Let Freedom Ring

Let Freedom Ring

As we approach the 4th of July this week, known as Independence Day; it is important to recognize that this day stands for more than vacation and fireworks. However, fireworks have been part of the July 4th celebration since 1777. July 4th in the U.S., is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago in 1776 on July 4 by the Continental Congress. The second paragraph speaks of our freedom. It says, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What is freedom? Freedom is the condition of a citizen. It is exemption from punishment. The Bible talks a lot about freedom. We find Paul speaking about a greater freedom than even national freedom. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 What he is speaking of is the freedom from the burden of the rigorous demands of the Old Testament Law as the means for gaining God’s favor. This did not represent the freedom given through Christ. In fact, this demand impeded the development of the Christian life. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free exempting us from the penalty of our sinful state. This is explained further in Romans 7:4-6. “So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” What does this mean? The Law was condemning and could not free a person on a daily basis from their sin. They had to wait, sometimes, a year for their sin to be atoned and forgiven through a priest. But through Christ, we have access to God on a daily, moment by moment, basis. Therefore, He gives a freedom like no other. He does not condemn us in our sinful state, but rather delivers us from it. In fact, Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery; “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” She said “no one...

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5 Me’s

5 Me’s

“O LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; In your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.” Psalm 143:1 NIV It is the holiday season – that time of year for celebration and giving thanks for our country and God’s provision for those who landed on the shores of this great land all those years ago. And yet, for many this Thanksgiving and holiday season, celebration is the last thing on their minds. Hearts are broken, health is in question or provision unknown. Where is the hope and help needed in these times of despair and hopelessness? In reading a prayer of David in the Psalms, you will find five “me’s in his requests of God in chapter 143: Answer me Show me Rescue me Teach me Lead me David was overwhelmed by his situation. He was desperate for mercy and word of God’s unfailing love. Despair was trying to drag him down into a pit, but he was determined to trust God. He cried out to Him for his needs of rescue and guidance. He needed a quick answer because his spirit was failing, meaning he was at his wit’s end and sinking into despair fast. He needed guidance and direction for which way to go through the difficult circumstances facing him. He needed to be rescued from those who were out to destroy him. He needed lessons for how to know God’s will and how to do it. He needed to be led on a path that was free from obstacles at every turn. Throughout David’s prayer, he made commitments to the Lord to meditate on all the works of God and the things He had done. This is where you would remember that it is God who created you to be His very own. It is God who loves you with an everlasting love that cannot be taken away from you. Then David surrendered his situation, made his “me” requests known and trusted God for answers, love and deliverance. There are times in our prayer life when we intercede for others, but there are times in our prayer life when it is all about “me”. When you are heartbroken and in despair it is perfectly OK for your prayer to be all about you. God wants you to be healed from your broken heart, illness, despair or whatever state has tried to drag you down. He will give you strength to endure. This Psalm of David is short but filled with hope, encouragement and teaching for all, but especially those in seemingly hopeless situations. With Jesus, there is always hope because He is our Hope! (I Timothy 1:1) Practice the five “me’s” in...

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Candles in the Dark

Candles in the Dark

“I AM the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV It was a great idea! My friend Laura wanted to host a neighborhood social and have a craft project for her neighbors. And so, I volunteered to teach candle making. I had the supplies – all we needed was heat to melt the wax and power to plug in the glue gun. The day arrived and we were excited! Then I received an early morning call on the day of the event. “We have no power”. The storms had affected the power lines in Laura’s area. We decided to proceed anyway hoping for a quick repair. Thankfully her stove was gas but with no power, we were working in the dark. I commented to Laura, “This is a good lesson for why we need candles – to shine light in the darkness.” As I looked at the candles around the room, each had a soft glow of light in a dark place. In order to see what we were doing, we were drawn to light from them. It reminded me that as believers, we are to be that glowing light of Christ wherever we go. There may be dark places we are required to walk in our schools, work places, community, government or even family events, but our light is to shine in those places. We can be a light in the darkness because Jesus is our power source. Extending love and kindness to those around you, no matter where you are, is letting Him shine through you. Or maybe you are in a dark time right now. Be encouraged to know there is light for you. His name is Jesus. He will shine on the path before you to light your way and direct your...

