Self-Centered Freedom Is No Freedom At All

Our world’s view of tolerance and acceptance has started to erode the churches moral standards and beliefs. Many Christians are leaning towards a relativistic view of morality instead of holding fast to the Word of Truth. Many claim that freedom in Christ allows them to make choices to live in a way that Christianity has traditionally held to be immoral and sinful. This self-centered freedom is no freedom at all. It is bondage to the flesh and fleshly desires. It is a lack of discipline. It is sin against a Holy God. Also, it is a sin against the people that we are called to love.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). Our selfishness in demanding freedom is a far cry from stirring up love and encouraging good works in one another. When we choose to live as slaves to sin, it is harmful to those around us. Paul shared this with the Corinthian church. “And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:11-12). Paul was addressing believers who were selfishly standing in their freedom without concern for how it affected weaker believers. Do we do that? It seems to be a predominant theme in American Christianity today, and it is wrong.

We must humble ourselves and care for others. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Looking to the interests of others means that we will avoid sin. We will not succumb to temptation because we are to be an example. We will withstand the attacks of the enemy because we do not want to harm others by dragging them into sin with us. We will practice self-control so we do not wound the conscience of weaker believers. We will practice what is good and right because we love others and want them to have an example that encourages them to live in freedom with Jesus.

Again, we are called to love one another. When we choose to follow our desires and succumb to the flesh, we always affect those around us. To continue in a path of sin, is a most unloving act. Our friends and family are harmed. Our churches are weakened. The people we sin with are driven farther from God. And we fail to declare the glory and honor and power of the Almighty. Loving others requires us to choose real freedom, freedom from sin, not freedom to sin.

Lord, let me live a free life, a life free from sin. Teach me self-control. Let me control emotions and desires so they do not control me. Give me strength to live this life of freedom ina a way that encourages others to be free also. If I truly love others, I will live as sinlessly as possible so I can be a blessing to them. Let me be an example and support to those who are weak. Help me to make decisions wisely, realizing that they affect others. I live in a community, and my behavior affects that community. Only in you and the power of the Spirit will I have the strength to love those around me in truth. Fill me with that power today and every day. Amen

It Is For Freedom That Christ Has Set Us Free

chain” For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

We are free in Jesus if we have trusted in Jesus as our personal Savior. Free from the ultimate penalty of sin. We have been redeemed; we are no longer slaves to sin. We now belong to God. We are His and there is no changing it. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free! What joy! This is indeed a blessing, as it is only in Jesus that we have true freedom.

True freedom is Jesus buying us by His precious blood, so we are free to be the person God created us to be. This is a person who enjoys a personal relationship with God. This is a person who by the power of God can live a righteous life. This is a life that is free from guilt, fear, and worry. It is for freedom that He has set us free. God wants us to enjoy liberty in Him.

“Stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Jesus has set us free, but we have choices. We have free will and can choose how we are going to live. This verse makes it clear that we can continue to live as slaves to sin. When we continue to live a life that is controlled by anything other than the Spirit and Truth, we are submitting to slavery.

A freed prisoner generally looks forward to their independence. Most of us would think it incredulous to leave prison just to move into a studio apartment and by choice imprison ourselves there. After being incarcerated, I would think that I would want to eat out, explore nature, and visit with friends and family without constraint. It would seem odd for an ex-prisoner to stay in a small apartment, alone, virtually locked up by their own choice. But this is the choice many Christians make.

We have freedom in Jesus to move away from the hold sin has put on us. We can now feast on the riches of Christ, explore the goodness of God, and visit with God and others without constraint. We have a new life and new opportunity. We are now at liberty to enjoy and explore. Let us make the most of the opportunity by choosing to live by the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:16-26).

We have a choice. Living by and walking with the Spirit is freedom. In Him will exhibit the character of a truly free person. The fruit of the Spirit will be the fruit of our lives. The old person that was bound by sin is powerless, and we do not have to go back to old familiar patterns. We have been given true freedom. The freedom to do what is right.

Jesus, Our Savior and Redeemer, Thank you for saving me from slavery to sin. Please give me the will, the desire and the strength to continue to live by the Spirit. Do not let me look back at my sinful past in a nostalgic way. Remind me of the bondage and the pain that the old life put me through and put you through. Let me cling to what is good. Let me be free!

