Walking in Freedom


Today in the USA we are celebrating our Independence Day.

Centuries ago, courageous men and woman were led by the Holy Spirit to risk everything and bring their families to a new land so they could worship God freely without the government dictating how, when, or where that could happen. Eventually, their descendants found the need to fight to uphold that freedom.

Much has changed over the past few hundred years and even more so in this past couple of years during which we’ve seen our religious freedom, constitutional rights, and liberties of “all men created equal” being challenged, disregarded, and even subdued.

All of that is important, and we need to stand courageously like our forefathers to maintain the freedom they first sought.

But there is another freedom that is even more important.

It is our freedom that Jesus Christ bought with his blood.

Here’s what the Bible says about our freedom:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and don’t let yourselves be burdened again with a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

“I will walk about in freedom for I have sought out your precepts.” Psalm 119:45

“The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for captives…” Isaiah 61:1

“Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17

God is all about our freedom.

Freedom from sin and from the enemy, Satan, who torments us with lies and accusations, wanting only to kill, steal and destroy those whom God loves. God longs for us to walk in freedom every day. Freedom that leads to peace where there is no condemnation or shame in Christ Jesus.

So whether or not our country remains free, our most important freedom comes from Jesus. That freedom is for everyone everywhere, not only for those of us in the USA celebrating Independence Day. True independence begins with total dependence on God.

Today, are you walking in His freedom?

Are You in the Desert?


Recently while reading in Exodus chapter sixteen, I was struck by the name of the desert Moses led the Israelites through.

The Desert of Sin

But what struck me most was what happened there and how much it parallels our lives today. Five points stood out to me. Perhaps if we see ourselves in any of these situations, we’ll recognize that we’re wandering in the Desert of Sin and allow God to lead us out.

While the people of God were in the Desert of Sin they:

  • Grumbled against their leaders. We see that the whole community complained that Moses didn’t know what he was doing and surely must want them to suffer. Leaders aren’t perfect, but if they are humbly seeking God—we can tell by the fruit of their lives—let’s honor and pray for them rather than complain about them. There is a place for questions & discussion in humility, but not prideful arguments (vs.2)
  • Made dramatic declarations of doom and death. They proclaimed they would have been better off in their past (Egypt). Moses intended for them to starve and for everyone to die. How many times have we made declarations based on emotion that had no basis in truth? (vs.2-3)
  • Disobeyed. They decided to rely on their own plan to hoard manna, but that resulted in something putrid and inedible. Obedience provided for them. Leaning on themselves stunk. (vs.20)
  • Ignored God’s instructions. When they dismissed God and relied on themselves, they ended up disappointed. God did exactly what he said, but they didn’t trust him and tried to secure something more for themselves. We can never get more for ourselves than God’s best that he wants and plans to give us. (vs.27)
  • Forced God to keep them wandering. Forty years is a long time. Often we don’t realize that we keep ending up in the same place because we’ve grumbled, made false declarations, disobeyed and ignored God. God intends to lead us into good. The length of time that takes might depend on our response to him. (vs. 35)

Since the beginning of time, man has allowed the enemy to sow seeds of doubt in man’s mind about God. Does he really mean what he says? Can he truly be trusted? Did he actually say that?

Let us not be deceived by the enemy of our souls. God’s plans for us are for good. Even in the most difficult places he will provide whatever we need. We don’t want to be stuck wandering around in the Desert of Sin.

Guard the Fortress


There’s a lot going on in the world right now. Fires, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and storms have broken out all at once. Not to mention sudden, crazy weather patterns of intense heat followed by September snow.

We shouldn’t be surprised.

Jesus told us that all this would happen.

“Jesus answered, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name claiming, ‘I am the Christ’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nations will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matthew 24:4-8

As the world becomes more desperate, I pray we will turn to Jesus. While the enemy attempts to destroy us and our belief in a good God who loves us, Jesus longs for us to run to him in our pain, fear, hopelessness. He will comfort and strengthen us and give us peace.

His word also gives instruction to help us in this time of crisis.

Recently, I read some encouraging instruction in the book of Nahum. In the second chapter, and the first two verses, this prophet warns the people to be alert when their enemy is advancing on them. While those words were meant for that time in a practical war sense, all of God’s word is relevant to us in some way even today. This is what I took from the passage that I believe can be helpful today.

