Emotional Baggage Claim

Emotional BaggageIt’s an all too familiar scene after each flight we take. No sooner do the wheels hit the tarmac, and travel weary passengers erupt into life as if each seat injected its comatose passengers with 5cc’s of epinephrine. Nervous apologies are made as people compulsively burst from their seats and start yanking their bags and belongings from the overhead compartments. Throats nervously cleared. Passive aggressive (some outright aggressive) elbows are thrown. Knees are knocked. Heads are clonked. The frenzy is just beginning.

Eyes glazed over, the dazed and confused passengers stampede toward the baggage claim like hogs to the slaughter. I think I’ve even heard a few oinks and squeals along the way! The first few to arrive look a little bewildered as they attempt to confirm which magical carousel will jettison their precious cargo. With anticipation that rivals Christmas Morning, passengers feverishly alternate their glances between their watches, clocks on the wall, and the screens above. While some have transfixed their gaze upon their hallowed cellphone as if it were a crystal ball revealing the lottery numbers from this week’s Power Ball.

Welcome to Baggage Claim!

I’ll admit it’s difficult not to get swept up in the excitement, and even the competition of disembarking the plane to get to your meeting, start your vacation, or to fall into the warm embrace of those who may be anxiously awaiting your arrival.

While this scene alone is ripe with allegories, analogies, and metaphors, I’d like to share some thoughts about a baggage claim of another sort.

Your Baggage is Heavier Than You Think

Baggage comes in many shapes, sizes, and capacities. This holds true for physical baggage AND emotional baggage. Somewhere along your life’s travels, you’ve acquired a great many “souvenirs.” Events, both good and bad, all leave unique imprints upon you, your mind, your heart, even your entire outlook on life. Unresolved pain, unresolved issues, and pent up feelings of anger, resentment, or bitterness, can start to become part of the baggage we carry around. The sad irony is, this baggage can subtly grow so heavy over a period of time, that we don’t even realize the weight we’ve been carrying around until, and this is important, we set it down.

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

“Setting it down” can mean a lot of things. For the purpose of this post’s theme, we will call it “checking our baggage.” When we “check” our baggage, we present it before someone; an attendant. They inquire about the contents, they determine the weight, you pay a price, and they whisk it away until you reach your next destination.

We’ve personally checked in baggage before that exceeded normal weight limits. Of course these limits are established by the airline, but our own capacity to carry things we have no business carrying seems to grow. It’s often not until we place it on a scale, that we realize the true weight of what we’ve been carrying for who knows how long.

Checking your baggage every once in a while is healthy. In fact, we’ve had so many surprises at the airport check-in, we purchased a scale of our own to determine how heavy our baggage is. We don’t like surprises. Routinely checking in on your own baggage with a trusted friend, counselor, pastor, or mentor, are excellent ways of ensuring your baggage isn’t interfering with your ability to grow, thrive, and even excel.

Airlines use a pre-flight checklist to check and re-check every safety aspect of their planes. Our lives, and the lives of our loved ones depend on it. They check it so they don’t wreck it! Being excessively weighed down by baggage (and too many passengers – life has those too) can inhibit an airplane’s ability to safely take-off, reach altitude, and safely land. The emotional weight of your baggage can in like manner adversely affect your ability to take-off, reach your potential, and to safely arrive at your destination of a fulfilled and purposeful life in Christ.

“Let ‘er Rip!”

old luggage cartNow in our mid-forties, there’s a terrific service at some of the airports we frequent, that we’ve started to use. These big strapping fellows who are all too willing to toss your bags up on these luggage carts and push them right up to the counter, your shuttle, or your car. For a nice tip, they’re friendly enough and will point you in the right direction of a good restaurant, hotel, or area attractions.

1 Peter 5:6 – 8 instructs us, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour…”

The Greek word here for “casting” comes from the root word “rhipto” or phonetically said, “rip-toe” which means to hurl forcefully. I like to think Peter was saying, like we would in our post-modern vernacular, “Let ‘er rip!” This phrase is a little dated, but basically is said when someone is about to launch something.

Could it be that Peter, a couple thousand years earlier would have realized our propensity for carrying things around we have no business carrying? Could it also be that Peter, during his early days with Christ, realized his own innate inclination toward carrying around things that interfered with his walk with the Lord? These verses provide us with such tremendous spiritual insight into how best to handle the baggage that causes us so much heartbreak. But, according to Peter, one of the preconditions to being afforded this powerful privilege is humility.

Lower Before You Launch

Before we can ever expect to launch, we must be willing to lower ourselves; humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. When you humble yourself under His Hand, it will literally allow God to give you a hand, not just any hand, His Hand! It will be His Hand that will carry the seemingly insurmountable weight of your grief, your pain, your sorrow, your anxiety, your fears, your worries; all your care! And, it will be His Hand that will “exalt you in due time.” That word “exalt” means to restore your dignity, your honor, and your rightful place in Him.