The Freedom To Do What Is Right

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Galatians 5:16-17
Many Christians today are proclaiming that Jesus gives us freedom. I agree, but they mean something different. By a weird twist, some extend this freedom to allow immorality and sin. This selfish idea of freedom is not what God intended. We have distorted true freedom and replaced it with narcissism.
True freedom is the ability to do what is honorable and noble. What is honorable and noble is defined by God and not by people. Living by the Spirit, with His ideals, will, and motives as our standard, is true freedom. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal 5:18). The law was condemnation and living in the Spirit is freedom. God’s freedom gives us the ability to rise above the corruption that resides within our fallen selves and live the abundant life in Jesus.
It seems odd that Christians, followers of Jesus, would want to go back to a life of slavery, but many are choosing bondage. Whole churches and denominations are condoning or covering up sin issues that cause serious harm. I believe it is because many have an incorrect view of freedom. I have met Christian’s who believe that freedom is the right to live their lives in any way they choose and still have God’s blessing. They believe that loving others means that we tolerate their sin. It seems that a prevailing belief is that Jesus’ biggest concern is that we should feel good. But these ideas do not lead to freedom, but rather to oppression.
How is sin and bondage defined? It is defined by God. He did not leave us guessing. There are signs that indicate slavery to sin. “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:19-21). This is a list of some of the things we find in the lives of those that are oppressed.
These are things that should not be habitually practiced by the children of the King of Kings. We have all of the resources we need to live well and to enjoy our freedom. Why do we choose to live bound by the limits of sin?
In my next blog, I will continue to discuss the freedom to do what is right.

Dear Lord, Give me the strength I need to stand true to your values and principles. Give me the power of the Spirit so I can remain in your will, living in freedom. Constantly remind me of the resources you have provided for me. Let me use them for your glory and for the benefit of those around me. Keep me from abusing my freedom and causing harm to others. I love you Lord and thank you that I am free in you?

Serve With A Humble Heart

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14 NIV)
As I studied the Pharisees, I was reminded that their righteousness was self-seeking. They were full of pride and looked with disdain on all who did not meet up to their standards. They thought so highly of themselves that they neglected to give glory and honor to God. Instead, even their prayers were praises to their name and for their glory.
Asking whether I am truly seeking to glorify God or if I am seeking my own glory and praise would be a excellent way to see whether I am living in the Spirit. If my motive is self-glorification, even if I am doing what externally appears good, it will not please God. My service must be done in his power and for his glory to be acceptable worship. If not, I am one of the people who is a lover of themselves…having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:2-5).
Questioning my motives is extremely difficult. This speaks directly to the heart of the matter. Directly to my heart and what I believe matters. When my motives, along with my outward actions, are right and pure, then and only then will I be glorifying God. This is true and right worship.
I read a quote that reminds me who alone deserves glory and praise. “It’s ludicrous for any Christian to believe that he or she is the worthy object of public worship; it would be like the donkey carrying Jesus into Jerusalem believing the crowds were cheering and laying down their garments for him.” (Charles Colson)
Today King Jesus, I pray that I will carry you into the world and that the crowds will cheer and worship you and you alone. I pray that I can remember that I am a created being and you are the Creator. I am, in a sense, just the donkey that carries you among the people. How wonderful to have the opportunity to carry you and your goodness and love to the world. Thank you for allowing me to serve you. Let me be faithful to serve with a humble heart.

I Get To Hang Out With People

1044394_553660813650_393947467_n[1]“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:5
My daughter posted this beautiful picture on Facebook today. I was so jealous. She got to swim with the dolphins. I have always wanted to do that. I have had a fascination with dolphins for years. They are beautiful creatures that are highly intelligent. They are also friendly and interactive. Dolphins are social creatures that seem to enjoy playing together. I thought about all of this while lying in bed this morning dreaming of my chance to swim with them.
A grumbling spirit started to creep over me when the Lord revealed truth to me. I get to go to work today! Yes, at first that seems reason to encourage my grumbling spirit, but wait. I am going to be interacting with God’s creation all day. Today, I get to hang out with people! I am blessed.
People are special creations of God. They are created in the image of God Himself. God breathed the breath of life into man and man became a living being. Then He created a unique counterpart for man, the woman. As evidenced in Genesis, God took exceptional care in creating human beings. They are important to Him. What a privilege, in light of this, that I get to hang out with people.
Ok, you still aren’t convinced. Here is the best reason for being excited about playing with people. God is excited about people. He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. He spoke with Abraham. He calls His children to reason together with Him. Jesus came to earth as a man so He could save people. Save them from what? Separation from Himself. Save them for what? Eternity with Him. God wants to hang out with people. The more we become like Him, the more our desires are His desires. That’s why God’s children should be excited about spending time with people.
People are beautiful. They are highly intelligent. Most are friendly and interactive. Humans are social creatures that seem to enjoy playing together. With the Lord’s help, I can change my thinking and begin to dream of opportunities to hang out with people.

