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: Our True Need

Job 35:9

“People cry out because of the excess of oppression, they cry out for help because of the power of the Mighty.”

Job 36:15

“He delivers the afflicted by their afflictions, He reveals Himself to them by their suffering.”

 

 

Deep inside each of us in a need – most likely there are many needs within us.  Some of the needs are hidden from our eyes and others control us, whether we are aware of it or not.  Sometimes we are ashamed to admit our needs or hurts, but ultimately all of our longings cause us to in humility see our need of God.

It is in our raw time of need that we cry out to God.  When everything is comfortable, we often do not feel compelled to ask God to help us with the basic aspects of life.  In our independence we do not want to have to need God so much and fail to see that everything we are able to do is only His grace in our lives.  We take for granted how much He has done for us and how many needs He has already met in our lives.  In reality, I needed God only when I thought I needed Him – when times were challenging.  But I need Him for every aspect of life.

God invites us to come to Him in our need.  When we come to God, He examines us.  We come wanting Him to give us something – maybe relief from suffering, but many times when we cry out to God for the affliction to stop, the affliction is the very tool He is using to heal us.

Sometimes we do not see or recognize our TRUE NEED.  We come crying out to God and leave changed, perhaps seeing our need from a different perspective.  We focus on the external, but God is wanting that hunger, that ache to open our eyes to see our need of HIM.  More than anything this world has to offer, we were made for Him and He wants to meet all of our cares with Himself.

Lord, thank you that You know what our real needs are and in Your wisdom You use our needs to bring us to Yourself.

Worshipful Wednesday: The Source of Lasting Happiness

Psalm 34:5

“Those who look to Him for help are happy; their faces are not ashamed.” 

Proverbs 16:20

“He that handles a matter wisely shall find good: and whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he.” 

Philippians 4:4

“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.”

Happiness.  An emotion many spend a majority of their lives trying to gain, but do not realize they already obtain it.  Artificial happiness is often temporary, when the focus of that joy is on something that was never meant to provide lasting joy.  Even when someone has all of the trappings of our society, which are supposed to supply happiness, there can remain an emptiness that no earthly joy was ever meant to fill.  Ironically, children in dire poverty can have a far greater joy than children who have every luxury.

Acquiring this genuine happiness is then not found in anything on this earth, because it all fades away anyway.  God does provide happiness to us through blessings in this life, but these blessings were never meant to be our complete joy. Blessings of this life were meant to foster a love and thankfulness to our God who provides them, and ultimately to be used to glorify the Giver of our lives and all the blessings that He gives us.

Few find the true joy that a relationship with God brings.  We are easily distracted and focused on things that appeal to the flesh that we can forget the happiness that comes from a simple life hidden in Christ.  Rising up in the morning to our routine, we can rush past moments with God if we do not choose to abide in Him and let Him fill our hearts to overflowing with Himself.

If we really believed and knew the kind of joy God could give us, we would run to Him.  He longs to have us fulfilled in Him. This does not mean we will not have to endure sad moments, but it does mean we can have a joy in the midst of those times.  He is our source of joy and delighting in Him is our strength for all of life’s ups and downs.

Lord, what a good God You are, who wants to fill us with joy.  Be our joy and help us to recognize how blessed we are in You.

If this blog has blessed you, perhaps the songs from this ministry will, too.  www.pledgemusic.com/seeingdeep

True Righteousness

Photo Credits pastorerickson.com

Photo Credits
pastorerickson.com

Philippians 3:8-9

“More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my LORD, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ  9 and be found in Him not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s righteousness.”

Isaiah 64:6

“We are all like one who is unclean, all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in your sight. We all wither like a leaf; our sins carry us away like the wind.”

Under house arrest, Paul was free to pen this precious book of the Bible.  Sometimes I wonder if house arrest is what it takes for us to accomplish God’s will – our busy lives have to be paused so we can really focus on what God has called us to.  Certainly times of illness or breaks in schedule give us an occasion to pause and contemplate.  Paul wrote this book as a “safeguard” (3:1) to his brothers and sisters.  What was he trying to protect them from?  False righteousness.

Full of zeal, few compared to the righteousness by the law that Paul had achieved.  Yet he recognized that what was formerly viewed in his eyes and others as righteous was now disgusting to him and not true righteousness at all.  Paradoxically, he saw that his loss of that perceived position of righteousness was truly a gain.  Though we are in the new covenant, we have the same systems of righteousness today, seemingly unnoticed.

There is a danger today of ascribing holiness externally – what we wear, what we eat, how we serve the church.  And while these outward signs done in accordance with God’s Word are evidence of fruit born in the lives of faithful followers of Christ, they are not our righteousness.  This does not mean we cast off the wisdom in approaching decisions of dress, food and service as insignificant because they do not make us righteous.  Rather, our hope is not in them and there is no pride we can have for making the supposedly “right” decisions.

The graphic image of righteous acts being likened to a menstrual rag is crude.  The LORD does not mince words with us – He knows how futile the pursuit of righteousness apart from Him is and makes it plain that it does not come close to what He says is righteous.  The price of blood for sins is also repulsive to us – the requirement seems so unnecessary and disgusting – slaughtering an animal for our iniquity.  Until we catch a glimpse of the holiness of God.  Sin is death.  False righteousness is death, not life.  It leads us away from a close relationship with God and instead into a dead religion.

