulligan through salvation by Jesus Christ.

Our Old Life

Ephesians 4:22 NIV – “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.”

What we are carrying – our baggage, our issues, our old lives – is holding us back. We cannot be who God wants us to be while we are still carrying around our “old self.” Scripture says that we have to put off our old self. This means we should put away, cast off, lay apart (aside, down), put away (off). It should be put away and never picked up again. It is no longer needed. Our past does not need to hold us back!

People might ask why someone would want to hold on to this “old self.” I think the answer is both simple and complex. Simply answered, we do not want to put it away because we are comfortable with it. We know what to expect. We can control it, or so we think. We cannot imagine ourselves without it. The complicated answer is that at some deep level we need it. It helps us to define who we are. We become dependent upon it.

Personally, I have struggled with my weight and physical appearance since age 15. It started simply enough. I went through a very stressful and confusing time in my life that led me to find comfort in something else – food. When times were tough, I ate. When times were great and I celebrated, I ate. My schedule and my world revolved around food. I knew where things were located because of their proximity to places I liked to eat. During a particularly low period of my life, I met with a counselor who said something that still rings true. I used food and my increasing weight as a buffer and a shield against things that I did not understand and could not control. [If this is not an appropriate illustration for you, please insert your own or feel free to use my story as an example.] Our old self and our sinful life can be spiritual weight that creates a barrier and makes us feel comfortable.

We need to put off and out away that sinful life, that sinful self that is holding us back. We do not need to carry it any longer and we do not need to pick it up once we lay it down.

Our Second Chance

Ephesians 4:23 NIV – “…to be made new in the attitude of your minds.”

It is going to require us to change how and what we think. Ephesians 4:23 says that we have to renew our minds. We need to reboot the way we act. We need a renovation of our heart and lives. This is more than words. It is also actions. It is more than intentions. It is also completions. It is more than being sincere. It is about being persistent. We cannot continue carrying around our past.  We also need to change the way we think in order to move forward.

Too often we focus on physical or surface-level changes instead of looking for changes at the deepest level. We fall into the easy trap of only looking at what is right in front of us. We deal with symptoms of the problem and not the problem itself. Part of this renewal process involves learning and growing from our past.

Some of the greatest examples of renewal for me are the stories from The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers. Through these programs, beneficiaries are separated from the immediate physical binds of their substance abuse and are taught how to live beyond and without their addictions. It is not enough just to deal with the physical, financial, and family issues that surround addiction and abuse. You also need to deal with the choices that got you there in the first place.

Putting away our old self alone is not enough. We have to change our way of thinking and living. We have to change from the inside out. We have to learn from our past and grow beyond it.

Our New Self

Ephesians 4:24 NIV – “…and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

When we remove and put away the “old self” and renew the way we think, we need to replace it with something. We cannot just leave a hole there. We need a new self. It is the same thing with our understanding of being rescued from our past. Once we have grown beyond our past and have adjusted the thinking of our present, we need to put something else there. We need a new future.

From losing weight to battling addiction to turning a business around, most people can see the problems in the past and get help to make the internal changes necessary for true rescue.  Because true rescue is, after all, going a new way in the future.  True rescue is not picking back up the problems of the past. Verse 24 of Ephesians 4 offers that new choice, that new future. We can “be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” The Israelites were rescued from Egyptian slavery. God took them on a journey to “retrain” the way they thought. The secret to God’s rescue is that He gave a new land, a land flowing with “milk and honey,” a Promised Land.

Trips to the dentist are one of my least favorite activities. I will confess to having a few cavities in my life. When a dentist deals with a cavity, the first step is always to clean out the infection. From drilling to cleaning, a dentist does not want to leave any infection behind. The slightest bit of infection can compromise the integrity of the tooth in the future. After removing the infection, the dentist then prepares the area. They prepare it for the next step. Most good dentists also reeducate the patient in ways to prevent the infection from happening again—which includes good dental hygiene.

There is a final step. After the infection has been removed and the area has been prepared, a filling is placed in the opening. A filling protects the sensitive inside of the tooth and protects the overall structural integrity of the tooth. It helps keep it strong—inside and out.

Our “new self”, fashioned after Christ, is the filling that keeps us strong, inside and out. God provides us a new future and promise in Him. Not only are we rescued from our past, but we are given a new future. True rescue!

Summary

The people of Israel had been born generation after generation, for over 400 years, into a slavery that was not of their own making. They were there in that place because of who they were and what they were born into. We, like the Israelites, have been born into slavery—slavery to sin. We did not create it. God rescued the Israelites from their bondage to the past, retrained and prepared them, and gave them a new future, a Promised Land. God wants to rescue us from our bondage to sin. He can help us renew our minds and attitudes. He has a new future for us.

Do we want to be rescued from our past?

This sermon is not complete. It is meant to encourage, inspire, and develop your thoughts on the topic.

This sermon series with accompanying graphics and videos was featured on The Salvation Army Ministry Toolkit here.