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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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Anticipation

January 5th, 2018

Anticipate Grace and Goodness.

“You crown the year with Your goodness.”

Psalm 65:11 NKJV.

My comments today encourage you to, “Anticipate Grace.”

Years earlier, I read a poem that I occasionally recall, especially at the start of a new year.

I wish that there were some wonderful place, In the Land of Beginning Again. Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches, And all of our poor selfish grief, Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door, and never put on again.

I wish we could come on it all unaware, Like the hunter who finds a lost trail; And I wish that the one whom our blindness had done, The greatest injustice of all, Could be there at the gates, like an old friend that waits, For the comrade he’s gladdest to hail.

We would find all the things we intended to do, But forgot, and remembered too late, Little praises unspoken, little promises broken, And all the thousand and one, Little duties neglected that might have perfected, The day for one less fortunate.

It wouldn’t be possible not to be kind, In the Land of Beginning Again, And the ones we misjudged, and the ones whom we grudged, their moments of victory here, Would find in the grasp of our loving hand-clasp, More than penitent lips could explain.

So I wish that there were some wonderful place, Called the Land of Beginning Again, Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches, And all of our poor selfish grief, Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door, And never put on again.

Louisa Fletcher 1878-1957, “The Land of Beginning Again”

Regrets. We all have them. Grace. We are all offered that. Any year can end with uncompleted plans, unachieved goals, and lingering uncertainty about the road ahead. Along the way, we seem to accumulate spiritual and emotional baggage from regrets, hurts, disappointments in ourselves or others, and unfinished business. Wouldn’t you like to not drag those into another year? Against the backdrop of such things, we should remember God’s promise, “’I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11-12 NIV. Hope without a future is meaningless, as is a future without hope.

In this new year, anticipate God’s grace and goodness, expressed in fresh beginnings unencumbered by the weight of past mistakes and regrets. “My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:5-6 NLT. For you, God offers a fresh opportunity overflowing with certainty that your past is settled in grace, and abounding with confidence that the present is secure in His providence, and brimming with courage that all which is now unknown is securely held in God’s hands.

And of this, you can affirm about our God, “You crown the year with a bountiful harvest: even your hard pathways overflow with abundance.” Read Psalm 65:11 NLT. Every path ahead may not be easy, but every path where He leads will be graced by His loving presence and ample provision.

This is among my favorite promises from God’s Word. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, Who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NKJV. In Jesus Christ, always awaiting you is, “a land of new beginnings.” Don’t drag the old year into the new; allow the new year to redeem the old. Anticipate grace and goodness.

Today, I pray for you to know you are graced by God and crowned with His goodness.

Christian Communications 2018

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A Fresh Start

January 27th, 2017

Today can be an exit from your history and entrance to your destiny

 “His compassions are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV

My thoughts and comments today are about, “a fresh start.”

Life can feel unmanageable, your past cluttered with unfinished business and the path ahead filled with responsibilities. But life is not lived in yesterday or tomorrow; life can only be lived today. Your life is more than the facts of your history or your unrealized destiny. Positively or negatively, both of those are greatly affected by anything, or maybe everything, you do today. You can reinforce your history or rewrite its predictions. You can sell your future cheaply or invest yourself in achieving its potential.

This day is a fresh opportunity to write a new chapter in the ongoing story of your life. Sure, you have made mistakes. There are things you would have done better if you had been wiser. The remedy for regrets is simple. Enjoy a fresh start. Do better; learn from your mistakes rather than repeating them.

King David’s story is a record of repentance and redemption. In repentance, he embraced a greater future. Learn from his example and rejoice with him: “The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:23-24 NIV.

Recognize God as Lord of this day and rejoicing becomes the appropriate response. In grace, your history becomes His story. Today can bring a fresh start. Stop rehearsing your mistakes, regretting your failures, or reliving your record. Your God has a record of redeeming tragic histories. And your God is equally adept at crafting unimagined destinies. Both of those the Holy Spirit accomplishes in the context of today.

The Apostle Paul had history that God covered in grace and mercy. “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy.” Read 1 Tim 1:12-17 NKJV. On that road to Damascus, Paul met God face to face and his history was redeemed and his destiny assured. Read Acts 9:1-6 NKJV. People do not turn their life around without divine intervention. Only ignorance or arrogance – or both – would make a person attempt such a life change without God.

Paul found there was only one answer for spiritual transformation and subsequent conformation to Christ-likeness. “I am still not all that I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to Heaven.” Philippians 3:13-14 NLT.

Notice that Paul mentioned, “one thing,” and then proceeded to talk about, “forgetting, looking forward, and straining to reach.” The one thing Paul believed crucial was expressed in three equally essential actions: laying aside everything inhibiting about yesterday, living with anticipation today, and giving Godly effort to fulfill God’s calling every day that follows. Today can be an exit from your history and entrance to your destiny.

Today, I pray for you to trust both your history and destiny into Jesus’ capable hands.

