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Freed To Be Free

July 4th, 2018

A Person or Nation Without God is Without a Destiny.

 

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Galatians 5:1 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Freed to be Free.”

As the United States celebrates our founding as a nation this week, it seems appropriate to remember that we have pledged ourselves to be, “One Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Lately, we have not done so well on the, “One nation under God [and] indivisible,” parts.

If those words become just rhetoric rather than authentic conviction, we will have far less to celebrate and much more to regret. The current climate of political and social discourse has created a growing and worrisome gulf between the secular and religious that should be a warning of concern. If we do not do better, we will owe God an apology and our founding Fathers an explanation.

Our nation without God would become a nation without a destiny, lacking the power of conviction to achieve its destiny. Yet there is an even greater truth that I choose to celebrate, the freedom that we have been given in Christ Jesus. Our Sovereign God promises, “If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 NIV.

The Apostle Paul wrote much about freedom and liberty while living under a Roman government that ruled by power and force, allowing only marginal liberty. To the young and often struggling church, Paul wrote much about the freedom and liberty that is found in Christ.

These past days, one Scripture in particular has occupied my thoughts and is my cause for reflection and rejoicing. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 NIV. Four crucial truths are evident in that verse and its surrounding context – God’s initiative in Christ, The Holy Spirit’s objective, your destiny, and your resolve.

(1). INITIATIVE. The redemptive truth of Jesus Christ is this, “Christ has set us free.“ Every good initiative begins in God’s heart. James understood that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the Word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created.”  James 1:17-18 NIV.

In the purpose of God, you were set free long before you knew you needed or wanted a Savior. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8-9 NKJ. Everything has changed. You are unshackled from your past. You are redeemed, no longer a slave to sin and self.

(2). OBJECTIVE. “It is FOR FREEDOM that Christ has set us free.” Our freedom has always been God’s objective. In Christ, God purposed absolute freedom for all who would embrace the Savior. Christ’s objective was, and remains to be, an all inclusive and enduring freedom. Freedom from your past. Freedom now and freedom throughout your future, with an eternity with Christ and others forever.

 (3). DESTINY. “Stand firm then.” You have a responsibility to stay free, and in the power of the Holy Spirit you are given the ability to live free. Freedom in Christ means much more than forgiveness for your past, or grace in this moment. Freedom is His abiding destiny for your future as well, the promise that you need never be without grace. His grace is ever sufficient. Consider Paul’s words, “This means that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT.

(4). RESOLUTE. Do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 NIV. You are free from your history, free from your hurts, free from your weaknesses, free from your failures, free from your regrets, and finally free to embrace your life in Christ and His fullness. “To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12 NIV.

The last word: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith.”1 Peter 5:8-9 NKJ.

Today I pray for you to comprehend all that has been given you.

Christian Communications 2018

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History and Destiny

September 25th, 2015

“For by grace you have been saved through faith . . the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8 NKJV.

Your identity is not found in the debris of your past failures.

My thoughts and comments today are about “history and destiny.”

Everyone has a history; everyone has a destiny. History is who you have been; destiny is who you are in Christ. History traces the path to where you are; destiny promises who you can become. “God Who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us . . for by grace you have been saved through faith.” Read Ephesians 2:4-10 NKJV.

It seems we are more easily preoccupied with our own or others’ past record of struggles and failures than with the possibilities and opportunities still ahead. Possibilities for you are limitless in Christ. “Those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT. In redemption, God replaces your history with destiny.

In the beginning, it was wonderfully simple. God said, “Let us make man in our image and after our likeness.” Genesis 1:26-27 NKJV. Sin is common to us all, but sin cannot change your origin. You came from God’s heart and hands. But life – your faults and failures as well as the hurts and misunderstandings from the fallen humanity of others – clouded the image with which you were created and your understanding of the Father’s purpose for you. Subsequent inability to reconcile the way things are with the way things should have been produces inner tension and confusion.

Identity is the core of everything about a confident and successful life, but many people struggle with a confused identity. “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.” Read Romans 8:29-30 NIV. I recognize three challenges that confront your assurance of identity.

(1) The brokenness of our own self-knowledge. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 NIV. History is rehearsed in your memory with excruciating detail. You have to discover anew your identity in Jesus before all the stuff happened that you allowed to shape who you now believe yourself to be. Your identity is not found in the debris of your failures or the failures of others toward you. Believe God and His Word.

