Monday, June 29, 2009

Let Freedom Ring

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~~ Romans 6:22-23 NIV

“I can’t wait until I grow up so I can do whatever I want!” I used to declare to my parents. They laughed at me which made me even angrier because I was serious. I wanted to hear freedom ring. Now that I have children, I understand why they laughed.

In the past year, my youngest son has graduated from Sponge Bob Square Pants to The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. He’s graduated from riding his bike up and down the street to having the freedom to ride his bike to play with friends at their homes. He’s also gained the freedom from being chauffeured to each and every activity to arranging pick ups with his friend’s parents. Since he has more outings without parents, he also gained the freedom to carry a cell phone (a.k.a. “the leash”). Because my son is growing up, he has gained more independence from his parents. He is starting to express that childhood desire to grow up so he can do whatever he wants.

We teach our son that to have freedoms he must be obedient and responsible. He must complete all his assignments and chores. He must keep his commitments. He must check with us before leaving one friend’s home to go to another. The lists of responsibilities keep increasing with the list of freedoms.

In our walk with Christ, we experience freedom. But we must not use that freedom as an excuse to sin. For sin leads to death. But we have the gift of God in Christ Jesus our Lord which is eternal life. However, while we live our lives here on planet earth, sin will attempt to keep us in bondage though the death and resurrection of Christ set us free from sin. We can experience freedom from sin through repentance.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. ~~1 John 1:9 NIV

We don’t have to remain in a life that leads to death. We can be set free from the bondage of sin. As believers in Christ, many of us are in bondages to sin and need to be set free. Each of us can experience victory in areas of our lives. We have that victory and freedom in Christ Jesus.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. ~~ Romans 6:11-14 NIV

As we experience grace through Jesus Christ, we have responsibilities so sin shall not be our master. We must live a life of obedience. Let’s repent, offer our lives to God and live a life of obedience under grace. That’s how we can let freedom ring.

Engrafted by His Grace--

Monday, June 22, 2009

Faithfully United

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. ~~Ephesians 5:31-33 NIV

Twenty-one years ago today, Eldon and I eloped. We skipped all the hoopla and got married. We were in our young 20’s and only knew each other for a few months. We knew all the advice we’d receive would be contrary to what we wanted to do, so we just skipped it. I know some people who were skeptical about our relationship and how long it would last. And yes, I agree with statistics, most rushed marriages fall apart just as quickly as they jumped into them. (And I don’t recommend other couples do what we did.)

However, we defied statistics. Many years ago, my husband and I sought out Christian marriage counseling. We took this test to determine our compatibility. When we met with the pastoral counselor to receive the results, he told us that 85 percent of couples with our scores end up divorced. I remember looking this man in the eyes and stating, “Well we fall into the other fifteen percent.” We finished that session but never returned.

We’re not any different than other couples. We have our fussy moments with each other. We have disagreements. We have fun times too. What makes our marriage different? I believe it is commitment; being faithful to one another. We’ve been faithful to our vows before God and to each other.

Faithfulness is a part of the fruit of the Spirit. We see throughout Scriptures how God is consistently faithful to His Word and promises. In Chris Tiegreen’s devotion, Walk with God, he wrote, “God, however, is constant. His faithfulness reaches to the skies (see Psalm 36:5; 57:10; 108:4), and His love and faithfulness are semantically paired so often that they are clearly intertwined. His love is unchanging; there is nothing fickle about it—not even from generation to generation (Psalm 100:5). True faithfulness endures forever (Psalm 117:2). It can do no other.”

Therefore, we must have Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to have the fruit of the Spirit. Then we can exercise faithfulness. In our marriage, there have been times our flesh wanted to take over, but the yielding to the Holy Spirit is better. Each of us has remained faithful to God and to each other. That is why I believe our marriage has lasted twenty-one years. And that’s why I believe we will enjoy each other until death do we part (which I hope is many, many more years). We’re faithfully united to each other and to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Engrafted by His Grace--

Monday, June 15, 2009

Let the Children Come

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." ~~Mark 10:13-15 NIV

Let the little children come to Jesus!

Summer’s here! School’s out and now Vacation Bible School’s are launching in churches in all our cities. My community is not any different. This week is VBS week for our church.

In the Scriptures, parents brought their children to Jesus for Him to touch them. Perhaps they wanted a blessing from Jesus or maybe they were in need of a healing. But they wanted them to go to Jesus.

I wonder. . .do parents see our churches as an extension of Jesus when they bring their children to VBS? Or is it viewed as free morning for them to go shopping, run errands or not to have to pay for day care?