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Return of the Ring

Return of the Ring

 Once there was a 12-year old girl who had a cute freckled-faced, redheaded boyfriend. He delivered newspapers and she twirled a baton. Each day as he delivered the paper to her house, she would be in the yard twirling. They would talk for a while every day. One day, he gave her a ring. She didn’t recognize the ring for what it was. It was a high school senior ring. All she knew was the 12-year old boy liked her enough to give her a ring. She couldn’t wait to show it to her girlfriends the next day. The problem was, she had two brothers who were in high school. One saw the ring and looked closely at it to see the initials of the owner. Not only did he know who it belonged to, but the owner played football with the other brother. So, he told her Daddy. He called the owner who came to pick up the ring. The girl was shy and embarrassed and hiding in her room, but her Daddy told her to go and give the ring back herself. With her head hanging and her face red, she walked into the room, but what she saw on the young ring owner’s face was not anger. She saw compassion. As she handed him the ring, he reached in his back pocket, took out his wallet and handed her a $20 bill. That high school senior bought back something that already belonged to him… something that had been stolen. That young girl was me. It wasn’t until years later that I realized God had given me a beautiful real-life picture of what redemption looks like. The innocence of humanity that was stolen in the Garden of Eden has been bought back through Jesus. He is our Redeemer and paid the price in order to buy us back for God. How could I know then the value of what God was teaching in those moments in a 12-year old life. What a great hope we have in our Savior who knows all things and uses the situations in life to remind us of His great love, mercy and grace. In His compassion, He paid the price for our sin that we can be drawn into the presence of God as clean as Adam and Eve before sin entered in. That’s what took place on what we now call, Good Friday. The blood of Jesus was shed on the cross to pay the price once for all to redeem us. Then, on Easter morning, He arose! Praise the Lord, Christ arose! “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of...

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Icy Reminder

Icy Reminder

In Texas, we have a saying. “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.” We laugh when we say it, but it has certainly proven true this past week. The temperatures in North Texas have gone from a wonderful, sunny high 70’s to as low as 19° at our house. Added to the low temperatures has been an ice storm which shut down schools, businesses and even some churches. As a native Texan, I just don’t like cold weather and especially not icy yards and roads. But this week I have enjoyed seeing the postings on Facebook and the news clips on television showing families playing together. There have been photos of ice skating in the street, sledding in the park, puzzles by the fire and walks to visit friends for dinner. This ice storm has been the North Texas version of an early white Christmas. It has given us the opportunity to see from the photos and postings something we miss in our everyday lives. We have been able to see LOVE lived out as families took advantage of being iced in and played together, then shared their photos. LOVE given is the true meaning of Christmas. It was God’s love for us that was expressed through the birth of Jesus on that long ago day in Bethlehem. It is His love that teaches us how to love in an unconditional way. God didn’t place conditions on us when He sent Jesus to be our Savior. We don’t have to be good enough or work harder to earn His love. He gives it to us exactly as we are – no strings attached. Perhaps we needed an ice storm to be reminded to spend more time with loved ones. Or perhaps you are not one of the families who played together this week. It could be that you don’t have a family nearby or have lost a loved one this year. Many of us struggle with the daily grind in a way that doesn’t give time for play. But that does not mean you are not loved. Jesus LOVES you! He is the gift God gave for all. It is a free gift that you don’t have to work to be good enough to receive. God has given you Jesus out of His great LOVE for you. As we spend these next few weeks in preparation for Christmas, let’s open our hearts to God’s love in remembrance of the purpose of Christmas; that is to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the one who made a way for us to be with God forever. He is God With Us, Immanuel! “But the angel said to them, ‘Do...

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Beyond the Pain

Beyond the Pain

It has often been said that hurting people hurt people. Perhaps not intentionally, but it happens anyway. That is why it is so important for those in any kind of leadership to be healed from their own personal pain; so we don’t keep hurting others and so we have a testimony of healing for the purpose of giving hope to those who hurt. As we have worked with hurting people through our ministry, it seems that most negative emotions can be traced back to unresolved past painful experiences. Those experiences may be carried over as far back as childhood. It is that pain I am addressing today, pain which has been buried and hidden for a very long time. I am addressing it, not from the standpoint of a person’s public exposure, but rather to encourage personal exposure between the one wounded and God for the purpose of healing. Because unless we allow God to expose the reason for the negative emotions to us personally, we will just keep on simmering on the inside without understanding why those emotions control our lives. We will continue to ride the merry-go-round of negativity, too afraid to jump off and too wounded to keep going – stuck in the sameness of emotions we can’t seem to shake. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend my life on that merry-go-round. I would rather ride the playground swing higher and higher to a deeper relationship with my Lord Jesus knowing He is the great physician who can take away the pain. He can and will heal us as we take our pain to Him in prayer, confession and forgiveness toward the one who inflicted the pain. The best Biblical example of this response is Joseph. Out of jealously, his brothers threw him in a pit and left him to die. Then, at the objection of one brother, they took him from the pit and sold him into slavery. He was a slave in Egypt for at least 20 years before he saw his brothers again. The story takes place from Genesis 37 to 50. After all those years, when Joseph’s brothers  went to Egypt for famine relief and realized the one who saved them was Joseph, they threw themselves down before him and committed to be his slaves. But here is the best part of the story. “Joseph said to them, ‘don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:18-20 NIV) What an amazing response! Can you imagine the pain experienced by that 17...

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