For Freedom

Galatians 5:1

It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.

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Do you know how many times I’ve read this verse?  Lots.  And I’ve never really thought deeply about it.

Like, yeah, it’s kinda obvious, isn’t it?  It’s a verse that’s easy to skip over.

It’s so obvious but yet it is still included in God’s love letter to us.  So now I’m thinking it must be important.  🙂

Maybe it’s because Christ has set us free but we need to step out by faith into that freedom.

Have you been stuck before?

In sin?  Maybe it’s something you’ve tried over and over again to stop doing but you just can’t.  You’re stuck.

In bad attitudes?  Maybe you’re critical of others (or yourself?)  Maybe you have a habit of complaining and you just can’t seem to stop.  You’re stuck.

In guilt?  Maybe you did something in your past that you can’t get over – something you have a hard time forgiving yourself for?  You’re stuck.

In unforgiveness?  Maybe you’ve been hurt so badly that you feel you simply cannot forgive.  You’re stuck.

I know I’ve felt stuck -in fact, right now I’m going through a season of feeling stuck in a couple of areas.  But God’s loving and tender persistence is starting to pierce through.

He’s telling me (and if you’re stuck, too – hear this today, friend):

Christ has {already} set you free!!!!

He knows our situation inside and out, he knows us intimately, and he knows our future.  And he has already set us free.

Let’s not be like that bird that’s still in the cage, even though the door is open!  We are free, now we need to walk in freedom!


 

I’d love to hear from you if this resonated with you!  How can we support each other in walking in the freedom Christ has provided?!?

 

 

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Grateful.

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(photo from www.LumoProject.com)

A few months ago my pastor touched on the story of Jesus told in Mark 2:2-12.  Four men had a paralyzed friend who needed to see Jesus.  They went to great lengths to get him into Jesus’ presence – lowering him down through the roof.

I’m going to paraphrase here, but one of the applications to real life that was given in the sermon was, as a Christian, if we aren’t the one lying on the mat, we should be one of the people picking up the corner of a friend’s mat.

This has stuck with me.  Initially I was asking myself the questions, “Whose mat am I carrying?”  “Do I even know what friends around me need to be carried to Jesus?, or am I too self-absorbed to notice?”  “What can I do for those I know who are suffering?”

These are all great questions and I believe led me to take some action that I might not have otherwise taken.  But I was looking at this story from only one perspective, and mostly thinking about it as outward actions I needed to take.

This summer, however, the WHOLE picture of this has become clear to me.

I have been the one lying on the mat.  We have been dealing with some serious mental health issues in our family (I may or may not write more about this as I do want to protect privacy).

In the midst of this I’ve been having a hard time praying about it.  I have never, at least since recommitting my life to Jesus in my mid-twenties, had a hard time praying about anything.  I’m still not even sure why it’s been hard.

But what I DO know?  I have amazing friends who have carried me into Jesus’ presence by praying FOR me, my family, and our specific needs.

It makes me want to cry with thankfulness when I think of the love and faithfulness of these dear friends.

They have picked up the corner of my mat.

What am I seeking?

What do you most often ask for when you are praying?

Very often I ask God for His direction.  To tell me what to do.  

I ask Him for His peace, His wisdom, His strength, His protection, His provision.

I don’t know why this question or thought came into my head, but it occurred to me recently that maybe I’m not seeking the BEST things when I pray.

So often I’m asking for things God can give me.  Not just asking for Him.

Now don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think it’s a bad or wrong thing to ask God for specific things.  In fact I think the Bible is clear that we should be in prayer about all things.

But God impressed upon me the thought that my prayers need to have the first priority of seeking relationship with Him.

I did a quick search of my bible.  Most of the verses I found with the word “seek” in them talk about seeking God himself, not His direction, peace, wisdom, strength, or any other thing we might want from Him.  WOW!  It was like a light bulb went on for me.

Suddenly Matthew 6:33 looked new as I thought about it from a different perspective – specifically the perspective of how I approach prayer and how I prepare my heart for prayer.  “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

I’m so thankful for God’s divine whispers to me.

What has God been whispering to you?

 

 

 

“Yet I will rejoice”

I’ve had this passage from Habakkuk in my mind since last week.  Initially I wasn’t sure why – it was just a passage I happened across as I was searching for another verse in my Bible.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

“Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.”

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This idea of praising God even when current circumstances look bleak is what has been rattling around in my brain.

Life has been rough lately (maybe I’ll share in a future post) – and yet God keeps gently reminding me to look to Him rather than the circumstances.  To praise Him.  To trust Him.

“Yet I will rejoice.”

I thought the last part of this passage interesting- “…he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”   Like what does this have to do with the part before it?  This part shows up in the Bible three times – also in 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18.

The more I think about it and research it, the more I see the two ideas are connected – rejoicing in God in spite of any circumstance, and God enabling us to walk close to Him “on the heights”.  I think the connection piece is the joy.

Nehemiah 8:10  “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” 

We must choose to rejoice in all things.  In return, God gives us strength to deal with all that life throws at us and to “tread on the heights”.