Holy God, There is no reason that you needed a relationship with us. You are complete in yourself. Because of this, I know that it is a choice, a choice born out of love that you interact with me. I am so thankful that you Lord have made provision through Jesus so that I am able to interact with you. I am also thankful that much of that interaction is play. I am allowed to enjoy and have fun in your presence. There are times when we have to do hard work, sometimes we have to endure discipline, but Lord I thank you for play time. Let me see the potential in each person. Give me insight into their world so that my interactions will be kind and caring and full of fun and joy. Today let me be excited that I have the privilege to hang out with people. Also, I would still like to swim with the dolphins.

Christian, Involve Your Mind, Be Intellectual

“If you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5).

 

Receive, incline, be attentive, seek, call out for, and search for knowledge. This sounds as if  we are expected to put forth effort to strengthen our mind. We need to be proactive in gaining intellectual insight. Is this the attitude of our culture? Is this the attitude of our churches? Is this my attitude?

The intellectual life seems to be out of vogue these days. Most people do not talk about what they are learning or thinking about; rather they discuss what they do and what they experience. Truths are not important in our society anymore, what matters most to people are events, happenings and the busy details of life.

When they do talk about thoughts or the thought life, they share opinions. These opinions are often ideas that they chose to believe because they like the idea, not because it is based in truth. Even Christians have this anti-intellectual mindset. They often base their idea of what Jesus would do on their feelings or worse, they base it on their secular training.  By choosing to define Christian ideas, by man’s ideas, we have given the world and other believers the wrong impression on what it means to live for Jesus.

To make an impact on our world, we must have something impactful to offer. Our watered down version of Christianity that we have imagined in our minds will not have the power to cause revival, let alone reach a lost world. We must get back to studying the Word and base our thoughts of God on truth. “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23). Intellectual effort must be exerted to know the truth.

How can we serve and worship the God we do not know? In John 4, Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman. He told her that they were worshipping what they do not know. The Samaritans had been worshipping according to their national training, not according to the truth of God. It seems that we in America may be in this same mindset. We are called to worship, but we cannot worship what we do not know. We are called to impact our world. We are called to know Jesus.

Our intellectual well being matters. We are called to put forth effort in knowing the truth. To do our best for our God and Savior, we must study. We need to know, (be aware of through observation, inquiry, or information[i]), God and His Word.

 

Thank you Lord, that I live in a time when it is easy to learn about you. I have so many resources to help me. I have access to material and insight from renowned teachers and scholars, past and present. I have an innate curiosity and desire to learn. You have truly blessed me. Do not let me waste my time on worthless pursuits or passivity. Help me to know You and Your Will better as I study to know you more.

For an in depth look at the importance of  an intellectual life that pleases God, I recommend

 



[i] dictionary.com

 

Do All Things Without Complaining

I broke my finger recently. It is the index finger on my right hand. It has been painful, and I have been a big baby about it. I thought about posting a picture of it on Facebook, in order to elicit more sympathy to my cause. I am glad I decided against it: First of all because I might lose readers who get grossed out easily and secondly because I have little reason to feel sorry for myself. I really don’t need that bad attitude encouraged.

Here is the story. I was at work on Memorial Day. I reached into the tube system to pull out a tube full of change. I had been distracted and didn’t realize how long it had been since it dropped. Suddenly I heard a tube rattling in the system overhead. I did not get my hand out quickly enough, and my finger was smashed between the tubes.

After the emergency room, my sister-in-law took me to the pharmacy to get pain meds. My little niece, Amanda, came and spent the night with me so I wouldn’t have to be alone. I was off work for about a week. I read, watched movies, ate, and relaxed. I had to avoid chores because I had a broken finger!

