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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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New Life

January 1st, 2016

“We too may live a new life.” Romans 6:4 NIV.

Your choices today shape your life tomorrow.

My thoughts and comments today are about “new life.”

A New Year always seems a brief but welcome invitation to a fresh start. In the change of calendar, an opportunity is presented to change what has been and what can be. The Apostle Paul told the Christians in Rome that their faith in Christ provided the possibility and power that, “we too may live a new life.” Read Romans 6:4-11 NIV. In my spiritual journey, the beginning of a year has often been pivotal.

When just ten years old, I made a life-long decision to know and serve Jesus. In a New Year’s Revival in my father’s church, Mrs. Rice, a Sunday School teacher, asked to pray with me. In the first days of 1952, I committed my young life to Jesus and found the “new life” the Bible promises.

Years later as an adult and pastor in San Jose, California, and in the first minutes of January 1975, an elderly church member, Mrs. Eaton, was going home from the New Year’s Eve service when she asked her husband to turn around and return to the church. God had given her a message for me. Everyone but the janitor and I were already gone as she walked down the center aisle of that semi-darkened church, straight toward me. She told me how God had spoken to her, took my hands in hers, looked deep into my eyes, and said, “Pastor Allen, God asked me to tell you, ‘He loves you, and He is not finished with you.’” With that, she turned and left me alone with God.

Everything changed inside my heart. Apart from God, she could not have known what I had told no one. With the New Year, I would seek a career in business. That would have been a tragic mistake, forever altering the direction of my life and diminishing the destiny of our family. When I think of our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren today, I am grateful for the mercies and faithfulness of God. In those earliest minutes of a New Year, God’s personal word to me of His care and calling continues to shape my life and our family today. Again, I found a fresh measure of “new life” in Christ.

Only God could have known that in the spring of that same year, the invitation to pastor Trinity Church here in San Antonio would be extended to me, where Gayle and I continued to serve joyfully for more than 36 years. God’s faithfulness in those first moments of a new year protected me and our family from an error of judgment that would have changed everything about our lives since. Remember. The choices you make today shape your future as well as the future of others. Choose prayerfully and carefully. Being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing is more consequential than you can foresee.

The world anticipates this New Year in hope of things being better, their lives being different than they were. A change of calendar changes nothing without a significant, spiritual change in your heart. You will not embrace new life fully until you are sick and tired of who you’ve been. The problem is that things once done are not easily undone. You alone cannot alter the past; the good news is that with God’s help, you can. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal . .” Read Philippians 3:13-14 NIV.

Real change is not cosmetic; it requires a different course and transformed character. My friend and mentor, Kenny, always reminded me and others, “You won’t have a New Year without becoming a new you.” These earliest, beginning moments of a new year offer an opportune time to lay old things aside and begin anew, experiencing a fresh start and lasting change. What do you need to change for you to be new again?

The church and every Christ-follower can celebrate the New Year, grateful to God that He has taken away the old mistakes and sins of your past, and given forgiveness and a fresh start in Christ. “If anyone is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation; the old has gone; the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV. You can embrace God’s promise and power for “new life” any time you are ready and willing.

God’s Word gives good advice for your transition into the New Year, “Lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of faith . .” Hebrews 12:1-2 NAS. I bid farewell to the year just past, grateful for God’s faithfulness and provision; I embrace this new year anticipating God’s gracious providence and wondrous possibilities.

Today, I pray for you to release anything that hurts or hinders your spiritual progress.

Christian Communications

Family picture Nov 2015 EDIT

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What’s in a Name?

December 30th, 2015

“That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you.” 2 Thessalonians 1:12 NKJV.

Your past is forever forgiven and your future is eternal.

My thoughts and comments today ask, “what’s in a name?”

A secure sense of identity is important. Names have significance. My first name distinguishes me from others in my family. My middle name honors my Dad. My last name identifies me with generations that preceded me and will follow me. Your name identifies you, connects you to your history, and differentiates you from others. I have friends who have legally changed their names to honor their cultural heritage or to better reflect their new life in Christ. In Scripture, God considers names important. When God chose to send His Son into our world, His name was not left to whim or chance, but deliberately chosen by God.

To Nazareth, an angel was sent to the young virgin, Mary, as well as Joseph, “You shall call His name Jesus . . for He shall save His people from their sins.” Read Luke 1:26-35/Matthew 1:20-21 NKJV. Jesus’ name, “Jehovah Saves,” perfectly describes His purpose on earth. “Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” Acts 10:43 NIV. All who call upon the name of Jesus find forgiveness and release from the power of their sins. Jesus came with singular purpose: to do the will of His Father, to reveal the heart of God, to declare the power of the Kingdom of God on earth, and to bring redemption from sin. “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the Name which is above every name . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Read Philippians 2:9-11 NKJV.

Gratitude and pleasant memories accompany names of family and friends dear to me. Yet there is no name more loved and gratefully recalled than the name of Jesus. What’s in a name? Everything, when it is His name. Be clear about this; “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 NIV. See Acts 2:21 NKJV. “What this means is 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! All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 NLT.

I know of no greater declaration and assurance than the unchanging nature of Jesus and His power to save. Romans 5:1-2. There is a wonderful promise of redemption and renewal in Christ, “To him who overcomes I will give him a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” Revelation 2:17 NKJV. Awaiting you is a name that only God knows, that will perfectly describe who you have become because of His abundant grace. Your past is forever forgiven and your future is eternal. “That the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:12 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to hold the name of Jesus in the highest regard and reverence.

Christian Communications

Brass Stamp

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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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The Process of Progress

September 16th, 2014

“Old things have passed away; all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV.

Exchanging the expendable for the expedient is the process of progress.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the process of progress.”

Life is a process of perpetual change. It is a delusion that things can remain as they were or are. They never do, nor should they. Paul envisioned the boundless intention of God for your spiritual development while warning of the tragedy of stunted development, “Until we all come . . to a [maturing] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we be should no longer be children . . but may grow up in all things into Christ.” Ephesians 4:13-15. Anything less is inadequate and unworthy of the grace God has shown to your life. Progress is not at all sudden; it is deliberate and incremental.

SIGN 2 (3)

Growing is natural; remaining the same is not. Without necessary change there would be no process for progress. If your life remained static, you would be less than you could and should be. I often reflect on the unconstrained potential that redemption restores to any and everyone who comes to Christ in faith. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the sons of God.” John 1:12 KJV. What expansive potential is held in those words, “given the power to become.” What you become in Christ has so much to do with your choices and desire. “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

John later wrote, “We are already God’s children, and we can’t even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when Jesus comes, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is.” 1 John 3:2 NLT. Now the power of the Spirit is at work in you until the day the transformation into Christ-likeness is complete.

There are elements of your Christian life that are accomplished, finished works of grace. Yet there are also dimensions of Christian life that continue in the process of your becoming less of what you were and more than you had ever been. When you have done all that you are to do, God has not yet completed all that He will do. Read Philippians 3:12-14 NIV. You and I remain a glorious work in progress. “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV.

Paul wrote, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Wonderful, new things await you in Christ, being released as you willingly relinquish your old ways. Meditate on Ephesians 4:21-32.

Redemption occurs in a moment of transformation; Christ-likeness is a lifelong process of conformation. Read Romans 8:28-29 NIV. Writing about his Christian liberties, Paul said, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23 NIV. Exchanging the expendable for the expedient is the process of progress.

Today, my prayer for you is to never accept the good as a substitute for God’s best.

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