Freedom to Choose

As we’ve looked at the subject of freedom in Christ, we have learned about justification, sanctification, and now we look at glorification. Our Bible Journaling Scripture for today is Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in Heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.” (CSB)

So far, we have learned that justification is “the act of being declared righteous in God’s sight.” We have learned that sanctification means “to be made holy”. This is a process; it is a life-long journey. Now we look at glorification, which is defined as, “God’s final removal of sin from the life of the saints (through salvation). When Jesus comes back to take the Believer to Heaven with Him, “we will be changed from mortal to holy immortal with direct access to God’s presence.” (taken from http://www.gotquestions.org)

God did not create us to be mere automatons. He gave us the ability to choose the path we want to go. We alone decide whether to accept Jesus as our Savior or to reject Him. When we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, God provides the final removal of our sins because of what Jesus has done for us. Unlike the angels, who were created to worship God entirely, we have a choice. We choose to love Him; we choose to follow His will and His purpose for us. We have a choice!

My first husband was into robots. In fact, he was so enamored by them that he made a couple of them. The last one was almost 6 feet tall and it walked, talked, and moved its arms. We named him Ottomation. But Otto couldn’t do any of those things without my husband rigging up a control panel for him to move and by providing the voice for Otto. The robot couldn’t do anything unless my husband made it do what he wanted it to do. Otto was a robot and could only do what he was programmed to do. God did not want mindless robots who were programmed only to do His bidding. He wanted His people to have the free will to be able to choose whether they would love, honor, obey, and worship Him.

The first test of this was in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3) God had only one rule for Adam and Eve, they were not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They failed the test miserably, and because of that, sin entered the world and we have been dealing with it ever since. Because of Adam’s sin, each of us was born in sin. In order to restore the relationship between God and us, we must accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins. (John 3:3, John 3:16-17, Acts 2:21, 4:12) God does not beat us over the head, demanding that we follow Jesus, but He lovingly offers us a way of escape from the penalty of sin (Romans 6:23) through Christ’s death on the cross.

Once we have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are promised eternal life with Him, free from all the hindrances we face now. God accepts our repentance, we receive His grace, and we can then live a life full of peace and joy and have the knowledge that God loves us and provides eternal life for us. We are promised that we will have a glorified body, like Jesus, and we will be in God’s presence face to face. The choice is ours. The question remains, “What will you do with Jesus?” I hope that if you haven’t asked Christ into your life, that today you will choose to accept Him as your Lord and Savior. It will be the best decision you will have ever made.

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I Walk in Freedom

As we continue our study on freedom, our Bible Journaling Scripture today is from Psalm 119:45, “I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.” (NLT) What does walking in freedom mean? Politically, walking in freedom involves following the laws that have been set forth by our Constitution and legislators. As long as we abide by the law of the land, we have freedom. When we violate those laws, our freedom ends, and most likely will end up with a loss of that freedom.

Spiritually, our freedom comes when we follow God’s laws and when we accept Christ as our Savior. He frees us from our sin. As we mentioned in our last post, just because we are free to do what we want, we should not go against the precepts that God has laid down for us, or we will we be in bondage to sin and depravity. We are not to continue in sin for we will find ourselves in a position of rebellion and back to the bondage of sin, and discipline will be given to us for that disobedience. Just as we are free in our country to live as we please, when we violate the laws of the land, there is a punishment that will be given. Break the speed laws and we receive a speeding ticket. Do it too many times and we lose the privilege of driving. The same holds true with following God’s commandments. When we violate the precepts found in the Bible, God has no choice but to administer a “come to Jesus moment”. Willful sin cannot be a part of the Believer’s life. Yes, we do sin, but we are not to make it a continual choice, we are not to live in sin. When we sin, we are to ask God’s forgiveness and endeavor to do better. He promises to forgive us of our sin (I John 1:9) and set us free.

The Apostle Paul dealt with this with the early church. In I Corinthians 6: 12 Paul writes, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” (NASB) Meaning, we can do what we feel is right, but it may not necessarily be the best thing for us to do. Peter struggled with this in that he seemed to act according to who he was with. In Galatians 2:11-21, Paul confronts Peter. Peter was eating with the Gentile Believers until some of James’ friends from Jerusalem came, and then he ate with them and distanced himself from the Gentile Christians. He was afraid of what the Jewish Christians would say if he ate with the Gentiles. This caused some Jewish Believers to follow Peter’s example, and Paul had to correct Peter publicly, because it showed inconsistency in his behavior. There was nothing wrong with eating with the Gentiles. However, the Jews had been raised not to eat with uncircumcised people (Gentiles), who were considered sinners. Therefore, Peter, even though he had the freedom to eat with the Gentiles, didn’t show the Jewish Believers the freedom that he had in Christ by his actions.

