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 sir”. Jesus replied, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:10-11

Freedom also addresses the state of citizenship. We are born as citizens of the country of our birth, but with freedom in Christ, our citizenship is in heaven. Phil 3:20. Once we become citizens of heaven through Christ, we are in this world, but not of it because our final resting place will be with Jesus in Heaven. And if we are citizens of Heaven, we should act like it by patterning our lives after Jesus.

And so, what is it that sets us free from this earth and all its troubles? The answer is found is John 8:31b-32. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

  • What sets us free? – The truth.
  • How do we know this truth? – From the teachings of Jesus.
  • How do we know the teachings of Jesus? By reading the Bible and prayer. If you are new to the Bible, I would recommend you begin with the book of John in the New Testament.

Let’s continue with these verses in John 8:33-38.

“They answered Him, we are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

“Jesus replied, I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

But even though we are free in Christ and have access to God through Him at any time and all the time, we are not to abuse that freedom by doing whatever we want even if it is wrong.

The thinking of ‘oh, it’s just a little white lie or spreading gossip, or rebelling against authority and saying, “but God will forgive me”, is wrong thinking. Yes, it is correct that God will forgive our sins, but to intentionally do what we know is wrong with the attitude of, but God will forgive me later, is simply wrong.

As believer’s, having experienced freedom and God’s forgiveness, it is our responsibility to live accordingly.

I Peter 2:16-17 addresses this.

“Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil, live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone. Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”

And so to live as free men and women does not authorize rebellion against constituted authority, but to freely obey the word of God and to live under earthly authorities. Genuine freedom is the freedom to serve God. Liberty is not permission to do as we please. We are to obey the governing of the land because it was God who ordained the system of human government.

We see that in Romans 13:1-2: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

However, the highest and first authority the believer is to follow is God Himself. If someone in your life, who you consider to be an authority figure is leading you to sin against God, you are to look to the guidance of God and follow His will and His way for your life.

Rulers exist for the benefit of society – to protect the general public by maintaining good order for the freedoms granted the citizens. Lives have been lost for this freedom. Wars have been fought. Young men and women have served this nation at great sacrifice so that you and I could be free in our nation.

It began with our founding fathers and continues today. Freedom is not easy, nor is it free. Even the freedom we have through Jesus came at a great cost – His life paid the price for our freedom from sin.

And so, as I am writing this, I am humbled. I am humbled to know that I have not had to fight for my freedom, but others have fought for me. How can I not honor them and honor God, by rebelling.

“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

We all know that we need healing in our land. As a nation, and as believers, we must pray for the healing of our land. We have God’s promise that He will hear, forgive and heal our land.

Corporately and individually we need to ask God’s forgiveness for the rebellion, for the violence, for the immorality, for the destruction of life and the disunity that is occurring every day in our land. It is the only answer we have for being able to keep the freedoms we have been given. It is our hope.

And so as we approach Independence Day this week, let’s all enjoy the day. Let’s have fun with friends and family. But let us not forget to let freedom ring by remembering how it came about. And let us remember to pray before we begin the day of celebration for the safety of our nation, our people and especially all those young men and women who are away from home fighting for our freedom.

Independence Day is not a day for rebelling against leaders of our land, but a day of celebrating the freedom made possible by the leaders of the land from the beginning of this nation called America.

What is That One Thing?

“Tell Archippus: “see to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” Colossians 4:17

Archippus was a Christian teacher/minister. He had been given a lifetime job from the Lord – a calling to Christian service. We don’t know why Paul felt compelled to send a word of exhortation to him to complete the work he had been given. Perhaps he heard something about him that we don’t know, or perhaps in his own experience he knew how difficult ministry can be. But whatever the reason, he sent a word to Archippus to complete the work.

As one who is serving the Lord, I know how hard it can be. I know how easy it would be to slack off, or simply give up. I’m sure you do too. In society today, we are hearing more and more about pastors and Christian leaders who are caving under the pressure. Adultery, suicide, exhaustion, financial hardship or turning away from ministry are just a few of the things we hear about.

And so, just as Paul said to Archippus, we say to you: “see to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.

Let’s break that down:

See to it means to look away from all else and look to that one thing being addressed. In this case, the work you received in the Lord. Is there anything drawing your attention away from that one thing.

