FREEDOM!

When we hear the word “slave”, the opposite of freedom comes to mind…

Nonetheless, we are FREE to choose (God doesn’t force). We are FREE to love (God made us to). We are FREE to worship (God delights in it). We are FREE to live (Make choices). Thank GOD we live in a country with so many freedoms.

Paul calls himself a slave to Christ many places in the scripture. This is because He was sold out to the gospel of Jesus Christ. He came from a place of strict Jewish upbringing. He knew the law and followed the rules, better than anyone else…he thought. He condemned and even killed those who didn’t.

Until Jesus Christ Himself shut Saul down (put scales over his eyes) and opened his heart (reopened his eyes) to the truth of who He was and why He died, he persecuted others for believing it. It was then, that Jesus revealed that He died for Saul (the one who thought he lived perfectly), for all of us. No one else could have, he would have spit on anyone who even tried.

What a stark difference to what he writes here…

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. — Paul (1 Timothy 1:15)

On the road to Damascus, Paul’s name and life was forever changed. He was set free and became a slave (servant) at the same time.

As Jesus followers today, we are freed from the bondage of all kinds of things as we learn what it means to be in personal relationship with Him. He reveals more and more each step of the journey with Him. To live as a slave to Christ is freedom to other people’s opinions, lifestyles, agendas….desires for you. Whatever He speaks to your heart and through His Word is the direction you find yourself starting to move.

To follow Jesus may look differently to people. He calls us to different ministries and mission fields as distinctly as He entrusts us with different gifts. Going His direction is the freedom He calls us to. He breaks the chains of the direction our ultimate enemy wants us to go. Satan plants circumstances and earthly “enemies” in our paths to deter us. But, Jesus tells us how to deal with both of these. (Give thanks in all circumstances and forgive and pray for our enemies). They are only pawns in our ultimate enemy’s plan for us.

Personal relationship with Jesus breaks those chains and we start to follow Him…We want to when our eyes and hearts are opened to His love for us.

Paul went from persecuting those who followed Jesus to preaching why we all should. Because He is the answer. His grace saves us. This is what it means to be a slave to Christ instead of the world or to people. To think there is anything other than the blood of Jesus that can save us or anything that could keep Him from loving us is to live in bondage rather than the freedom of Christ. He never stops loving us. He’s already chosen us, but He also allows us to choose. A forced love is not true loyalty or love in return.

Depending wholeheartedly on Him in every circumstance of our lives (especially our salvation) is living as a slave to Him rather than anything else in this world.

I am honored to use my gift to proclaim His name and my 100% dependency on Him. I know there is no other way to do it. I pray my kids do the same, but even if they do not, may my heart’s cry never change. That He loves us better than anyone ever has or will. That what the enemy throws at us can and will be used for the good of those who love Him. And that God is good no matter what Satan wants us to think.

We take every thought captive and make it obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (GNT)

What does Jesus say about that, about me? Hold each thought captive to that as your identity in Christ is being formed…

Yes, bad things happen here. What God permits on this earth isn’t the sign of His character, His heart behind it is. He hurts right along with us and longs to bring us home where all sadness and pain are gone forever. He hates pain and didn’t create us for it. He doesn’t cause pain, He died for it. He knew we would experience hurt, but He didn’t create us to. He created us to love and to spend eternity with him.

His love is the freedom we’ve been looking for. He loves you. Learn it. Live it. Become a slave to it…Ironically, as a slave to Christ, more freedom than you’ve ever experienced will come from it.

If we are free to choose, so are others. Respect yourself and respect other people’s choices. We are called to share His love with others, but there is also a whole lot only the Holy Spirit can do. Release yourself from the Holy Spirit’s roll in people’s lives. Share His love and release.

With freedom comes responsibility and disagreement. Just because we don’t agree with someone else’s choice, doesn’t mean we should disrespect them. Agreeing to disagree also leads to freedom rather than resentment and hatred.

This is another way the Kingdom of God is polar opposite from the world’s…In slavery, there is freedom. Who/what are you a slave to?

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A Different Way to Pray…

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Did you know that when Paul was beaten, chained, and imprisoned, that his prayer was not necessarily to be released? His prayer was not “Lord, could You get me out of here?”, or “Could you relieve my pain or bring Your wrath against those who did this to me?” His prayer was that the grace of Jesus Christ would fall on everyone. Everyone. That their love would abound. That all hearts would surrender to the one and only Lord Jesus Christ. That all would feel His affection towards them. That eyes and hearts would be opened to Jesus’s love for them. Everyone.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.  And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:7-11 (NIV)

Paul longed for them. He loved them still. Paul’s eager heart for others convicts me and the type of prayers I’ve been praying lately. If true peace comes from surrendering our hearts and lives to Jesus, shouldn’t that be our prayer? Lord, I really WANT this other stuff, but what I really NEED is to be surrendered to you. And what I really WANT is for those who I love, those who have hurt me, those whom I have hurt, and even those I don’t know to love You too. I can’t make this happen, but I can pray for it. Will you take over my life and do with it as You please? Will you humble me to pray the same for others? Will you invade my loved ones and penetrate their hearts to the point that they can no longer deny Your love for them? That they will feel it just as they are?