In other instances, if we know something we do that we do not consider sin, is a stumbling block to those who see it as sin, and we cause that person to backslide, then we are abusing our freedom and causing a fellow Believer to fall. Romans 14 deals with this very thing. In this example Paul is talking about eating meat that has been offered to idols. If a fellow Believer considers it sin to eat meat and we don’t, then it is advisable not to eat meat in their presence, that way we will not cause them to stumble. Their faith may not be as strong as ours, and so we must help them continue in faith and to grow.

Freedom also involves a level of maturity in how we act, speak, and show our faith. As an example, in some circles, Christians believe it is ok to drink alcoholic beverages. They believe they have that freedom as Believers, and they may have. However, as I see it, there is inconsistency in their walk with the Lord. Yes, the Bible says it is ok to drink, but not to get drunk. The Bible even says to drink wine as a medicine for your stomach. (I Timothy 5:23) But like my Pastor says, “When you take one drink, you are drunker than you were before.” It is not a good idea to engage in behavior that the world engages in because it will ruin our witness before them. They will say, “Well, if they can do that, what makes them different from me?” It can show them that God hasn’t made a difference in our lives and they feel that there is no desire to become a Christian.

So, walking in freedom requires us to use discretion in how we live. If we want to be consistent, show the world that Christ has made a change in us, and be an example to others, we must use our freedom wisely, and then we will be truly free.

God’s Faithful Love

Well, I decided to do another Bible Journaling entry. This one comes from Psalm 103:17, “But from eternity to eternity the Lord’s faithful love is toward those who fear Him, and His righteousness toward the grandchildren.” (CSB) God’s love for us is beyond amazing. He wants only the best for us, and He showers His blessings upon us daily.

I was curious to find out how many verses in the Bible deal with God’s love. There are 310 times in 280 verses that talk about God’s love! Wow! God must really want us to know how much He loves us! I think that is amazing! I love how our verse talks about God’s faithful love! That is so reassuring! His love is not fickle, but it is steadfast and enduring. His love never fails! (Psalm 36:7) He loves us with an everlasting love! (Jeremiah 31:3) He loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to the cross to die in our place for our sins. (John 3:16)

I also love the way He wants us to know how much He loves us. He tells us so many times in His Word. He is unlike some human fathers, who never tell their children that they are loved. I know of an instance where the father never uttered the words, “I love you” to his sons, and both sons thought that the father loved the other son more. It was heartbreaking! It created a rift between the boys. Not until years later did they find out that neither son heard those words. They began to realize that their father did love them, he just didn’t know how to express it. One of those boys determined that he would always tell his children that he loved them so that there was no doubt in his children’s minds of his love for them. Every phone conversation always ended with the words from their father, “I love you.”

Just like that son, God wants His children to know how much He loves them. He wants there to be no doubt in his children’s minds of His love for them. When a child hears from their father that he loves them it brings feelings of comfort, security, peace, and joy. They know that they can go to him with everything and not be afraid that he will reject them. It is the same with our Heavenly Father. We have nothing to fear, for He is willing to listen to our heart’s cry. He wants to hear about our day. He wants us to share with Him our dreams and our plans. He wants to hear about our heartaches and those things that distress us. He wants a strong relationship with His children.

God’s love for us is unending! He is reaching out to us, asking us to come to Him and to trust Him. When we feel unloved by others, He loves us, when we feel rejected, He calls us to come and He wraps His arms around us and draws us close to Himself. If you are feeling unloved today, call out to God, and He will wrap you in His arms and tell you how much He loves you!

Unshakeable Confidence

 

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Psalm 3:3-6, “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me. I will not be afraid of thousands of people who have taken their stand against me on every side.” (CSB) This passage was written by David as he was fleeing his son, Absalom. Absalom wanted to take over David’s throne and become king. Despite being on the run and having those in Israel who were favorable toward Absalom come against him, David still had confidence in God.

God had him anointed and placed on the throne of Israel. David could rest and not be worried or concerned because he knew that God was in control of everything and God had his back.