See to it that you complete… According to Strong’s and Vines Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words,  some of the Greek definitions for the word complete are:  to fill to the top, carry to the end, accomplish, to cause Gods will to be obeyed as it should be and Gods promises to receive fulfillment.

But my favorite is to end together, thoroughly finished.

And so, the message is to look away from any distractions to the call of God on your life and end together with Him what He has placed within your heart to do. Keep on doing it until He says otherwise.

What have you received from Him to do? What service are you passionate about? Review the list of Spiritual gifts in Romans 12 because God has gifted every believer. If you are gifted to teach or preach, then do so. If serving is your strength, then serve, if gifted to give, then give, etc.

The point is, don’t give up or give in to the pressures of this world that the enemy is throwing at us from every direction. Stand firm in your faith and your mission. There is no such thing as retirement from Gods perspective. Hosea 10:12 tells us to continue to break up unplowed ground until He comes. God’s mission is for a lifetime and He does not discharge His servants from their work. His gifts and calling are irrevocable.

And so, be strong and courageous for the Lord your God is with you. He will fight for you in this battle of sin, corruption and immorality such as we have never before seen. But He wants our participation of faithfulness to press on in the midst of it. Stand firm, don’t give up. This battle belongs to the Lord. Cling to Him. Ask Him for a renewing of passion for the task and the strength to endure.

To God be the glory.

No “M” in FOCUS

Last month, my blog message was about the meaning and use of the word Focus. This morning as I listened to the pastor’s message, the thought occurred to me that there is no “M” in the word focus. The word is not fomcus or focums, it is focus.

For those called to ministry, the struggle to meet the demands of operational obligations is always a reality. There never seems to be enough money to meet the needs of the ministry. But if we focus on the money rather than the mission, our focus becomes skewed and our ministry distracted.

What is your mission? What is the calling God has placed on your life? Think about what it means to accomplish the mission and then do it. When God speaks to you through prayer, His Word and by His Spirit; He doesn’t say to be in ministry because you will make a lot of money or be in ministry to meet your every desire. If our desire is to make money, ministry is not the avenue for it. You should instead seek opportunity to work outside the ministry. For those in full-time ministry, the purpose is always to accomplish the mission given you by God – to instill His love, His word and His gospel of salvation into the hearts of others.

I am not saying you do not deserve to be rewarded for your labor. Paul addressed that in I Corinthians 3:8-9 when he said “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building”.  There are different types of ministry, but all for one purpose and as God’s workers, we are rewarded for our individual labor in accomplishing God’s purpose.

Paul further stated in I Corinthians 9:11-12. “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.” And then in verse 14-15, “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. But I have not used any of these rights.”

The point is this; those in ministry deserve to be rewarded for their labor, but Paul did not focus on the money he would receive when he went out to preach. His love for God and people overrode his physical need and desire. Rather, he focused on the mission so as not to distract from the message. What I am saying is that when we trust God as our Jehovah-Jireh – the LORD who Provides, He will provide according to our needs as we diligently seek Him and serve in obedience according to the calling or task He has given us to do. Anything that gets in the way of that calling or task is a distraction from accomplishing the purpose.

Sweet women, focus on what God has called you to do because it is all about the mission and what we give in serving Christ, not about what we receive.

Since my husband and I have been in ministry, I could tell you story after story of God’s provision in unexpected ways at just the right time. So, I am not just putting words on paper that I do not know to be true. There is no “M” in focus and I know it very well. If there were, it would stand for mission, not money. It’s not about the money, yet we must have it to take care of our responsibilities. But, don’t ignore the mission for lack of money. Move forward by faith, trusting God to do what He says He will do. He is Jehovah-Jireh, our Provider. As we trust Him for provision, it would be against His very character to not provide for those who serve Him in order to accomplish His purpose and mission.

There is no “M” in focus, but there is a “C” so let’s commit together to focus on the mission and let God be who He says He is – Our Provider.

“So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.’” Genesis 22:14 NIV

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 year old boy when he was abandoned by his siblings and taken away from his parents for 20 plus years? And yet, through those years, Joseph maintained his relationship with God in a way that enabled him to forgive the very ones who had hurt him. Not only did he forgive them, but from his position of power, he saved them from starvation and promised to provide for them in the future.

Joseph was a leader who did not harbor negative emotions toward those who had caused his pain, but allowed the painful circumstances of his past to be used as a testimony of the goodness of God. What a great example of response to pain inflicted upon us by others.

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