Although it sounds like a little vacation, and it was, I had moments when it was hard to look at it that way. I hurt. I wasn’t sleeping well. The antibiotics and pain medication made my stomach upset. I had a hard time doing simple tasks for myself. I started to get discouraged. I dropped the shampoo bottle while showering. It was hard to wash my hair with a plastic bag over my hand and a bulky splint on my finger. I started to cry and pray.

As I did, the Lord reminded me that my situation was minor in the scheme of things. He reminded me that on Memorial Day many celebrated lost loved ones and I worried about a lost fingernail. He reminded me that I had a beautiful home to relax in, a supportive family to help me, and medication to ease my suffering. Later as I was whining about the difficulty in taking a shower, He brought to my remembrance this video. http://youtu.be/gpBqR7_ilz0

I realized that complaining is a problem for me. I need to have a thankful heart. Too often I believe life should be problem free. When it is not, I am a big baby. Instead, I need to view the obstacles in my path as opportunities to be an over comer. “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5). Who overcomes? The believer in Jesus.

 

I want to thank you Jesus for loving me and caring for me. I want to thank you for giving me power by your Spirit to overcome. Let me show courage in adversity. Thank you for the examples of courage that you brought to my remembrance. They persuaded me to change my attitude. Help me to keep an over comer’s attitude for that is who I am.

The Piñata Principle

pinata 1“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

I was driving down the road the other day when I saw pieces of a yellow Big Bird piñata scattered along the way. I thought that it was sad that it was all broken up and a mess. Then it dawned on me. If it was not broken, nobody would have been able to enjoy the contents, the candy!

I thought about this verse from 2 Corinthians. s were traditionally made by decorating a clay pot. And they hold treasure. They hold treasure that someone has put inside. The person that put it inside did not want it to stay there. They intended for it to be shared and enjoyed.

For the treasure to be enjoyed, the clay pot must first be broken. A whole piñata looks pretty but if it isn’t broken to reveal the treasure then it hasn’t fulfilled its purpose. A piñata is created to be destroyed. Only after the piñata is broken and the treasure is revealed does the crowd get excited.

We are clay pots, fragile and easily broken. We are all decorated differently and we work hard to keep looking good on the outside. Our natural inclination is to stay safe and whole, looking good to the world, but we must be willing to be broken. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

God wants to reveal his glory through our lives. Unless we are willing for the old life to be destroyed, we will never fulfill our true purpose. The crowd will only ring out with joy and excitement if the treasure is revealed.

God fills us with good gifts. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). God fills us with hope, joy, and peace. The trials of life break away the facade we carefully built around our clay pot. Then, God breaks off the old papier-mâché and cracked clay pot. This allows the sweet treasure he has filled us with to pour forth and bless everyone around us. The good gifts of God can then be
shared and enjoyed.

Lord, it is painful to give up my pride in my own beauty and strength even though it is only papier-mâché and a clay pot. Brokenness is necessary. I want to reveal your hope, joy and peace to the world. This is the purpose to which You have called me. I will not reveal your goodness or grace if I keep your treasures hidden. Make me brave Lord. Give me the courage to accept the beatings that will break away the outer layers to reveal your hope, joy, and peace inside. Let the crowds ring out in joy and praise because You have poured forth blessings and gifts through me. Let me fulfill the purpose You have called me to, even when it is painful and hard. May all glory go to the one who gives the gifts, the host of the party, You Lord, and you alone.

I Desperately Needed a Change of Attitude

“Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10

I just finished a conversation with a friend about five minutes ago. She had spent some time with a controlling relative recently. It reminded me of a controlling mom from my past.

I was a softball coach. One of my players had an overbearing mom. She constantly interrupted things to tell me what to do. As is often the case, the mom had no understanding of the game. It was a difficult situation. I tried to avoid the mom and I felt sorry for the girl. I eventually lost track of the family.

I was reintroduced to the girl through Facebook. I was shocked. Many of the pictures she had posted were risque. The places she spent time were unhealthy, and the things she bragged about doing were sinful. I attributed her wayward behavior to rebellion against an overbearing mom, although I am sure this is not the outcome this mom wanted.

