Untie your ropes

I am reading a book Sara loaned me that Needles gave her by John Ortberg, titled “When the Game is Over it All Goes Back in the Box”. The following excerpt is from a chapter called “Untie your ropes” which is about discarding whatever holds us down from running and finishing the race God has for each of us. He says sometimes we would ‘rather complain about our ropes than untie them’. Here is one of his illustrations: “I had a client who complained frequently about how her husband’s drinking made her unhappy. “But you could take action, I suggested.

“You could go to Al-anon, you could pursue an intervention. You could tell him he must pursue sobriety or you will separate. You can begin to pursue your true life without waiting for him to sober up. You could stop providing excuses for his boss or for your friends, and the painful consequences might provoke some change. ” “She batted away each of these suggestions with ease. After awhile I felt like I was pitching practice to Barry Bonds. The truth is she preferred the status and victimhood that goes with complaining about ropes. Her ropes obligated her friends to give her sympathy rather than hard truth. If someone were to come along and untie her ropes, she would tie them back up herself.”

Note about the author: John Ortberg, Jr. is an evangelical Christian author, speaker, and senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California, an evangelical church with more than 4,000 members.

23 thoughts on “Untie your ropes

  1. Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus, who, wrapped in grave clothes had been dead for four days. When Jesus asked for the stone to be moved Martha spoke up. “But Lord, by now he stinketh!” The life of those who are wrapped in the bindings and ropes of bondages to an addiction or to another person who is not the Lord Jesus Christ, will find that life becomes of an offensive odor for them, and even for those around them. Bondage smells of death. When Lazarus came out of the tomb with his hands and feet wrapped in the strips of burial cloth and the napkin covering his face, Jesus commanded, “Free him of the burial wrappings and let him go.
    Untying the ropes of bondage that bind us first begins with recognizing and admitting that we are in bondage….(like the above article indicates.) Then we must determine if we are courageous enough to live without that bondage or if and when someone comes along whom the Lord sends to help us untie them that we would not tie them back ourselves in an even more elaborate design.

  2. Priscilla Shirer writes, “…all believers must eventually come to the point where they courageously TEAR (untie) themselves away from things (people) that keep them from depending completely upon God. However, none of us will wean ourselves from our dependence on worldly things (people) without discipline and discomfort. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we have to purposefully (intentionally) and oftentimes painfully deny ourselves.” (added)

    This life story is scary but of course we would not fall into this trap, would we? Look at our choices, sympathy vs. hard truth.

  3. When I read about preferring victimhood, I wondered if that means we could be so desperate for attention that we would consciously or maybe unconsciously control others, and manipulate or create situations so that we become victims, really by our own doing. And then blame someone or something else that we are a poor victim. That’s pretty twisted.
    In answer to Sara’s question, we may not know what trap we would fall into if that screaming, unsatiable desire of self is not denied. Following Jesus means embracing the cross of truth which is the only thing that can set us free…”Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” NLT (Luke 9:23)

  4. Has anyone ever heard the saying….”the truth hurts” ?

    After reading this story, one could say “to ignore the truth, would hurt”.

  5. OUCH, I have and truth does hurt many times. It really hurts when one has been believing a lie. Or, living a lie. Living in denial. Truth sets one free. But, it calls for change. Change is the Key note I think…..

  6. Sadly we all fall into this trap. I hope I’m not the only one. I wish this weren’t so. It is so painful when God shines truth upon you and you are in need, real need. We say to ourselves, “Why has it taken me so long to see this.” You become literally sickened, shocked, devastated. The harrows of sin. It is said, “Leave a well in the valley so someone else can drink from it. So as we go through trials and valleys perhaps we will gain wisdom to help someone else who finds themselves journeying in the same valley. I sure hope there is a community of people at the valley to help the person retrieve the water that only Jesus gives. Without the support of such wonderful people, I don’t think the person journeying this valley path would make it. I know I couldn’t and wouldn’t make it without them. Thanks to all who have been there at the well administering large gulps of the living waters of the WORD!

