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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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Overwhelmed But Not Overcome

July 28th, 2017

Emotions provide color and beauty to life.

 “I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed.”  Psalm 61:2 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are about being, “Overwhelmed But Not Overcome.”

Feelings enrich your experience of life. But there are times when feelings are confusing, even overwhelming. In such times, you can find comfort and companionship from Jesus. “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV. Feelings are real but they are not always right. You have to deal with them but you do not have to believe them. There will be times when you may wish you didn’t have so many feelings to contend with. But I would not want to be without emotions, nor should you. Emotions also provide color and beauty to your life experience.

Jesus felt crushing emotions and dealt with them, as when He agonized over Jerusalem’s rejection. Luke 13:34-35 NIV. Or as He wept in Gethsemane’s garden when He foresaw the suffering of the cross. Luke 22:42 NIV. There is good news for such times. “[Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same temptations we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.” Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT.

At such times, easy answers won’t comfort you nor will empty platitudes that urge you to ignore or deny your feelings make feelings go away. I have learned that feelings are real, whether positive or negative, and you must reckon with them. Denying troubling feelings only amplifies their power. They won’t just go away because you wish they would. You should deal with them. You do not have to submit to them. Your feelings are real, but not always based in reality. Ofttimes, it is better to doubt them than believe them. Don’t become a slave to your emotions.

Embrace and enjoy healthy emotions; God gave them for your blessing. But what can you do with the unhealthy ones – like anger, fear, discouragement, worry, doubt, frustration, jealousy, or distress? God always has the answer. “Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:4 NIV. First, do not indulge feeling guilty for honest emotions, nor continue entertaining unhealthy emotions either. Bring them out in the open. Without shame, place them in God’s presence where the Holy Spirit can help you handle every emotion. That’s what Jesus did in His agony, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow . . Father, please take this suffering away from Me. Yet I want Your will, not mine.” Mark 14:34 NIV/36 NLT. You can fully trust God in such moments, if you will.

To understand feelings, you must examine their origins. Sometimes, only God can expose the source of your feelings. When emotions overrule your will, bad feelings prompt bad choices. The Holy Spirit within you will always give you the power and wisdom to make right choices, if you ask. Remove the hurry and you reduce the worry.

More than circumstances, busy schedules are the root cause of feeling overwhelmed. You feel overwhelmed when stuff pushes God to the outer edges of your life. When you are overwhelmed: make time to recuperate physically, mentally, relationally, emotionally, and spiritually. Take time to rest. You must prioritize the necessary time. Take time to share your need for prayer with a friend. Take time to quiet your heart in God’s presence. “I am content and at peace, as a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me.” Psalm 131:2 TEV. Take time to pray, asking God for help and healing. Take time to listen, until you hear a fresh, invigorating word from God.

Feeling the emotions of circumstances beyond his strength, David determined, “I will cry to You for help, for my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering Rock of safety, for You are my safe refuge.” Psalm 61:2 NLT.

Today, I pray for you to choose daily to live by strong faith and not strong feelings.

Christian Communications 2017-0579

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Past Dependencies

April 29th, 2011

“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” John 5:8 NIV

“Dependencies keep you what you’ve been, preventing what you could become.”

My thoughts today are about “past dependencies.”

Everybody is leaning on something – maybe past experience, charm and personality, excuses and explanations, wealth, education, social circles, reputation, others’ charity, government assistance, even religion. None of those, nor all of them together, can give you the life you really want to have. There are seasons when anyone may have to lean upon something to get through a crisis; the problem is when dependencies become a lifestyle. Dependencies keep you what you’ve been, preventing what you could become.

Paul addresses this strange dichotomy this way, “Carry each other’s burdens . . each one should carry his own load.” Galatians 6:2/5 NIV. Both are true, but not at the same time. The reality is there are times you depend upon another’s consideration and kindness, and other times that someone is depending on yours. It is only a problem when either of those becomes exclusive of the other.

John told the story of a man who had every reason to lean on others; his weakness made him dependent on others in one way or another. John 5:5-15 NKJV. John describes him as having ”been in that condition a long time.” Whether he got to the Pool of Bethesda with help or by his own painful, struggling efforts, he got there hoping for a miracle of healing and recovery. The effect of his own efforts had been unsuccessful; the help of others had not been as helpful as he hoped. But he was still there, and he was still trying. That is important!

Without knowing that Jesus, the greatest worker of miracles, would be there that day, his hope and efforts put him in exactly the place for his life-changing moment. The mat upon which he laid could represent any number of past dependencies upon which people learn to rely, all ultimately ineffective and unhelpful. Your entire history changes when you recognize Jesus invites and empowers you to step free of every past dependency. The past gives way to your future.

The question is always the same, “Jesus . . asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’” No one can answer that but you, and it is not your words but your actions that provide the honest answer. The first step for lasting change is a passion demonstrated by real effort to be different than you’ve been. What do you really want, improvement or life-change?

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’” You cannot make lasting change without God; God does not effect eternal change without your willing, whole-hearted involvement. When your want engages your will, God’s power is released. “At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” An almighty God makes possible what you could not do on your own. What weaknesses of excuse, habit, or history keep you from your full potential?

Does God still do those kinds of things today – healing physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually? Jesus would be the One to best answer that: “My Father is always at work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” John 5:17 NIV. Sounds to me like being rid of past dependencies is still possible with a God Who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8/James 1:17 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is: refuse yesterday’s limits, comfortable as they may have been.

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Pride and Humility

June 9th, 2010

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord.” James 4.10 NKJV

“Humility is neither overestimating nor underestimating yourself.”

My thoughts today are about “pride and humility.”

Why do people struggle with humility? Since we all do have so much about which to be humble, why would we have such a hard time being genuinely humble? People seem to prefer projecting pride and self-importance, but everyone has plenty about which to be genuinely humble, more than any of us may wish to recognize.

Humility does not appear to be one of the top ten most desired, or admired, personal attributes. Why do people think poorly of humility? Too many consider humility akin to weakness and inadequacy, possibly because it exposes where you are less than you wish you were.

Does God expect you to belittle yourself in order to appear humble? I wouldn’t think so. He is justifiably proud of who He made you to be and the gifts He placed in you. “I tell everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he should think. Instead, think sensibly as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.” Romans 12:3. A paraphrase of that verse says, “Be honest in your estimate of yourself.” Neither overestimate nor underestimate yourself.

God does not expect you to pretend to appear something less than you are in order to seem humble, nor to pretend to be something more than you actually are, to impress others. He wants you to be realistic about your strengths, as well as your needs.

Ignoring either can have consequences. Ignore your strengths and you will never do or be your best, and will not find the success of which you are capable. Ignore your weaknesses and you will not look to God for His anointing and empowerment, nor appreciate supporting relationships and the contributions that others have made toward your successes.

Consider this word of caution: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time.” 1 Peter 5:5-6. Peter well remembered the awkward lesson of the Upper Room. John 13:5-11.

You do not want God to “resist” you, or be apart from your efforts, because of pride. You need, and want, the grace God gives to the humble. When you are honest with God, yourself, and others, you are unapologetic and confident about your strength, while unafraid to admit your inabilities; that’s real humility.

My prayer for you today is: be at ease with your God-given competence, and confident in Him.

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