Worry can be disabling. It can cause sleepless nights, physical ailments, and take away our peace. But when we have confidence that God has everything under His control, that He sees our path beginning to end, we can have peace, we can rest. I love how David says, “I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me.” (verse 5) He could sleep at night in peace. Absalom had an agenda and desired to take David out so that he could become king, and David kept his confidence that God would settle the matter in His own time and way. He even says he is not afraid of those who are coming against him! That is Unshakeable Confidence!

I am not necessarily a worrier, however; there are times I can become concerned or even worry a little bit about a situation. I try not to let it get me to the point of being overwhelmed with worry, but I can have that situation uppermost in my mind, and it can always be there in my thoughts. If I don’t stop and pray about the situation, give it to God, and then trust Him to work it out for my good, then I become miserable.

God gives us His promise that when we pray, He will listen and answer. I John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (NASB) When we pray, He will hear and answer! That is our confidence!

God also gives us confidence to step out in faith when He has given us direction into an area that is not in our comfort zone. Doing new things can be scary, but God is orchestrating things in our lives to make us more like Him, to become a vessel that He can use in bringing others to faith in Jesus. Knowing He is directing my steps gives me confidence that I can do what He is asking me to do. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (NASB) As Believers, we know this verse and quote it quite often, but we never really pay attention to that little word in the middle of the verse…all! There is nothing we can not do when we put our trust and confidence in Christ. Everything is possible through Jesus!

So, as we look at placing our confidence in God, step out in faith, rely on His leading, rest in peace that He knows what is best for us, and He will always walk with us!

 

Confidence is Mediated by the Holy Spirit

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Ephesians 1:13-14, “In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.” (CSB) The Holy Spirit’s purpose is not only to draw us to Jesus, but to help us in our daily walk with the Lord. One way He helps us is in assisting us to have confidence in God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Our confidence is then mediated by the Holy Spirit. Mediation, in this instance, is defined as “intervention in a process of relationship; intercession. The Holy Spirit helps us have confidence in Jesus, He encourages us to step forward when God is leading us into territory that is unfamiliar. As an example, when I felt God calling me to begin to minister through a blog, I was very hesitant. I didn’t know the first thing about blogging, didn’t even know how to begin. The Holy Spirit, through the counsel of my Pastor and others who journal and blog, encouraged me to begin. It was a slow beginning, and in some ways, it still is. But, without the prompting of the Holy Spirit to step out of my comfort zone, I would never have begun my ministry through Bible Journaling and this blog. I don’t claim to be an organized ministry to the point of being incorporated or needing licensing or any of the things full-time ministries do, but to the few that read my journaling, I am endeavoring to minister hope, healing, salvation, and encouragement. I have no grand ideas that my blog will develop into some huge ministry with thousands of followers. I am content to share with those who find my blog or read my entries on Facebook. God never said it would be earth shattering, but it is what He has called me to do, and I pray that it influences the tiny corner of the world I reach.

There may be something that God is calling you to do, but you have been hesitant to step out in faith. It’s scary beginning something new. However, if you truly feel God is leading you to begin something you are not accustomed to doing, rely upon the encouragement of the Holy Spirit and the confidence that God will guide you in the way you are to proceed. Is God calling you to minister in your church? It may not be something as prominent as singing or playing on the worship team or teaching a Sunday School class, but there are other positions that are needed in the church, that a lot of times, must be done by the pastor because no one else will step up. His or her calling is to be the shepherd of the congregation, not the janitor. Maybe there is a need for nursery duty or hospitality. Our church has a dear lady who quietly ministers by sending cards to those in our church who need encouragement. She sends our pastor something almost every week to help him and lift him up. He needs that little push to be able to minister to us. That is her ministry! Something like that, even though it seems so trivial, can be just the thing to help someone who is struggling.

The Holy Spirit seals us so that we have the assurance that we belong to God, and because of this, we have confidence that whatever God has for us in our walk with Him, we know that it is for our good, and will help us to grow daily as we seek to live our lives in glory and honor to Him.

No More Pain

Today I am remembering my nephew, Brian. He passed away on April 3, 2019. My heart is so broken. He is my sister’s first-born, and he was such a joy to have around. Although life dealt him some painful blows, he tried to survive the hits but unfortunately, his way of dealing with it was drug addiction. My sister and I tried to help him, and he seemed to really be trying, going into drug rehab at the local rescue mission a couple of months before he died. He tried to kick the drugs and was going to the chapel services and studies that are part of the therapy there. He thanked me for sending my blog posts for encouragement to him, and my sister took him to her church once when he was able to go. It seemed like he was finally on the right road.