Our lips can say the right words, we can outwardly manifest all of the “religiously correct” standards according to some, but still not understand what it means to be truly righteous.  Until it is etched into our hearts that we truly do not contain any righteousness on our own, we are indeed far from righteousness.  Maintaining that understanding is so very difficult, for we begin to see God working in us and can be deceived that it is actually us being righteous.  In God’s economy, His righteousness would be imputed to the unholy.  Completely undeserved, blemished lambs covered in His Holy blood.  I am undone.  Praise His Name.

Oh God – we kneel before you poor, destitute, having no righteousness of our own.  We come before You recognizing that only You are truly righteous!  Please help us to be like Paul – always cognizant that we are chief of sinners – and to live sold out for Your glory alone.

Wisdom is humble

Picture credits  blog.centresource.com

Picture credits
blog.centresource.com

1 Kings 3:5-14

“One night in Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream.  God said, ‘Tell me what I should give you.’  6 Solomon replied, ‘You demonstrated great loyalty to your servant, my father David, as he served you faithfully, properly, and sincerely.  You have maintained this great loyalty to this day by allowing his son to sit on his throne.  7 Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in my father David’s place, even though I am only a young man and am inexperienced.  8  Your servant stands among your chosen people; they are a great nation that is too numerous to count or number.  9 So give your servant a discerning mind so he can make judicial decisions for your people and distinguish right from wrong.  Otherwise no one is able to make judicial decisions for this great nation of yours.’ 10 The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.  God said to him, “Because you asked for the ability to make wise judicial decisions, and not for long life, or riches, or vengeance on your enemies, I grant your request, and give you a wise and discerning mind superior to that of anyone who has preceded or will succeed you.  13 Furthermore, I am giving you what you did not request – riches and honor so that you will be the greatest king of your generation.  14 If you follow my instructions by obeying my rules and regulations, just as your father David did, then I will grant you long life.’ 

Decisions.  Difficult to make, especially when the heat and pressure is on.  It was shortly after Solomon was endowed with wisdom that he had to choose between two women whose baby was whose.  Just today I had to make a tough decision – many, actually.  And the day has just begin.  Thank God that He promises wisdom to all who ask Him.  But what impresses me about this story of Solomon was his heart. 

We all marvel that Solomon was not greedy and made a selfless decision.  But upon further examination, I am amazed at the disposition of Solomon.  True humility cannot be faked.  On the spot, He is overwhelmed that God would ask him to choose at all.  His first response was to praise God for His past kindness shown to his father, David, then for God’s loyalty and godly character.  He then states how amazed he is that God would choose him at all and professes his own weakness.  I am blown away that he recognizes his lack of capacity to lead God’s people and blatantly states that he cannot do it without God’s help.  Solomon had the most important thing settled in his soul: his kingdom was not his, the people he governed were God’s.  He needed wisdom from God to be able to judge in a way that pleased God.  Wow.

I’d like to think we would all choose so wisely, but confess I can look over my life and see times where I saw God’s grace to judiciously choose and times where I did not.  What impeded walking in wisdom in those times?  Perhaps, if we take inventory of our lives, we might see where we strayed more clearly.  Were we leaning on God, or man’s understanding in those times?  I guess we could all say that Solomon also had moments like that, too.  He was not perfect.  (700 wives and 300 concubines, probably not so smart in this aspect of his life).  But his heart saw his true, sincere need for God, and at the most critical moment at the beginning of His kingdom, He knew his foundation had to be laid in God. 

Maybe some people reading this blog look over their lives and see wreckage.  Regrets over past decisions which have impacted your life leave you wondering if there is any hope for recovery at all.  The same invitation from God for Solomon is extended to you – ask God for wisdom, like Solomon did.  Consequences might still remain, but in Christ they will serve to purify us and glorify Him.  Maybe you are at a crossroads right now and need to make a decision which will potentially impact your life.  Maybe you do not recognize that it will impact your life and just “go with the flow”.  Hopefully not. 

Solomon lived a peaceful life.  God had promised this before he was even a king, but God also knew what Solomon would ask for.  Making wise decisions can bring peace, but sometimes unwise choices are made that affect your life, too, which you had no say in.  Either way, we daily feel the impact of walking in wisdom and numbering our days aright, or not.  Right now, we can choose to recognize our need of God and His wisdom.  Really recognize it – not just give mental assent to it because it is what we are supposed to say.  We can see our utter moral poverty before a Holy God and give Him our lives, which are His, after all.

In our quest to be wise, we can surround ourselves with people who are wise.  We may know many people we consider wise, but possessing true wisdom is vastly different than one who is puffed up with knowledge.  Who surrounds you in your daily life?  Walking with fools can wreck your life and impact you, too.  He who walks with the wise becomes wise

Lord, help us to choose wisdom and to walk in a manner that pleases You.  Help us to see our need of you and to have the humility to ask for Your wisdom and not rely or lean on our own understanding.