This is a sad story, but there is an even sadder one that I am going to share. I relayed this story in some detail to my friend without any sympathy or concern for this family. Instead, I openly displayed disdain. Instead of compassion for this young lady who lives a life of slavery to sin, I showed contempt. This is truly sad. It seems that I need a change of attitude.

This was a perfect opportunity for me to intercede for this family. I have access to the throne of God. I could have prayed that God would intervene and free them from sin and its consequences. As I look back, I also had a perfect opportunity to show concern when I coached the girl. Why wasn’t I in constant prayer for each girl that I was coaching?  Their eternal wellbeing matters more than how well they played softball. My priorities were and still are obviously messed up.

I must remember that each person is created in the image of God. Each is a soul for which Jesus died. If they matter to Him, they should matter to me. But they haven’t.

Now you have heard it, my sadder story. I encounter many people during the course of my day, and many more during the course of my life. Instead of viewing them as precious souls that Jesus came to save, I make judgments based on my own prejudices and legalism.  I desperately need a change of attitude.

 

Father  forgive me and make a change in my heart and mind. Oh Lord, let me love as you love. Let my heart’s desire be for others to come to know you as their personal Savior. Even when I am unable to change their circumstances or intervene to make a difference, I can pray. I can intervene on behalf of the lost because You can change their circumstances and intervene to make a difference. You can also change their heart. To You be all glory and honor and praise.

Laying Aside Every Weight

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Heb 12:1)

 

I was talking with a friend at the coffee shop. During our conversation, she expressed a desire to free herself from the burden of too many possessions. She was going to start by getting rid of old school books. A few days after she mentioned this, I was with another friend who said he had been moving his college text books with him for over 25 years. He said that he thought they may come in handy for reference, but he had never used them after finishing the courses.

This got me to thinking about all of the books that I owned. My vast collection contains many wonderful books. I keep buying bookcases and unpacking more great books. So much knowledge and so many lofty and fantastic ideas are contained within those covers. There is enough information to keep my mind occupied for many lifetimes. Included in my collection, I too have college text books that I kept for references. I haven’t used them.

My friends and I thought we had good reasons for keeping all of these books. It is with the best intentions that we held on to them. It is not bad or wrong to have them. In some ways it is considered noble and honorable that we desire knowledge and continue to learn. But all of those books can be a problem. We all realized this when we had to move them. They are heavy bulky and require storage space.

Moving, unpacking, organizing, storing, and dusting the books was burdensome. It made me think about Hebrews 12:1. Let us throw off everything that hinders us (NIV), or let us lay aside every weight (ESV). Without realizing it, I was keeping stuff that hindered me. I was holding on to a weight that was slowing me down.

My friends and I realized that we were hauling the books around because we thought they may be useful, but they weren’t. They weren’t bad or evil. There was no sin in keeping them. They were just a problem because they slowed us down and kept us from going forward. They held us back financially. We could have sold some of them back to the college and improved our financial position. They took up time. They were heavy to move. They took up space.

My books sat on the shelf as a reminder of my inadequacy. Why don’t I read more? How come I can’t get to these books? It would be good for me to grow in knowledge. Why are my priorities so messed up? These questions inspired me to reexamine my attitudes about my books. I also realized I needed to look at other things that might be hindering me.

My books were a great picture of the weight we need to lay aside. All too often we think that if something is not a sin then it is ok. But sometimes even good things can be a weight. Sometimes we hold on to things that have outgrown their usefulness. They become heavy and burdensome. For example, a once useful program becomes a drain on resources and no longer provides results. Favorite lessons lose their fire and passion after years of repetition. Pursuing old dreams can keep us from enjoying the exciting life we have.

My friends and I needed to clean out our books. But more importantly, I needed to be reminded that even good and helpful things can become a hindrance. I need to consider which things may be holding me back, keeping me from running the race and running strong. Sometimes I am called to give up good and useful things because they are no longer valuable for me. I need to let go of all that hinders me and run toward Jesus, unencumbered and free.

 

I am guilty Lord of holding on to things that weigh me down. I do not want to be slow or worse, sidelined in the race you have called me to run. Let me give up the things that keep me from running the best race I can run. No matter what I give up, I am running toward something better, You! Thank you for teaching me this lesson. Help me to apply it to my life. You are awesome Lord, and all I really need.