I find comfort in God’s Word during times like this. Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (NASB) God is there helping us through times of sorrow. His arms are lovingly wrapped around us drawing us to Himself. Broken hearts are His specialty! Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (NASB) Right now, my family is feeling that crushing of the spirit. My life verse is Hebrews 4:16, “Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (NASB) When I think of this verse, I see God sitting in an overstuffed chair, not a cold, austere throne, and He is saying, “Come my daughter,” as He pats His leg for me to crawl up in His lap and let Him wrap His arms around me and lets me pour out my heart to Him.
He is my Abba Father, my Heavenly Daddy. When my heart is so full of hurt, He applies the salve to my heart to bring healing. As the salve flows over the hurt and the pain, I feel His love for me healing my heart.

As I was journaling my remembrance page for Brian, I found a sticker that says, “You are worth dying for – Jesus Christ” and that is what I hope Brian finally discovered before he died. I hope through the last couple of months that he found that God loves him despite what he has done. No one comes to Jesus being perfect, we all come to Him in a mess of our own making. In fact, He doesn’t want us to try and clean ourselves up before we come to Him. We couldn’t anyway. Nothing we can do can make up for all the sin in our lives. Only Jesus’ precious blood can cleanse our sin away. Only Jesus can forgive our sins and bring us salvation.

My heart’s cry is that Brian found the way to salvation and accepted Jesus in to his life. That is also my desire for my readers, that each one has come to the realization that there is nothing any of us can do to be acceptable in the sight of God. Only by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, asking forgiveness for our sins, and promising to follow Him and live a life worthy of Him, can we find salvation. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV) I am a whosoever, you are a whosoever, and He loves us so much that the only payment for our sins had to be paid by His Son, Jesus, on the cross. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (NASB) Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NASB) Death is the penalty for our sin, and only a perfect blood sacrifice could pay for our sins. But God showed His love and grace toward us by sending His Son to die on a cross for our sins, so that we would not have to pay the penalty. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” (KJV) God’s grace is poured out on us when we ask Jesus to save us and be Lord and Master. God invites us to accept Him, all we need to do is ask. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (KJV) If you don’t know Jesus as your personal Savior, Jesus is lovingly knocking on your heart’s door asking to be invited in. He will not push His way in, He is a gentleman. But He longs to have a relationship with you. He desires for you to decide today. II Corinthians 6:2 says, “…Now is the day of salvation.” My prayer for all of my readers is that they make that decision to follow Christ and find out that a life of surrender to Him can bring peace and joy.

Hope During Times of Waiting

We all have times where it seems we are in a stage of waiting. What do we do in those times? Today we look at Romans 15:4, “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (KJV)

The waiting time is hard, at least I know for me it is. My family will tell you that I am not the most patient person. I get ruffled easily and waiting for something is excruciatingly difficult. That includes waiting on God. Today’s Scripture tells us that we can find patience, comfort, and hope through reading God’s Word. As we dive into His Word, we learn how to live, we learn how to be patient, we learn that the Bible brings us comfort within its pages, and all of that tied together gives us hope.

Right now, I’m going through a time of waiting on God. Our house has been up for sale for a year and we haven’t had one nibble on it. Not one inquiry. My husband and I want to sell this house and move out of state. We haven’t decided yet where we want to move to, however; we have a couple of options available to us. At this stage of our lives we want to be close to family, so both options would put us either with my family or with his. We are praying for God to bring the right person or family to come and fall in love with our house.

It’s easy for me to become discouraged, but I must remember that everything is in His timing and not in mine. Lamentations 3:25-26 says, “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (NIV) As we search the Scriptures, God reveals Himself to us, He shows us how patient He is with us. He is our example. I know I have a lot to learn in the “wait quietly” department.

So, as we read of how patient He is toward us, we are learning how to be patient, that brings us comfort and hope in the situation. As we keep in the Word of God and allow His Word to change us and we make it part of our lives, we become more like Jesus. We can wait even though it seems that what we are waiting for will never come. God keeps His promises. We learn that through the Scriptures. Knowing that He keeps His Word, teaches us to be patient in the waiting. We learn that we can rely on His Word.

Making the Bible part of our essence, the “who we are” part of ourselves, gives us strength, gives us comfort, gives us hope! A daily communication with the Lord through reading and study of the Bible, and prayer, brings us closer to Him. It changes us and faith is increased. I encourage you to dig deep into God’s Word, learn how to be patient in the waiting times, and gain comfort and hope.