  7. Good wisdom.
    Sneezing is just an ‘involuntary response to nasal irritation….entirely automatic’ according to a definition. To make a change takes deliberation and action..not just thinking about it, doing it. That’s the hard part because we have to vountarily make the mouth, feet, hand muscles, etc spring into action.

  8. Paul says we are “not ignorant of the snares of the devil.”..those devil-traps that satan sets for all of us. But Paul says in the WORD that WE ARE NOT IGNORANT…so ignorance is no excuse. But what the solution is,is to acknowledge our having been deceived, stand against being deceived again, not contributing to the deception anymore and as Rena said, “leave a well of the water of wisdom from experience for another who is going through the valley of the shadows, right now.

  9. With regard to what Sara quoted by Priscilla Shriver; the author of ““When the Game is Over it All Goes Back in the Box” says in a subsequent chapter “Remember Your Stuff isn’t Yours’, that we better not depend on worldly things because all our worldy things are going back in the box when we leave this earth anyway. He says “smart players are clear on what lasts and what doesn’t. It is wise to store up treasure in what’s
    eternal: God and people.”

  10. Jesus said to ‘store up your treasures in Heaven where moth and rust will not damage.’ In the Moody devotional on materialism, worldly riches, earthly treasures, is related a comment on the rich young ruler and his encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. Moody says, “at the beginning of the conversation the young man asked Jesus how could he attain eternal life? But Moody says, “the implied question really was, ‘how good do I NEED to be?’ Jesus countered that it was not about our goodness but about God’s goodness. When Jesus told him to sell his fortune, give to the poor and follow HIM, the young man went away sad because that’s the one thing he just couldn’t bring himself to do. The further comment on this was that “the rich young man thought he could earn his way to God by spiritual performances without rearranging his priorities of his heart. But God will not share the throne of our lives with love of riches, or material goods or security or comforts or self.”
    In fact Jesus said he who loves mother, father, children more than ME is not worthy of ME. Oh Lord please help us.!!
    Moody asks, “Are we more preoccupied with finances, investments, retirements, and more and more acquisitions than praising and giving to the Lord’s work?”

    It’s true that saying “You can’t take it with you.”.
    It reminds me of the story about the very rich man who insisted upon taking bricks of gold with him when he entered heaven. St Peter tried to dissuade him from bringing the gold bricks past the Gates but he would not listen; And finally, Peter acquiesced and said. “Ok! You can bring them in but why you want to bring pavement into Heaven is beyond me. Our streets are already paved.” AMEN

  11. Yes, when I saw that question….”How good do I NEED to be?” that really brought me up abruptly. I think they hit the nail on the head. It was like….I will do this and this and that and MAYBE I will make it to eternal LIFE in the Kingdom. But the Lord is saying …..you NEED to do thus and so…according to the Word of the Lord and His will. Anything else is “religious ritual.”
    That Scripture keeps coming up where Jesus said, “and in that day they will say to me, ‘but Lord we prophesied in Your Name and cast out demons, in Your Name and did many signs in Your Name.’ And I (the Lord) will say to them….”depart from me you workers of iniquity. I NEVER KNEW YOU!”
    I supposed they prophesied from their own spirits and not by the Holy Spirit.

  12. Looks like from reading Moody’s excerpt, that we may think we have our priorities in order with the Lord first, until He pushes a button in us and shows us where self has butted in line to be first. Then we have to face it and move it to the end of the line or we are moved to the end of the line in the Lord’s eyes and use.

  13. In the chapter, “No One Else Can Take Your Turn”, the author gives an account about a tennis match that he and his father are playing in. It’s an important semi-final of a tournament and they are playing against a team that nobody has ‘come close to beating’. It’s the author’s turn to serve. His first serves have been pretty good all day but his second one’s have not. He is about to serve to someone who eats “weak second serves with buttered toast for breakfast.” While nervously bouncing the ball and thinking about an article he read “What is a Game”, he recognizes a ‘major flaw in tennis’: “there was no bull pen, no relief pitcher, no substitute, no place to hide. I wanted a designated server. In tennis no one else can take your turn.”
    He uses this analogy to remind us that “you are not a pawn, a victim of circumstances beyond your control. Instead you are responsible for your own life. No one else can take your turn. There are no designated hitters. You are not allowed to say, ‘Pass’. You have a turn every time you have an opportunity to choose.” He then goes on to describe many choices we have daily…what ‘thoughts to dwell on’, what to ‘feed our mind’, who to have a conversation with, where to ‘direct our desires’, what ‘acts of service to engage in’, ‘when to choose to be interrupted’, ‘what to eat’, how to ‘spend our time’, etc. He ends by saying, “All of these calls you will make, and when you add them up, they create your life. No one else can take your turn.’

