True Freedom – Happy 4th of July!!

Galatians 5:1

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.”

Isaiah 61:1

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;” 

Romans 8:1-2

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”

Many images come to mind when I contemplate what freedom means.  Imagery of a soldier, willingly choosing to fight to keep our land free from danger; thoughts of our founding fathers, tirelessly making sure our constitution protected our rights and freedoms; and an innocent God-man, choosing to lay down His life to purchase our freedom.

Freedom is not cheap.  It is the most expensive gift someone can give and receive.  Yet after it has been received it is often quickly forgotten what sacrifice was given to provide such a gift.  We can begin to deviate from what that freedom really was intended for if we are not mindful.  Freedom FROM sin, not freedom FOR sin.  Freedom to live in freedom, but not to use that freedom to infringe on other people’s freedoms.

As we remember the hard fought for freedom in the United States of America – won on the backs of those who laid down their lives so we could become a new nation, may we never forget the chief purpose – to be able to worship freely.  They saw a bigger purpose for our nation than just the American Dream of living lavishly.  We can still be a lamp to the world if we will remember the true freedom we were meant to have in this land – freedom to worship our living God.  We cannot let this hard-fought-for freedom die so easily.

Political correctness threatens to stifle our consciences and silence true Christianity, replacing it with dead religion that offers no hope nor true freedom.  In the name of freedom we are told people should have freedom of speech, yet Christians are told they cannot pray, the ten commandments are removed and a marine is disciplined for not removing her Scripture from her desk.  In the name of freedom, people demand offensive cakes be made and sue the ones who will not make it, denying the freedom of choice and conscience that the bakers have.  In the name of freedom, people proclaim their right to murder the unborn for their convenience, while the voices of those who cannot speak for themselves are silenced forever.

Our freedom is being taken from us little by little.  Do we perceive it?

We can still be a source of light to the nations if we do not forget our heritage.  Christ is the hope of all the nations and the only One Who really sets us free.

The ultimate freedom is the freedom from sin.  Freedom from bitterness.  Freedom to choose righteousness.  Freedom to love your enemies.  Unlike the freedom this world affords, the freedom Christ purchased is forever.  May true freedom reign in our hearts and our land.  To God be the glory!

Lord, thank You for setting my heart free twenty-seven years ago – I will never be the same.  Heal our land, LORD! Capture our hearts again and revive our hearts for you, Jesus.  Have mercy on our sins and make this nation Yours!

Thoughtful Thursday: When Dreams Are Shattered

Photo Credits

Photo Credits

Job 17:11

“My days have passed, my plans are shattered, even the desires of my heart.”

Proverbs 13:13

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is like a tree of life.”

Joel 2:25

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” 

Psalm 27:13-14

13 “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. 14 Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.”

Perhaps nothing stings more than the reality of a hope that is dashed or a dream that is unfulfilled.  You were so close to your goal, and then suddenly it is gone.  Or the plans you had for your life have seriously been altered, completely shattered because of circumstances beyond your control.

Why is it so disheartening?  What is it about a dream crushed that causes disillusionment?  I use a GPS most of the time I am driving.  My husband does not.  If he gets lost, he just works to figure it out.  I, on the other hand, begin to wonder if the world will end – I am lost – what do I do?  I want to be certain where I am going and the uncertainty causes concern and insecurity.  That is where faith comes in.

The great heroes of the faith did not always get in their time-frame what they were promised.  They desperately wanted to see their dreams or promises fulfilled, but they learned precious lessons while waiting.  Patience and trust cannot be earned by merely being taught, they are instead caught through endurance.

Perhaps the terrain looks a lot different than you thought it would.  Maybe you are on the correct path, but in God’s sovereignty, your destination is going to take longer to get to.  The character or tools needed for that assignment need to become part of you, before you can handle the plans God has for you.

But our souls cry out, how can destruction or pain be God’s best?  I honestly do not know or fully comprehend how God does it, but He does use every part of our pain for good.  Perhaps your hope or delight was in that dream, and seeing it as your end or goal, rather than in God and seeing it everything as part of God’s plan and surrendering our way to God’s best.

When it seems like there is no more joy, no more hope, that is where faith comes in.  Placing our hope in God rather than on the temporary fulfillment of this earth is perhaps the greatest treasure learned when our longings are not fulfilled in the timing or way we wanted.

Lord, help us to trust you when things look vastly different than we thought they should.  You know best.