And what does “tread on the heights” mean?  It gives a picture of living our lives above the din of our circumstances – getting God’s perspective from a higher vantage point.  As I researched mule deer and mountain goats – they live in high terrain because it keeps them safe from the predators that live in lower elevations.  That’s what God wants us to do – to not get caught up in our circumstances (predatory though they may be!).  Through choosing joy and the resulting strength from Him – we are enabled to see life from His perspective, keep our eyes on Him, and walk closely with Him.

Thank you for the hope we have in you, Jesus.    

The waves and wind still know His name.

Years ago… I sat in my minivan in the Target parking lot and sobbed after a particularly intense battle with a strong-willed child.

Why hadn’t God changed me, made me more patient?  Why hadn’t God eased this constant turmoil?  Why hadn’t God repaired what was broken in our relationship?

“Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

That’s what Jesus’ disciples asked him that night they were in a boat with him and the storm was closing in (Mark 4:38).  And that’s how I felt that night in the parking lot.

I have been captivated by this story for several years now.  I think it’s because I see myself and my own story reflected in it so clearly.

Here’s the whole story, told in the gospel of Matthew (New Living Translation):

Jesus Calms the Storm

23 Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. 24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

27 The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”

Do you have (or have you had) a storm in your life that pulls you down, that threatens to overtake you?

I know I have.  And I’ve often wondered why God has even allowed the storm to begin with.  (or taken it away after I’ve prayed about it the first time, or the tenth time, or the 100th time)

I think this story – and, by the way, it’s told in Matthew, Mark, and Luke – has so much we can learn from!  Why did God send that storm?  He’s in control of all things, his son was in that boat and wanting to cross over the lake – so what was the point of the storm?

Four things I have come to understand after reading and praying and pondering:

The storm gives Jesus an opportunity to display His power.

The storm allows us a front-row seat to be amazed by Jesus.

The storm increases our trust and faith in Jesus.

And the storm helps us learn to turn to Him when we are afraid.

One of the things I think is so cool about being able to read this story from the perspectives of three different writers is that there are different nuances emphasized in each.  Mark, for example, says the disciples didn’t only declare that they were going to drown, but they also asked Jesus if he even cared that they were going to drown!

Isn’t that the way it is sometimes?  Not only are we afraid for the outcome (and at least in my life I assume the outcome is going to be the very worst!), but we are also afraid that Jesus doesn’t even care – that he’s abandoned us.

Jesus, don’t you care?

Haven’t you felt that way at some point?

Here’s the good news:  the answer is always yes.  A resounding yes.

We just don’t always see the bigger picture.

But we must cling to what we know is true – God is good.  He is faithful.  He is with us always.  His plan for us is good.  He is in control.  He loves us deeply.  Our knowledge and wisdom is limited, but His is not.

Nehemiah 9:17 “But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”

and words straight from the mouth of Jesus,

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

May we lean into the lessons he is teaching because we know His awesome goodness, faithfulness, and love.  And may we remember that the waves and wind still know his name.

 

 

 

The Power of Team

I am an introvert.  It is natural for me to want to be alone, a lot.  I’m sure there are others like me around, but I don’t know anyone else who enjoys being alone as much as me.  Ha!

I do work with others quite a bit in the ministries I’m involved in.  And don’t get me wrong, I totally enjoy it.  But sometimes due to my nature, I tend to get on a streak of being alone, planning alone, thinking alone, analyzing alone, and carrying burdens alone.

Today my MOPS teammates and I worked together on a Facebook party for our MOPS communities and it was like a lightbulb turned on for me.  Time alone and working alone can be good for me – but I can also tend to isolate myself too much.

I saw so many positives in the collaboration and teamwork we had today.   It is a great reminder (and probably a much needed one) that God has called us in most circumstances to partner with others in our work for Him.

Maybe you also need a nudge to be less isolated or to accept more opportunities to work alongside others?

I know the following list is probably not really new to you – and not to me, either.  But today was just such a good example of these benefits of teamwork that I can’t help but share.  I don’t want to forget, and in case YOU need a reminder – here is the “power of team” that I saw today:

  • We can encourage one another to step outside of our self-imposed comfort zones.
  • Our ideas and effort, put together, have synergy – meaning that the result is more than each of us could have accomplished alone.
  • We can step in for each other’s weaknesses.
  • Working together can ignite a spark of motivation and energy in a teammate who needs it.
  • We can learn from each other.
  • We can learn about each other, and about ourselves.  Learning more about our teammates draws us closer together.
  • Working alongside one another gives us opportunities to provide more personal support and encouragement to each other.
  • We share the burden of the work.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 – Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. (New Living Translation)

 

 

 

 

Rest for the Weary

I don’t know about you, but I am so, so weary.

The election debacle, tragic stories in the news, and controversy within the church at large.  Even arguments in my own home.

I have felt alternately riled up, worn down, and again, just weary of it all.  Anyone else?

I don’t have the answers, except that Jesus IS the answer.

Consider these verses (all emphasis mine):

Psalm 119:28

“My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.”

Isaiah 40:29

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”

Matthew 11:28

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

God’s word and His presence refresh, provide strength, and give rest.  I am so grateful.

I’m praying that you are able to sit with God for a few moments today and just rest in Him.