  1. “Guard the fortress.” As believers in Jesus, our bodies are God’s “temple” where the Holy Spirit resides. I believe that God would have us guard our bodies and hearts against unhealthy living and the lies of the enemy. Fear is a spirit that is stirring up the world. Let’s guard ourselves against it, rather than letting it penetrate our bodies and minds.
  2. “Watch the road.” Our mind is what lets in thoughts and images like a road into our fortress. If we’re not careful about what we expose ourselves to, we may find that what we let in is infiltrating us in a destructive, poisonous way.
  3. “Brace yourself.” God’s word is the most powerful weapon we have. It is the “sword of the spirit” which is truth. The Bible is “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword…” (Heb. 4:12) When we declare it, pray it, and speak it, we are bracing ourselves for battle.
  4. “Marshall all your strength.” Our only true strength comes from the Lord. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” In order to gain that strength, I must be in God’s presence. Worship, talking to him, and asking for his wisdom in every area will make me strong. It’s Jesus who strengthens us. (Phil. 4:13)

Battles aren’t without injuries or destruction, but the Lord will restore to us anything that is lost in battle. He makes us beautiful and splendid no matter what might be destroyed. Even in this era of the world going crazy, let us look to the Lord, God Almighty who is our only true refuge in times of trouble.

Praying for you as you consider where your help comes from. My help comes from the Lord God, maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-3)

What If You Could Hear God?


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Have you ever wondered if you could hear from God how that might change things in your life?

Maybe you’ve listened to people who say “I heard God say…” and thought they were deluded, misguided, bragging, or fanatical?

Who actually hears God?

Everyone.

Yep. You read that correctly. Everyone can hear God.

Because he speaks to everyone. All. The. Time.

The real question is are we listening? Do we recognize his voice when he speaks? Can we distinguish his words from the barrage that we deem is our own thoughts or maybe other “voices”?

The truth is that God says when we seek him, he’s waiting to be found. When we talk to him, he’s listening and will answer us. We can call him Father (Rom. 8:15), and we are his sons and daughters. The Bible tells us that even when we don’t know how to pray, the Holy Spirit groans on our behalf to God.

Sound too good to be true?

It is good, AND it’s true.

Here’s the thing…do you recognize your parent’s voice? Your children, spouse or best friends? Why?

You spend or spent time with them in close settings. They are familiar because you’ve been around them so much. You’ve paid attention to when they speak and what they say. You’ve listened to them and talked with them. Sometimes you can even finish their sentences because you know them so well. Right?

Jesus says his sheep know his voice. Sheep know their shepherd’s voice because they are in his/her care all day and night long. They hover around their shepherd. They’re in his/her presence all the time. They recognize the voice of the one caring for them.

They also know the difference between an enemy and the shepherd. When a wolf comes, the sheep huddle around each other, knowing it isn’t their caretaker.

We are like those sheep. Jesus cares for us. He searches for us when we’re lost. His voice is stern when calling us back from danger and lovingly kind when he’s ministering to our wounds or needs. When we spend time with him, we will know his voice.

When he speaks, we will hear him.

There’s no great mystery or secret about hearing God if we want to. If we’re asking. If we’re listening.

Jesus said many times in his word:

He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15

I hear him. You can too.

Sometimes he speaks through his word, the Bible, sometimes through a friend, leader or pastor. He speaks through creation, music, art, pictures(visions) and dreams. Often, he whispers in our hearts, and sometimes we may even hear his audible voice.

If you want to hear him, ask him to help you. If you don’t know him, tell him you want to.

Hearing God is for everyone and anyone who so desires. We are all his children. He loves us. He’s for us. He wants us to know him. And we CAN hear him.

If we’re listening.

Who Are We Listening To?


pexels-photo-247314.jpegWhat if you’re influenced daily by the internal voices you hear?

We’ve all seen cartoons depicting a character torn between the voice of an angel on one shoulder and a pitchfork devil on the other telling him the right or wrong way to handle something. While the visual may be a comical representation of good and evil, the reality is we have a God who loves us and an enemy who hates us.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”      I Peter 5:8

Each of them is communicating with us each day. So which one are we listening to?

  • God says: You’re my child. I created you. I love you. I died for you.
  • Satan says: No one wants you. No one loves you. You may as well die.

Think about it…

  • God says: You were wonderfully created, and I will continue to do a good work in you.
  • Satan says: You are worthless and hopeless. Nothing good will come from you.

Who is for us and who is against us?

  • God says: You sinned. Let me help you.
  • Satan says: You’re a failure. You’re not able to be helped.

One offers life, the other death.

  • God says: I delight in you.
  • Satan says: You’re a disappointment.