Christian Communications 2017

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Life Without Regrets

January 8th, 2014

“If he had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched.” Matthew 24:43 NKJV.

God knows you do not know everything but He knows all that you do not.

My thoughts and comments today are about “life without regrets.”

There may be no more plaintive sigh than, “If I had only known . . There have been things I have said or done which I would have done differently, if I had only known their effect on myself and others. There have been decisions I made that I might have chosen differently – more carefully, more wisely – if I had only known then what I know now I would have fewer things to regret.

The things that you will most regret are the times you knew better but didn’t choose more wisely, unlike the times that you did your best in matters where you could not have known better. You must learn from both of those, and then commit the past confidently to God’s grace. Jesus warned, “If the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.” Matthew 24:43 NKJV.

But is it possible for anyone to ever know all that they will need to know? Not really. That’s why God has given you His Word, and the indwelling Holy Spirit who will “guide you into all truth.” John 16:13 NIV. There is much unknown to you, but not unknowable to God. God has made provision for you in the many decisions of everyday life. He has given you life experiences and the lessons to be learned from them, an intellect to reason and analyze, a capacity for learning, parents and people to warn and teach you, and His Truth to instruct you. God wants you to live without regrets.

And when all of those are not quite enough, God Himself is there. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should pray to God, who will give it to him; because God gives generously and graciously to all.But when you pray, you must believe and not doubt at all. Whoever doubts is like a wave in the sea that is driven and blown about by the wind.” James 1:5-6 TEV. God knows you do not know everything but He knows all that you do not.

“Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT. There is no argument there; “We see things imperfectly . . all I know now is partial and incomplete.”

Usually a person frets and worries over what they do not know without living confidently in the truth of God’s Word which you can know, and in the knowledge and wisdom gained in life experience, though incomplete for now. I think the simple answer for everyday life may be to live the best you can, true to what you know even though it is partial, always asking and seeking for the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding that God alone possesses and faithfully supplies.

Jesus taught that if you know the thief is coming but just do not know when, you are wise to be always watchful, prepared, and on guard. It has been wrongly said that what you don’t know can’t hurt you; obviously, that is not always true. Sometimes that can hurt you badly, unless you live wisely in the practical truth of what you do know.

My prayer for you today is that you will love knowledge and be true to the truth.

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A Preferred Future

November 20th, 2013

“Focusing all my energies on this one thing . . looking forward.” Phil 3:13 NLT.

In God, your preferred future is unencumbered by your history.

My thoughts and comments today are about “a preferred future.”

I have a common sense rule about driving. Your car should not move in a direction other than where you are presently looking. Failure to do so can result in an accident you did not intend. I remember a time I ignored my common sense rule. I assumed I did not need to be looking the direction I was going; I was very wrong. In the middle of an empty parking lot, I backed into the concrete base of a light pole. Those serious scuffs remained on my bumper as a practical reminder.

Life is also like that. Life does not work the way it should, unless you are looking where you intend to go. Painful experiences of the past distract attention from your future. Unsuccessfully, many people attempt progress while weighed down emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually from past choices and foolish mistakes. Your past can become your prison, diminishing present possibilities and pushing potential further from your achievement. Bring your history to Jesus in humility and sincerity.

Who does not have regrets? Moses regretted his anger and impetuous action, requiring he flee from Pharaoh. David regretted his deceit and adultery. Paul sorely regretted his pursuit and persecution of Christ-followers, later writing, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” See 1 Timothy 1:12-17 NKJV. Peter regretted his shameful denial of Jesus; in repentance, Peter found forgiveness. In remorse for his betrayal of Jesus, Judas destroyed himself. The effect of your history – for better or worse – depends on whether you will trust God with all of it.

Every day and with every attitude, action, and choice you are defining your future. Is it the future you prefer or one crafted by random occurrence? God has a preferred future for you. Don’t let your history prevent you from experiencing God’s best today and tomorrow.

Certainly, acknowledge your past – both failures and successes, mistakes and accomplishments, hurts and happinesses – but don’t dwell there. Dwelling on what is unchangeable results in undesirable symptoms, such as unrelenting discouragement, regrets, guilt, inconsolable grief, or diminished confidence. In God, your preferred future can be unencumbered by your history.

From his personal example, Paul gave wise, practical counsel, “I am focusing all my energies on this one thing. Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ is calling us up to Heaven.” Phil 3:13-14 NLT. Read those words again, thoughtfully. In them, I see simple but practical requirements for successful progress: singular focus, relinquishment of the unprofitable, anticipation of a preferred future, diligence and unrestrained effort, and Godly objective. Does your life demonstrate those traits?

Progress requires focus. Forward is the wise direction for your focus, if you plan to go somewhere more than where you have already been. Forward momentum is diminished by lack of focus and loss of direction. Denying reality doesn’t work so well; learn from the past but then move forward. Ask God’s forgiveness and accept His redemption, and press forward in grace. God’s future for you is preferred, every time. See Jeremiah 29:13 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you will trust God with both your history and future.

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