Lately my prayers have been revolved around others beliefs versus my own beliefs and finances. Lord, will you forgive me for my attempts to control? I want my prayers to be more like Paul’s. Not for worldly security in whatever form that may be for me. Money, approval, tradition. But, fully surrendered to You. And, for those I pray for to desire the same. That our love for You and each other will abound more and more. That our love for You will be so strong that it changes how we treat each other. That our love will be so strong, that it throws comparison out the window. Irritation and differences out the window. Because when we KNOW that we are fully surrendered to Jesus, that’s all that matters. And, that may look differently for all of us. Let it be, Lord. Let it be.

Jesus taught us how to pray….His example is: In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13 (NKJV)

Teach us to pray Your heart, Jesus. To place our Father’s name and kingdom above all else. For our daily necessities, for forgiveness, for a heart to forgive others, for deliverance from our enemy, and God’s Glory forever. For a pure heart before You. I lay it down.

What are My Chains?

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If we haven’t battled the demons of drug, alcohol, or sex addictions, we may not be aware of our own personal chains. We all compensate our pain one way or another. All of these compulsions start as an escape. Escape from neglect, pain, or sheer boredom. Escape to feel better in the moment. Then the next time, the next, the next, and eventually we feel dropped into the pit of despair with no idea how to function without them. Affecting children, marriages, friends, careers, a downward spiral. We’ve all heard the stories if we haven’t lived them. These testimonies are powerful, they get our attention, they warn us, and they open our eyes to what a powerful work Jesus truly can do in a life. Praise God for each and every one! But, if we don’t fall into these categories, it can leave us to wonder….what about me? What are my chains?

What are you dependent on? For comfort? For “normalcy”? What or who do you go to? What makes you feel better? If it is destructive, these are chains. We all have quirks, preferences, and interests, but at what point do they become destructive? This is a chain. We all need to eat, but food can be a chain. Overeating and anorexia. We all need to clean, but then there’s obsessive cleaning. We should all exercise, but there is also exercise addiction. We all need rest, but laziness can also turn into a chain. Relationships, friends, spouses, parents, and children are all wonderful, but if we turn these gifts into idols, they can become chains.

We all want to be loved, but people pleasing is a chain. The more I seek Jesus, the more He shines the light on this chain of mine. The chain of speaking up. The chain that my opinion doesn’t matter or is always wrong, just because it’s mine. The hardest concept for me to wrap my mind around is that it is possible to love others without pleasing them. My fear has always been that if I disagree, they will feel unloved by me or stop loving me altogether. So I freeze. I keep my opinions to myself. I feel like a don’t have a voice. After all, my thoughts on the subject must be wrong, so why voice them anyway?

Then, He reminds me that I am His daughter. Then, He reminds me that He died for me. Then, He reminds me that His love is greater than anyone else’s that I’m afraid of losing or hurting. And, it breaks. And, I’m free. Free to be me. Free to speak. Free to make choices. Free to admit how hard this is for me. Free. And, you know what I’ve also noticed? The ones who’s opinions I tend to fret about the most don’t seem to care one iota about mine. You see the chain?

This may not be a testimony that includes drug rehab, loss of custody, or Alcoholics Anonymous…but, to me, it’s powerful. Jesus is personal. There are some things only you and Jesus know that you struggle with. He will shine a light on your chains if you ask Him to. This is life changing, because once you begin to see His progress, you will be amazed as to how tied down you were.

Now, every time I speak my personal opinion or verbally disagree with someone else’s, I’m actually surprised. I still get scared of their reaction and don’t want to hurt feelings, but I realize more and more that my feelings and opinions are just as valid. This a chain that once broken, doesn’t stay that way. This is a heavy chain. My weakness. My struggle. My thorn. Oh, how I wish it would go away completely.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (ESV)

Paul pleaded for his thorn to be removed, but He said the Lord didn’t remove it in order to keep him from being conceited (verse 7). To keep him humbled. To keep him dependent. To keep him face down in awe of His Savior. If our thorns keep us at the feet of Jesus, then praise God for them. And, Paul did just that.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV)

Making us aware of our thorns (crutches, tendencies), the damage they cause, and the relief available through Him alone is breaking our chains. It’s interesting to me that broken people know the weight of these chains. Once broken, we look to Him in our weakness. We go to Him with our problems. We appreciate others who do. We recognize His power. We request prayer. We want Him first. Once broken, He becomes the light and love of our lives. Once our chains are broken, we want to help others feel the release of theirs. Only Jesus.