  14. John Ortberg gives really great, vivid, mind shocking illustrations through his story telling. I love this in the sense I don’t have to guess, wonder or ponder. It’s 101 and anyone can do it!

    This writer takes the blame and praise and lays it at the feet of the server. Jesus gives the best illustration of serving when he washes the feet of his disciples as told in John 13 recorded in the Holy Bible.

    Today, I choose to take the limits off of my thinking by being better prepared, skilled and trained when the serve becomes my turn.

  15. Your comment, Sara, calls to mind Gary’s and your teaching, yesterday, about living proactively. I think Gary gave the example of the police/fire departments.
    He pointed out that certainly crises arise in everyone’s life, but like the police/firemen, they have practiced the basics of rescue, treating trauma etc. so that in most situations they have skills to deal with the emergencies that their professions are called to perform in. They are TRAINED and SKILLED and prepared. I believe one Scripture was that we alway are to be ready to give a reason for the hope (or whatever ministering we are doing) that is within us and our raison d’etre (reason for being).
    It reminds me of the hurricane and fire drills we have at school. We train the student where and how to conduct themselves in an emergency of many kinds.
    We must intentionally prepared ourselves with Spiritual goals and temporal goals ( as Gary taught a couple of weeks ago.) And we must train ourselves in how to attain those goals, daily.
    There’s a praise song that includes these lyrics:


  16. The choice you made above, Sara, about your turn to serve seems to really provide a tangible solution to a a question John Ortberg is asking in his chapter, “Prevent Regret”. He begins by quoting Leo Tolstoy, “What if in reality my life, my conscious life, has not been the right thing?”
    He then goes on to ask/say: “We need to ask ourselves what we are doing (or not doing) with our lives now that could lead to deep regret. Life always plays in a forward direction; it never goes backward. Once a move is made, there is no going back.”

  17. “Life always plays in a forward direction; it never goes backward.” Read with me Philippians 3: 12-16: “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.”

  18. I like what the footnotes have to say for verses 13 – 16: “Paul had reason to forget the past–he had held the coats of those who had stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:57,58 Paul is called Saul here). We have all done things for which we are ashamed, and we live in the tension of what we have been and what we want to be. Because our hope is in Christ, however, we can let go of past guilt and look forward to what God will help us become. Don’t dwell on your past. Instead, grow in the knowledge of God by concentrating on your relationship with him now. Realize that you are forgiven, and then move on to a life of faith and obedience. Look forward to a fuller and more meaningful life because of your hope in Christ. Sometimes trying to live a perfect Christian life can be so difficult that it leaves us drained and discouraged. We may feel so far from perfect that we think we can never please God with our life. Paul used perfection (3:12) to mean mature or complete, not flawless in every detail. Those who are mature should press on in the Holy Spirit’s power, knowing that Christ will reveal and fill in any discrepancy between what we are and what we should be. Christ’s provision is no excuse for lagging devotion, but it provides relief and assurance for those who feel driven.”

    What encouragement this is!

  19. I agree Needles…that is real encouraging.
    It brings to mind a perfectly trained dressage horse…the rider’s spurs are there to urge forward while the reins and bit are there to hold in check and keep collected. The result is a beautifully balanced performance worthy of the top prize.

  20. What an awesome book. Thank you for sharing these stories with us Debi. These stories remind me of the cluster we can get ourselves into. When we allow anyone or anything to come between us and God, we find ourselves under a knot of tied ropes. We are accountable for ourselves. We have to play our own tennis match. Placing God above all others is the answer. Seems to me that Jesus had already untied the ropes when He died on the cross to save us from our sins. So, if Jesus untied the ropes with his precious blood, why would we tie them back?

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