I Must Be Dreaming

I Must Be Dreaming
By: Denise Pass © 7/9/14

reflecting on a pond - possible seeing deep

Psalm 71:20-24
:20 Though You have allowed me to experience much trouble and distress, revive me once again! Bring me up once again from the depths of the earth! 21 Raise me to a position of great honor! Turn and comfort me! 22 I will express my thanks to you with a stringed instrument, praising your faithfulness, O my God! I will sing praises to you accompanied by a harp, O Holy One of Israel! 23 My lips will shout for joy! Yes, I will sing your praises! I will praise you when You rescue me! 24 All day long my tongue will also tell about your justice, for those who want to harm me will be embarrassed and ashamed.”

Dreaming. Something I seldom do anymore – or at least I am unaware of it if I do. But that is to speak of the dreaming that occurs when one is sleeping – not the dreaming that occurs on purpose in real life. I have always admired the planners in this life – you know, the people who declared their major before they went to school – the ones who seem to have their whole lives planned out for them, without a hitch. The ones with a bucket list a mile long and half accomplished by age twenty-something.

I have tried to refrain from admitting it, but I am the artsy type – many think I am actually quite organized (chuckle), but truly I hang on the edge of every day, wondering what surprises it will bring. Sure, there are great attempts at using my ©Franklin planner and really trying to stick to it, but alas, consistency is hard to adhere to when one is just trying to accomplish the basics of their day, much less find their planner. There, I did it – the secret is now out – all those people who envied me for being organized, I have confessed it! Envy me no more!

Back in the days when I used to dream, in the year my world was rocked, the Lord was doing amazing things in the music He had inspired. Radio play in eleven states, first place in a Christian Contemporary category on an internationally televised show, an offer to be on a national compilation CD … things were coming together. Then disaster struck and none of that mattered anymore. I just wanted to hold my children in my arms and make all the pain go away.

Prolonging out the pain and process, my relentless enemy who used to be my friend dragged me incessantly to court claiming rights through the damage he had done. How would God use such a tragedy? Did He care that I was way off the goals I had formerly been pursuing? Was the original prophecy that had been spoken concerning the gifts He had placed in me no longer of any effect? It was the death of a dream, actually the death of many dreams and plans. The perfect marriage, the perfect family, a vibrant ministry. Dead.

But what was the original dream? Set ablaze with a passion for God in 1988, I wanted to be used by God for His glory, to share His love with anyone who God allowed to cross my path. I dreamed of doing mission work, of singing for His glory, to be more like Christ, to be faithful. When hands were laid on me professing that I would be singing and playing keyboard on stage and I was a Euphonium player at the time, I laughed. But has that dream been accomplished? Yes. The scope of that dream belongs to God – I just need to be open to how small or vast His purposes are in that gift, because it is, after all, all about Him and His dream.

Music has been the healing balm of my life, and yet it became difficult to write songs in the wake of tragedy. I continued to serve on worship teams, worshipping God through the pain and waiting. Functioning on a somewhat normal level seemed insurmountable. One foot in front of the other, one breath at a time, scrambling to put the pieces back together. But maybe God was going to create something completely different with the pieces this time.

One day a year or so after the abuse was discovered, I remember teaching my children and one of my daughters said to me, “you are Ai Wei Dei”. Puzzled, she reminded me of the story of Gladys Aylward that we had read together. She was saying I was a virtuous woman. Overcome by such praise, I realized in that moment that I had been doing exactly what God had me to do. Gladys Aylward rescued innocent children in China. I did not do anything as amazing as that, but I lived in a town called Bumpass (yep, true!) where God was using me to rescue my own children, and that was of far greater worth than what my former dream could have ever been.

Life will never be normal again (whatever that is?) and I am still the artsy one trying to figure out God’s calling on my life. I have heard that God is in the ordinary things of life – that is our Holy calling. So for now, I am laying it all down before the Creator Who gave it all to begin with and asking afresh for Him to do as He pleases. A scary thing when some things that have transpired seemed to be off course and not what He would will, but actually the safest place to be.

So here is to dreaming again – though this time it might look quite different. Whether my dreams are being an amazing wife to my fantastic husband of almost four years, being a faithful mom who never tires of discipling and loving her children, writing songs for God, writing this blog, stepping out and ministering through Word and song again, or some perceived mundane thing, or wherever His path leads, it is all about Him and His glory. Creating space to dream again – are you?

Lord, thank you that an end is not the end. You are never surprised by the sudden changes wrought by sin or consequences of living in a fallen world. You use that hideous thing for good and to somehow bring You glory – the original purpose anyway. Help us to dream again – to believe You can do the impossible and be willing to walk faithfully with you even when it seems our dreams are not coming true. They are Your dreams, after all. Praise Your Name!