One welcomes us, the other cuts us off.

  • God says: Nothing can separate you from my love.
  • Satan says: You’re so bad, you’ve done something so terrible, no one could love you. You’re a loser and an idiot.

One offers freedom, the other slavery.

  • God says: I came through Jesus to save you  and to free you from bondage. I am the way.
  • Satan says: You’ll always be trapped. There is no way out.

One relates to our suffering, the other causes it.

  • God says: I care about your pain. I suffered mocking, insults and torture. I understand. Let me comfort you and heal your wounds.
  • Satan says: God doesn’t care about you or he wouldn’t allow pain.

One brings good out of trials, the other makes us a victim.

  • God says: In the world you’ll have trials. I will use them to strengthen and grow you because I love you.
  • Satan says: Everything bad or hard that happens is because God doesn’t love you.

One offers forgiveness, the other seeks revenge.

  • God says: I forgive you freely. Forgive others in the same way. Put them in my hands, and you will be free.
  • Satan says: If you forgive, you’re letting someone off the hook. Hold a grudge, seek vindication and revenge so you can feel better about what was done to you.

One offers a way to live well, the other offers counterfeit living.

  • God says: I give you guidelines for life so you will prosper. If you trust and follow me, I’ll make your path clear and straight.
  • Satan says: God is a dictator who wants to control you. He wants to ruin your freedom and fun. Your intellect, ideas and plans are better.

One gives, the other takes.

  • God says: I gave my life freely so you can have abundant life. If you are generous like I am, I will give you more.
  • Satan says: God is trying to take your time, your money, your freedom, your life. If you give, you will lose.

One does for us, the other says we can’t ever do enough.

  • God says: I loved you first, even when you were doing wrong. Love me and others and you’ll want to do what’s right.
  • Satan says: If you do enough right, maybe God will love you. Oh, by the way, you’ll never be good enough.

Who are you listening to today?

(Gen. 1, Deut.29:9, Phil. 1:6, Psalm 139, 1 John 1:9, 1 John 4:7-8, Zep, 3:17, Psalm 23, John 3:16, John 10:10, Rom. 8:28, Jer. 29:11, Psalm 119:8-9, Rom. 8:38-39, Isaiah 41, Matt. 18:21-35, Isaiah 42:1, 7 & 16, Luke 12:6-7, Rom. 5, Rom. 8:1, 1 Thes. 5:9 to name a few…)

 

What Triggers You?


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No, I’m not talking about guns.

(But fun picture, isn’t it?)

Milan and Kay Yerkovich define a trigger as

…a strong reactive feeling about something that is happening in the present, a feeling turbocharged by a hurt in the past.”

Ever have one of those?

Yeah, I thought so.

It took me years to understand that when my reactions to situations or people were far greater or stronger than the setting warranted, it meant that some hurt or trauma from my past was amplifying my current emotions. I did learn to recognize the pattern, and it has helped me navigate my life better. But today, I discovered through reading How We Love, that ANYTHING can be a trigger.

Anything?

Apparently, and it makes sense why communication in relationships can spiral out of control so quickly and easily. If the tone of someone’s voice, or their opinion, attitude or behavior can trigger an unexpected, agitating reaction in me, then I can become defensive or angry at the other person whether they said or did something good or bad in that moment.

Even my sincere, valid emotions can trigger another person.

Wow. I had no idea.

Perhaps because of what that person has suffered and not fully dealt with in the past, my comment or start of a conversation that to me is neutral, or my sharing a feeling about something that occurred during the day or my tone of voice because of that situation can cause the other person to react negatively.

I probably wonder why they are reacting and may take it personally. After all, if I don’t know what is happening for them, and don’t know to ask, it seems reasonable that their response is directly related to me.

So I respond in a defensive manner.

They do likewise. I react back. See how that happens? We’ve now set a pattern of communication which is not desired, nor intended, but spins out of control leaving both parties shaking their heads in confusion, hurt and disbelief.

Crazy, huh?

Well, the good news is if we are aware of triggers in ourselves and others, we can deal with our past and have grace for the other person’s stuff. Maybe we can even help each other by using the following practical tools to build rather than destroy our relationship.

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Settle yourself. Take a brief time out if necessary.
  3. Ask yourself three things:

When have I felt this way in the past? Who was I with? What soul words describe my reaction? What would I like to say to that person (in the past)?

See, that wasn’t too hard, was it?

Okay, so it’s not always easy, and it can be painful. But the benefits to removing triggers by dealing with these issues is two-fold. We become healed and stronger, and we develop healthier relationships.

