Maybe it sounds trite to say that “Freedom isn’t free,” but it is true. My father was a soldier in World War II, and many men of his generation died fighting for freedom. They fought for freedoms for Americans, but they also fought for freedom of those in other countries. They fought for freedom against evil leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini. For many, it cost them their lives. Wives lived without husbands, and children grew up without fathers. That freedom wasn’t free.
Since then wars have continued to rage. The 9/11 terrorists attack on our country happened when I teaching school at Ft. Riley, Kansas. All the children in my school had at least one parent who was a soldier. Many had two. The children cried in fear at the idea of losing a parent in war. Many of their parents did go to Iraq and many did die defending freedom. That freedom wasn’t free.
But there is another kind of freedom that isn’t free. That freedom is our freedom from sin that was paid for by the precious blood of Jesus. He who was without sin took upon himself our sins and paid for them with his life on the cross of Calvary. So it was very costly to Him. But strangely enough, He gives it as a free gift to all who believe and put their trust in Him. There was a cost to our spiritual freedom. That freedom wasn’t free either.
Recently I mentioned the often repeated biblical phrase “the name of the Lord” in a message I preached on trusting God. I was preaching on Psalm 20, where the words were repeated three times within a few short verses., ending with “...we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
This simple phrase is often passed over by those who read the Bible, since it is so commonly found throughout the scriptures. The wording varies slightly from time to time. The phrase is repeated variously as “the name of the Lord”, “the name of the Lord our God”, and “the name of Jesus.” It always means the same.
So why is this phrase such a big deal? Why do Christians today routinely end their prayers in the name of Jesus? Why does this phrase appear in Psalms, a book written generations before Jesus, as well as biblical books written years after he came?
Why does the writer of the book of Acts, which details the exciting lives and times of the first Christian believers quote a prophet in the Old Testament, bringing this phrase across the centuries and across religious boundaries (from Jewish to Christian) with the following:
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Acts 2:21)
Why is it seen embedded in the powerful everyday ministry experiences of the early church?
Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15)
Why does it reach the pinnacle of praise when the Apostle Paul practically celebrates with an enthusiasm usually reserved here in Boston for our over-the-top 4th of July fireworks display on the Charles?
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Why? Because when we say it we are not believing in a magical phrase that suddenly makes our every whim and wish come true. It is not a good luck charm.
The “name of the Lord” is the Bible’s way of talking about the living presence of our powerful, almighty God. The “name” is a direct link to God’s character, to God’s essence, to God’s core reality. It’s at the very heart of our faith -- the very heart of God. There is power in that name
because there is power in the personal, infinite God of the universe.
And one of the amazing things is that powerful, almighty God cares about you. Our God wants to be involved in your daily life, wants to live personally connected with you. The first step in making that relationship a living reality is calling on the name of the Lord -- the person of Jesus be saved. Have you done that? Are you living right now in “the name of the Lord”?
The First Baptist Church of Arlington will be holding a program to teach health and wellness. It will meet for five Tuesday nights at 6:30 beginning May 28 and will be lead by Dr. Justin Mariano, a chiropractor who is part of First Baptist Church.
It will be based on a program created by three Christian chiropractors called Bonfire Health which was designed to teach people how to develop 39 healthy habits in 90 days and maintain those habits throughout their lifetime.
There will be five sessions:
1. May 28 Introduction: define health, wellness and introduce three basic subcategories about the program which are: how we eat (nutrition), how we move (exercise), and how we think.
2. June 4 How we eat: nutrition and how it relates to our health.
3. June 11 How we move: exercise and how it relates to our health.
No class on June 18.
4. June 25 How we think: stress reduction and dealing with conflict.
5. July 2 How we grow spiritually: some tips on spiritual growth.
This program is free of charge and everyone is invited. For more information visit www.bonfirehealth.com or contact the church at 781-643-3924.
Trouble can slam into your life so suddenly. Think of those celebrating a stunning spring day on the day of the Boston Marathon. They’re either glad they’re pushing their body to the limits, or glad they’re not the one whose been running for the past 26 miles. One way or another, most folks are just sharing the afternoon with friends and family.
The marathon of life doesn’t get much better than this. The day could be pretty close to your personal best. Then, BOOM. Tragedy. Terror. Suddenly it seems like the whole of life has become one long heartbreak hill. What happened on Patriot’s Day is not only tragic, it’s personal. It’s Boston. It’s our family. Our friends. It’s us.
We’ve all asked it, one way or another. “Why? Why does God let this happen? I am pretty skeptical of anybody who comes up with a simple answer to the problem of human suffering, the problem of evil. I sure don’t have an answer. But I think the bible does give us some pointers, some ideas, some suggestions, some insights into this part of life.
First, it’s clear that God is not behind evil -- it’s the Devil who is to blame. Don’t forget that!
We also know today that some kinds of suffering are tied to a person’s sins. If you smoke a small fortune’s worth of cigarettes every day from back when you were a teenager don’t be surprised when you get lung cancer. Don’t even think of blaming your problem on God, for it is your fault. If you drink whiskey like it’s water, it’s not God’s fault if you end up a drunk. You reap what you sow.
It gets a little more complicated, though, for sometimes we reap what we have not sown. Why did Martin Richard lose his life when at 8 years old he hadn’t lived long enough to sow much of anything beside love and joy? And Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, Sean Collier? What about all the injured who will be scared for life, physically and emotionally?
We haven’t always had problems like this, you know. When Adam and Eve walked in the garden, at the very beginning, problems like these simply did not exist. There was no sickness, hate, death, jealousy, selfishness, terror or other evils. The garden of Eden was a beautiful place, a perfect place. Then sin entered our world and tore it apart. The jarring presence of sin infected creation, and all kinds of evil began to thrive.
But the Creator God became the Redeemer God and embedded himself in our broken world. Jesus by his atoning death on the cross opened the way for people who trust him to be saved, to find wholeness, life. God has provided a way for us to live, to thrive in relationship with him, and to be significant as repairers of a broken world. It all happens as we live out the good news of Jesus Christ.
Our Christian response is to trust God and know that God’s will shall ultimately be done.When you really believe and live this way, the “why”question loses it power, and becomes less and less a focus of our attention. We realize that we won’t ever be able to fully answer it this side of heaven. The more pressing questions become asking what good can come from our response to the heartbreak hills of life. How can we give God glory? How can we help others in Jesus’ name?