I feel convinced that Jesus receives the children regardless of the reason the parents bring them to VBS. These little ones don’t need intellect as much as they need to feel loved, accepted and receive a gentle touch from people who care. No matter what reason the children come, let us not hinder them from meeting Jesus at VBS. They will be blessed!

Just maybe then the children will share the gentle, caring touch they receive at VBS with their parents. It is possible the children will share the scriptures with their parents. The Word of God is a seed planted in spirits. We can pray that God sends someone to water the seed and HE will bring in the harvest. Who knows how many lives VBS can reach directly and indirectly for Jesus? Let’s support the Vacation Bible School’s in our communities this summer. That’s where I’ll be this week—with the little children who come.

And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. ~~ Mark 10:16 NIV

Engrafted by His Grace--

Friday, June 12, 2009

Funny Cats

I enjoy having cats as pets. I came across this funny cat video on YouTube which made me laugh through it all.

A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired. ~~Proverbs 17:22 MSG

Engrafted by His Grace--

Monday, June 8, 2009

All Joy

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. ~~ James 1:2-8 NIV

Several words stand out to me in the above passage: joy, trials, testing, perseverance, mature, wisdom, believe and receive.

What does James mean that we can count it a joy when we face trials and testing? Going through trials and tribulations hurt. I confess I tend to lean on the worrier and anxious side of life. All the “what ifs” start piling up on me like a heavy backpack that I keep stuffing with more “what ifs.” Then, before I know it, the burden is too heavy. I fall. I start unloading “what ifs” at the cross, but I still hold onto some and get up again.

Then this morning the thought came to me, What if everything I’m worried about, the Lord has allowed to come to me? What if the Lord is using these situations to grow me? What if I sing praise to HIM allowing Him to work out the worries and direct my steps?

Here are my thoughts as I meditated on those words this morning:

First, count it a joy. I can be joyful because I’m growing in Christ.

Second, trials and testing keeps my seeking my God through my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Third, perseverance comes. I must keep on keeping on. The love of the Lord drives me to not quit.

Fourth, I’m maturing in Christ as I keep my eyes on HIM. I’m growing up in our Lord as I never give up on what He’s called me to do—to be a wife, mother, and teacher.

Fifth, God gives wisdom. When facing tests and trials, we need wisdom in how to respond. God gives us that wisdom.

Sixth, Believe God. God is faithful and I can trust HIM to do what His word says He will do.

Seventh, receive from God. He promises rewards to those who persevere. I will hold onto HIM to receive what He has for me. What He gives is eternal.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. ~~ James 1:12 NIV

After meditating on those seven words from scripture, I’m ready to unpack my backpack at the cross. I’m lifting my hands up high toward the heavens and shouting praises to my Lord and King. I know I will persevere, mature and receive wisdom as I believe in my Lord. I will count it all joy!

Engrafted by His Grace--

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wednesday Worship - You Take Me Back

Engrafted by His Grace--

Monday, June 1, 2009

Be Alert

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. ~~ 1 Peter 5:8 NIV

Chase loves to play baseball. In baseball runners are allowed to steal bases to advance. In order to steal, the runner has to watch his opponent waiting for the right time to take advantage of his opportunity. Different leagues have different rules about leading off (stepping off the base to get a head start). In Little League, there are no lead offs. The runner must not leave the base until the pitch has been thrown and the ball crosses the home plate. Also, the runner may not run if the pitcher is on the mound with the ball.

While observing this sport this season, I’ve noticed that a runner on third will watch the pitch, wait for it to cross the plate and he’ll step off a few steps hoping the catcher will miss and the pitcher won’t run up to cover. This runner is just looking for an opportunity to put a run on the board. This is where it is important for the catcher and pitcher to be alert—keeping their eye on the runner. In one game, I saw the catcher return the ball to the pitcher. As the pitcher turned around (not watching the runner on third) and moped back to the mound, disgruntled about his last pitch, the runner took off and stole home.

The Scriptures warns us to be alert as we have an enemy who waits for an opportunity to advance his way into our homes. If we turn our backs on him because we’re frustrated with the way we’re living our life, the devil will pounce on us like a lion. We must be self-controlled and alert.

To be self-controlled we must live a life of obedience and repentance. Yes, the pitcher threw a bad pitch. And yes, we make bad decisions. But if we mope around in those bad choices, the enemy will steal home on us. We must repent and get on with the game. To be alert, we cannot allow a bad pitch cause us to let our guard down. There have been times in my life that I got so caught up in one particular situation; I let other areas in my life slide. The enemy takes advantage of those times.

Let’s live a controlled and alert life keeping the evil one from taking advantage of us today.

Engrafted by His Grace--