But there’s also a third benefit.

If we share those feelings with our spouse, and willingly listen to them share with us, we’ll build trust and a stronger, more intimate bond with them.

That’s a win-win.

I credit the Yerkovich’s with all these insights. I’ve been sharing what I’m learning from their book, How We Love. The great thing is that our church has been presenting a series on marriage called, A Love that Lasts. Our pastor’s teaching lines up with this as well.

I don’t believe that is coincidental.

As our pastor, Matt Keller, has shared (and I agree) we have an enemy who is out to destroy every marriage. Marriage is the foundation of community. There is a power in family that can’t be denied. That’s because the union between a man and woman was created by God as a picture of his relationship through Jesus Christ with his bride, the church.

Satan hates us and anything that displays God’s love for us.

So if you thought even for a moment that the enemy I mentioned in the earlier paragraph is your spouse, think again. Our enemy is Satan. But oh, how he’ll use each of us to hurt the other one if we let him.

But our spouse isn’t the enemy.

I for one am going to work hard to remember that, to deal with the triggers in my life and be open to the probability that triggers cause grief for my spouse as well. And other people with whom I interact.

Maybe that’s why God has grace for us, and asks us to love others the same way.

I’ve linked a number of resources in this post. I’d love to know in the comments below if you find any of them helpful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Pray?


Have you ever asked yourself that question?IMG_0368

I don’t mean in a skeptical, it-won’t-do-anything kind of way. What I’m talking about is that deep searching of what prayer means. It’s not like God needs us to tell him what’s going on in our lives. He knows everything. And he knows what we need, so do we need to remind him? Besides, He is God Almighty, creator of the universe and the one who holds everything together and controls it all. Does he need our input?

So what is the purpose of prayer then?

Well, I asked Him. After all, in James he tells us if we lack wisdom to ask and he will give it to us. So I asked. And I guess that is the first purpose of prayer. God wants to give us things and he’s waiting for us to ask. He says if we ask, we will receive. And wisdom is a good thing to start with. But sometimes we can feel like we’re asking Santa for a Christmas list, and that’s not the point. Even though God longs to give us the desires of our heart.

I thought there was something more.

Partnership is a concept we’ve discussed in church. A former pastor, Daniel Brown, used to describe God wanting to partner with us in doing his will. Like a father asking his son to help him take out the trash. Dad doesn’t need his little boy’s help, but it’s about the relationship. Doing something together. I like that.

But, I still believed there was even more.

So when I asked, I was reminded of the Lord’s Prayer. We call it that because it is how Jesus told us to pray. Hmm…maybe there’s something in that.

I grew up reciting that prayer as a rote tradition. Even singing it, while deeply moving, didn’t impart the depth of it’s meaning to me. But the day I asked Jesus about praying, this is what struck me…

If God is all about us talking to him, and asking him for things, and partnering with us, then maybe praying that prayer would look something like this (translation my own):

Our Father, who is in heaven, I praise your holy name! I honor you as Almighty God. You are so holy! You are so worthy of my praise. Because You want to do good things for us, I invite you to bring your kingdom into my life and do your will just as you have purposed it already in heaven because you are great and good and have wonderful things planned for me. Whatever that is, I want it, so I ask you for it. Please, Lord God, I ask that your kingdom would come here to earth. That your will would be done here on earth. And please, since you know all I need, will you provide it. Just for today? I won’t worry about tomorrow, but trust you to give me what I need today. And about forgiveness, Lord. You forgive me for everything so will you please make me willing and able to forgive others the same way? Thank you that temptation is never from you. Will you please deliver us from evil? That awful enemy, Satan, who is looking to distract us from you and destroy our lives? I know you can and will do all this because your kingdom is glorious and powerful, and you love me so very much.

What do you think?

I’ve begun to pray this way, acknowledging who God is and inviting him to bring his kingdom to earth. That his will would be done in my life, in my home, my marriage, my children’s and family members’ lives, my friend’s lives, in my church, community, city, state and nation, as well as the world. Because if I believe God is who he says he is then I have to be open to and accepting of what he wants to do here on earth.

And I’m seeing incredible things happening.

Not always what I expect, but always great and good. In my life, my husband’s life, our marriage and family. Truly amazing.

God is a gentleman and never forces us. But he longs to do good for us, with us and through us. As soon as we invite him, remembering who he is and what is truly important, he will bring his kingdom to us.

I challenge you to give this a try and let me know what you see happen in your life.