Like those big brawny lads at the airport that magically appear at your trunk as you’re unloading your baggage, Jesus is lovingly there saying, “Hey toss that over here! I got this!” You may wince, like we do sometimes when we think about how heavy our bags are before the guys pick them up, but you never for a moment have to doubt that Jesus can take it. He’s more than proven Himself. He overcame Death and Hell…it’s safe to say Jesus can handle anything else you “throw” His way!

Music to Your Ears

When we check our baggage with the Lord, it would behoove us all to, in the in the now infamous and lyrically addictive words of Elsa in the Disney Movie “Frozen,” Let it go…let it go!

Upon your arrival to God’s Divine purpose and calling for your life, don’t compulsively run over to baggage claim like a moth to a flame to look for your bags to pick them up again. The words of the old spiritual song are never truer than at this moment, “Leave them there…leave them there. Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there!”

Once we give it to God, don’t lay claim to it any longer. Peter warned, “Be sober, be vigilant.” The enemy is diabolical and deceitful. He will try to deliver the old baggage of your past in a brand new fancy bag with a bright red bow. Do not take delivery. Do not sign for it. Don’t let your neighbor sign for it. Don’t even allow Satan to leave it on your front porch! Since I’m apparently closing with a musical theme here, the words of that 1962 Elvis Presley song come to mind, “Return to sender…address unknown!”

You may think you’re fooling everyone by nap-sacking your issues and trying to inconspicuously tote them around, but like the little child who covers her eyes thinking no one can see her; someone sees. That someone is Jesus and He’s given us all an invitation today, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28 – 30)

Blessed or Blissed?

The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it. Proverbs 10:22

It is a gross misconception when we equate God’s blessings with God’s sanctioning. Even Jesus decried this delusion when he said, “For he (God) maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45).

False teachers presume to preach a gospel of prosperity and mislead millions into believing if you’re blessed you must be pleasing to God and conversely, if you’re not blessed, you must not have enough faith. This is a miscarriage of the Gospel that Jesus taught…Blessed are the poor, the mournful, the meek, the merciful, and the persecuted! (Matthew 5)

This list reads like a “who’s who” of mistreated, brokenhearted, and the socially outcast of our day. What the world views as weakness, God sees as a trust in His Strength that is made perfect in weakness. What the world sees as poverty, God sees as being an heir to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Paul warned Timothy, “all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Again, quite contrary to what’s being preached by counterfeit Christians. Jesus even warned we’d be hated by men for His name’s sake. So much for that popularity contest!

Don’t be sold a bill of goods that touts if things are rosy in your life you’re on easy street with the Lord. The very things Satan used to tempt Christ were the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. Had Christ taken those invitations to mean there was a “cushy” alternative to Calvary, He never would have been crucified, resurrected, and given us salvation and eternal life.

God does indeed bless His people in so many ways, but if we’re so infatuated with the blessings rather than the “Source” from whom all blessings flow, we’re in extreme peril of being “blissed” rather than “blessed!”

A Star-spangled Thank-you to Our Soldiers

The thundrous booms, showering crackles of light, and the piercing whistle of fireworks are enjoyed by millions of blue-blooded Americans each year as we celebrate our independence on the 4th of July. These spectacular displays of light, color, and sound inspire us while bringing to remembrance the courageous men and women who fought to protect our country’s liberties and freedoms; many paying the ultimate price.

For the soldier the “rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air” aren’t necessarilly cause for celebration as much as they are a call to duty. Plumbs of smoke, and the earth rumbling beneath their feet brings a soldier to a state of readiness. Rapid gunfire, roadside bombs, and fellow soldiers falling at your side are grim realities for our brave servicemen and women. Sleepless nights, frightening memories, and post traumatic stress disorder, are ever surfacing reminders, while your enemies may no longer be physically present, their ghosts forever haunt the landscape of your life. Their lives will forever be affected, their perceptions, and perceptions of them, forever altered.

This Independence Day, as you “OOOO” and “AHHH” over the brilliant displays of light, color, and sound, pause to reflect upon the sacrifices of those who braved the “perilous fight” to make such displays of pride and patriotism possible. As God’s Word implores us all, “Give honor where honor is due.” Whether in the Airforce, Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard, National Guard, and Reserves; past, present, or fallen, on behalf of the entire Mangold Family, here is a heart-felt thank-you for all you have done and sacrificed to protect the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave!”

God bless our Troops and God bless America!

Pastor Rodger D. Mangold and Family

Lame Game of Shame

And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8

Adam and Eve Meet Guilt and Shame

Prior to this portion of scripture, Adam and Eve wouldn’t have dreamed of trying to hide from God. Hearing the voice of God meant an opportunity to visit with the Creator. I’m sure it would seem each encounter with God brought with Him another blessing; a new tree from which to eat, a new flower upon which to gaze, a new creation for which to praise Him. Today was different. God’s presence brought dread!

Why was this day different? Guilt, shame, and fear had reared their ugly heads and now knowing they had disobeyed God, Adam and Eve were going to face punishment. Nothing had ever died before, but they knew death was the punishment for disobedience. Like children, they ran and hid only prolonging the inevitable.