(2) The ill-founded evaluation of others. Your sense of self is wrongly shaped by others’ opinions, criticisms, and judgments of you. Leave all judgment to Him who judges righteously. The judgments of anyone, including your own, mean little until the Righteous Judge, who knows even the thoughts and intent of the heart, examines one’s life. The Apostle Paul foresaw that day, “At that time, each will receive his praise from God.” Read 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 NIV.

(3) The lengthy process of rebuilding broken lives. Never assume the difficulty, delay, or slow progress mean success is not yours. Recovery takes a lot of grace, patience, obedience, perseverance, hope, and faith. “Being confident of this . . that He which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 NKJV.

God rebuilds what self and sin have damaged or destroyed, through daily application of the Word of God, the work of Christ, the fellowship of His Church, and the power of the Holy Spirit to restore His “image and likeness” anew. God replaces your history with destiny. Your Identity in Christ is assured and secure. Read Colossians 1:21-23 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to live confidently, eternally secure in Christ Jesus.

To be continued . . .

Last Sunday, I taught on “Identity Theft” at Freedom Fellowship, New Braunfels, TX. The teaching is also available at their website, freedomnb.org. Then scroll down to the sermon title to listen or download the teaching. Please respond if you listen so I will know if audio teachings would be helpful in the future on EveryDay Life . . .

EDL PIX Identity images

 

 

Christian Communications 654

 

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Nature and Nurture

August 11th, 2015

“Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” Colossians 1:27 NKJV.

Spiritual nurture is essential for effective and enduring change.

My thoughts and comments today are about “nature and nurture”

This morning, comments from my friend, Shane, prompted some reflection on the origin of behavior and development of character. It seems the debate ultimately centers on the influences of nature or nurture. Both are influential. Nature forms who you have been, expressed by what comes naturally to you for better or worse – your habitual reactions, possessive inclinations, prejudices, self-willed, or self-centered.

My friend cautioned about trusting nature over nurture, “Leave it to nature and you leave a blank canvas [for yourself and] others to paint on.” We were all conceived in sin, meaning that we were born into a fallen world, possessing a fallen nature, and separated from God and Christ. Paul accurately described life apart from Christ, “O wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Read Romans 7:18-25 NKJV.

Conversely, nurture instructs and guides your values, traits, convictions, and conduct, therefore determining who you become. Paul understood our common dilemma but also God’s gracious redemption, “You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Read Colossians 3:6-10 NIV.

In Christ, you have the hope and promise of becoming more than you are. “To all who believed Him and accepted Him, [Jesus] gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn!” John 1:12-13 NLT. Paul elaborated further on this remarkable transformation of your old nature, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV. Spiritual nurture is essential for effective and enduring change.

The Word of God nurtures Christian growth and Godly character, “[God has] given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature . .” Read 2 Peter 1:2-11 NKJV. Especially note verses 5-9.

The Holy Spirit nurtures discipleship and obedience, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.” Read Romans 8:1-11 NIV.

Spiritual discipline nurtures firm resolve, “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV.

Christian Fellowship nurtures spiritual life and growth. “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, but exhorting one another.” Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV.

For me, these words sum up any debate about nature versus nurture, “Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” Colossians 1:27 NKJV. The remedy for all you have been and the potential for all you can become is found ultimately in Jesus as Lord and Savior. See 1 John 3:2-3 NLT.

Today, I pray for you that you are nurtured in your faith and an encourager to others.

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Simple Choices

March 27th, 2015

“If anyone would come after Me, he must . . follow Me.” Mark 8:34 NIV.

Religion is complicated; spirituality is simple.

My thoughts and comments today are about “simple choices.”

A healthy, robust spiritual life is possible for you. Certainly, that requires intention, attention, and priority. Spiritual life is not for the casual soul; it is achieved purposefully. Spirituality is not as difficult as some people often make it out to be. Some assume, or have been wrongly taught, that spiritual life is about religious rules, regulations to learn, duties to perform, strict laws to obey, or religious protocols to be observed.

Religion is complicated; spirituality is simple. The prophet, Isaiah, described the simplicity of spirituality for the sincere seeker, “Whoever walks the road [called the Highway of Holiness], although a fool, shall not go astray.” Isaiah 35:8. It is not about your intelligence; it is about your obedience.

In the New Testament, people frequently asked to be Jesus’ disciple. On other occasions, Jesus invited people to be His disciples. Either way the choice remained theirs to make, just like your invitation to be His disciple is always yours to accept or decline. Following Jesus’ baptism by John, Jesus began calling for men to be His disciples. Some readily did so; others reluctantly declined.