Effects of Guilt and Shame

We learn that the wages of sin are death (Rom. 6:23). Sin destroys and leaves death in its wake. One of the weapons it uses is guilt. Guilt can destroy us from within. It can interfere with our ability to gain closure, healing, and overcoming power over the effects of sin. God knew that sin would cause separation. The moment sin came on the scene, our human instinct was to hide. Hide from what? Or, hide from whom? God himself! The very one that could provide healing, forgiveness, redemption. To God’s dismay, blood had to be shed. Calvary’s price must be paid. The Lamb must be slain.

Deer in the Headlights

For us, we’ve spent the better part of our existence fighting our nature to give in to self, sin, and even Satan. We know down deep these are wedges between ourselves and a benevolent, yet righteous God. Guilt leaves us feeling unworthy of a relationship with our Creator. Guilt, a close cousin to fear, immobilizes us. Like the proverbial deer in the headlights, we tense up and freeze. “What’s my next move?”

“Do I try to cover it up with fig leaves?”

“Or, do I run to the arms of my Heavenly Father and say, I have sinned and perverted that which was right, and it profited me nothing.”

We learn that perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:18). We also know, that once we’ve come to Christ, those immobilizing effects of guilt, shame, and fear should no longer rule our response to sin. Romans 8:1 says, “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” The caveat here is, we must walk in the Spirit (capital “S”) God’s Spirit, and not after the flesh. I John 1:9 reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

He Called Us Friends

II Corinthians 5:19 states, “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” God is all about reconciling with humanity. He wants to once again have the close companionship and relationship with His creation. Jesus, God in the flesh, said it like this, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.  Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:13-15). Does that sound like a God who is willing for anyone to perish?

In Closing

Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son paints a beautiful picture of God’s willingness to restore us back into His good graces. The son could have wallowed in the muck of pig slop, but even he realized, his daddy’s servants lived better than that. We went from hiding among the trees, and wallowing in the slop, to outstretched arms of grace and mercy. Guilt will keep you hiding and wallowing in the mud. Love will get you seated back at the Master’s table.

The remedy that worked at Calvary, still works – the sinless blood of Jesus Christ. It’s by the Lord’s mercies we’re not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is HIS faithfulness. God is all in favor of you returning back into His good graces. Don’t turn a deaf ear to the overtures of Grace. Don’t spurn the love of your Heavenly Father. Don’t cower beneath His outstretch hand. A life time of being callous to God’s tender wooing will lead to the outcome we will dread – eternal separation from the very one who died to save us!

Behold Thy Mother

When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. John 19:26 – 27

The battered and bruised body of Jesus hung between Heaven and Earth; a grim picture, too grim for the other 11 disciples, but not so for John and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Yes, there are other stories of heroic women throughout the bible, but Mary stood at the foot of the cross and watched her promised son, the prophesied “Savior of the World” draw his last breath. But, just moments before his death, Christ would lay aside the burden of sin for the world, lay aside the shame, pain, and agony of the cross, ignoring the piercing of the nails, the crown of thorns, and the pending battle with Death, Hell, and the Grave, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of his beloved mother.

On this Mother’s Day, and every day, it would behoove sons and daughters everywhere to set aside the tanked economy, the war on terror, the latest political scandals, the rising gas prices, and the sheer stress of life, to ensure the women who are responsible for our births into this world are acknowledged, thanked, and appreciated for their selfless sacrifice and dedication. In this passage it’s as if Jesus was saying, “Mom, you’re gonna be alright.” If Jesus took the time while carrying the weight of the world’s salvation on his battered shoulders to entrust the care of his mother to one of his most trusted disciples, surely we could take the time to daily entrust the care of our mothers to our Heavenly Father through prayer, love, and support. May all our lives as sons and daughter pay fitting tribute to the precious lady we call, “Mom.”

Ant on a Mission

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Proverbs 6:6

As springtime blossoms, we see evidence of new life at every turn; flowering buds on trees, Robins nesting, Sparrows singing, and the return of summertime’s pesky insects. Proverbs points us to one such insect that has been around since the dawn of time and has over 12,000 different species – the assiduous ant! Known for her industry, the ant is ever searching for food and water sources. No time for luxury or frivolous pursuits, she’s always on a mission!

Solomon was contrasting the sluggard with the industrious ant, but as Christians, what’s our take-home message? Have we become like Aesop’s lazy grasshopper, basking in the temporary pleasures of this world, flitting from one blade of grass to another seeking enjoyment and pleasure? Or, are we like the laser-sharp-focused ant who never forgets she’s on “Mission from God?” We’ve been commanded to go into all the world preaching the Gospel of Christ’s Death, Burial and Resurrection. An ant builds a colony, numbering in some cases in the millions. Let’s make God’s Mission our mission. Let’s work the harvest while it is day, and colonize for the Kingdom of Heaven.

II Timothy 3 warns us all, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” (NASB)