Jesus’ invitation was simple; still is. “’Come, follow Me,’ Jesus said.” Read Mark 1:16-20 NIV. Their response to His invitation was immediate. “At once they left their nets and followed Him.” In Jesus’ company, less and less of your old life compares with the new life you receive. Read Psalm 16:11/2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV. Godly choices aren’t simple to make; they are simple when made.

Jesus wrapped profound and eternal truth in everyday stories, comparing one’s discovery of the Kingdom with a man finding buried treasure in a field and a merchant finding an incomparable pearl, and both selling all they had to possess what they once never imagined could be theirs. Read Matthew 13:44-46 NIV. When you follow Jesus, He gives you a life beyond all you could previously imagine or hope to obtain. See Romans 15:5-6 NIV. Jesus alone is the answer to every question and fulfillment of each desire.

If you are following Jesus, your life can be an example and encouragement to others who want to follow Him, as Paul encouraged the Christians at Corinth, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV. Seeing a practical model of someone who is faithfully following Jesus helps tremendously. I am thankful for every Godly friend and spiritual mentor – Kenny, Campbell, Des, Don, Andrew, Rick, too many more to name really – who provided me with living examples and personal encouragement of being a Christ-follower. I continue to learn how to follow Jesus by watching them follow Him.

Jesus wrapped profound and eternal truth in everyday stories, comparing one’s discovery of the Kingdom with a man finding buried treasure in a field and a merchant finding an incomparable pearl, and both selling all they had to possess what they once never imagined could be theirs. Read Matthew 13:44-46 NIV. When you follow Jesus, He gives you a life beyond all you could previously imagine or hope to obtain. Jesus alone is the answer to every question and the fulfillment of every desire.

Yes, there are sacrifices to make; there are things to abandon; there are new loyalties and a cross to embrace. “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the Gospel will save it.” Read Mark 8:34-38 NIV.

If you are following Jesus with a whole heart, He has much more ahead for you than what you ever leave behind. At the heart of spiritual life is your response to Jesus’ simple invitation to follow Him. “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Read Matthew 6:31-33 NIV.

Today, my prayer for you is, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6 NIV.

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Decisions and Destiny

February 10th, 2015

“Keeping your eyes on Jesus, on whom your faith depends.” Hebrews 12:2 NLT.

Focus directs desire; desire decides direction; direction determines destiny.

My thoughts and comments today are about “decisions and destiny.”

After near mishaps, my wife, Gayle, and I agreed on a simple practice: “An automobile should never be moving in a direction the driver is not looking.” The simple principle of focus eliminates so much regret. Breaking my own rule one day, when I was distracted and in a hurry, left a clear reminder on the back bumper of my car. I backed into the concrete base of a light pole in a parking lot. Rest assured; too late, I looked in the direction of my abrupt stop. But the damage was already done.

That seems a good lesson for life as well. You need never finish where you did not intend to be. First, determine which direction you ought to go, and then direct your focus and energies there. You will be drawn in the direction you are looking. Focus directs desires; desire decides direction; direction determines destiny. Destiny does not happen by random chance; destiny is achieved according to God’s will and your confirmed choice. “In [Christ] . . being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.” Read Ephesians 1:11-12.

On more than one occasion, my friend, Campbell, reminded me, “The heart cannot desire what the eye has not seen.” Determine your focus and you will govern your desires, ambitions, and even your achievements. When you fail to do so, life does not work as well. Avoid distractions that misdirect your heart away from your goal. As David determined, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.” Psalm 57:7 NIV. Read Psalm 112:1-9 NIV.

People whose focus is on what is positive and possible are encouraged in those directions. Focus on what is negative and difficult and you are inextricably drawn that direction. My advice is that your life be forward looking and progressing onward; keep looking, expecting, reaching. Let nothing of yesterday keep you from anticipating today.

The Apostle Paul reduced your path to progress to just one simple thing. “One thing I do: forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me.” Philippians 3:13 NIV. Three activities combine as though one goal – forgetting, reaching toward, and pressing forward to a Godly objective. David understood the same principle. “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek . .” See Psalm 27:4.

There is a qualifier for your success in life. It takes more than just focus; first, you have to have the right goal and then keep a fixed focus. Anything less than, “the high calling of Jesus Christ,” is just a misleading distraction. Life’s success comes by, “keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom your faith depends from start to finish.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT. Look around for encouragement; lay aside what encumbers your progress; be rid of all that entangles your advancement.

This is God’s wondrous promise, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old is gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV. Now that is something in which you can trust and believe.

Today, my prayer for you is to understand that tomorrow is built on the foundations of this day.

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