Live Life – Look Up

In today’s world, we can find ourselves so focused on work and projects and doing things that we don’t take the time to stop. Life calls to us from all avenues of things that must be done, drowning out the still small voice of God. Our lives become unbalanced and we tend to become wrapped up in the hectic activity. Today’s Bible Journaling is from I Corinthians 2:11, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” (KJV)

God speaks to us daily, but I think we get ourselves so involved in the busyness of living that we don’t stop and listen. Our verse today tells us that we know the things of man because we are human (the spirit of man), but the things of God are revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. But when we get so tied up in the things and activities of this life that we can’t hear the Holy Spirit speak to us, then our life is unbalanced. God gave us an example to follow. We are to rest, to stop and replenish our energy. When He created the world, the universe, and everything in it, the Bible says God rested. (Genesis 2:2) Jesus also rested often with His disciples. Mark 6:31-32 says, “Because so many people were coming and going that they didn’t even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to them, `Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’” (NIV). In other words, Jesus said, “Fellows, you deserve a break today. Come to the desert and we’re going to rest.” (taken from Pastors.com – article by Rick Warren)

Resting can be anything from taking a walk and spending time with God, praying and singing praise to Him, to going on vacation to relax and get away from the daily grind and enjoy life around us. Look up and see the world around us, enjoy what He has created. It also can be a time of reflection. There are times we need to stop and take stock of where we are and where we are going. If life is going so fast that we can’t even breathe, then we run headlong into a life of exhaustion and chaos.

We can get so focused on work, family duties, and putting out fires all over the place, that we forget that we need to get away for a little while and get ourselves back into a place of balance. I know some people who accrue tons of vacation time, but they never use it. From where I stand, they are running headlong into a medical crisis because they won’t take the time to relax and gain strength from enjoying some downtime. Even those in ministry can be so driven that they are constantly going and don’t take some downtime. What they don’t realize is that God doesn’t require that we work ourselves to death. Yes, He has given us a talent, a ministry, a calling and we are to fulfill that calling but not to the extent that we become ineffective in our calling. We must listen to His call to take some time and rest.

When I lived in Montana there was a period where my pastor was going non-stop because within two months we had four people pass away, and he had to deal with preparing funerals and ministering to grieving families, plus preparing for Sunday sermons, and visiting the sick. He was exhausted and yet he wouldn’t take time away. It took the Church Board to make him go on vacation to rest up; it was not a request; it was a demand. He desperately needed to get away so that he could be an effective pastor to the congregation. His life was out of balance. He didn’t look up and listen to God telling him that he needed rest. Once he was rested, we could tell that he was relaxed and able to minister to us effectively.

As our verse says today, we can’t know the things of God unless we are listening to the Holy Spirit speak to us. We must slow down and listen, we must look up to Him and take in what He says. When He says it’s time to rest, then we need to stop and rest…rest in our physical lives, rest spiritually, and rest in His arms.

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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.

We are Free from the Power of Sin

As we continue to look at the subject of freedom, today we learn that we are free from the power that sin has over us. Romans 6:22-23 says, “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NASB) We are all born in sin, every single one of us. As babies we have the selfish desires of being the center of everything, our needs and wants are top priority over everything else. As we grow older, hopefully, we learn not to be so self-centered, but there is still that within us that wants what it wants when it wants it. That attitude is ingrained in us from birth…and as such, it is the sinful part that was handed down to us from Adam.

The Apostle Paul tells us in our Scripture today that when we accept Jesus as our Savior, He frees us from our sins, and we are sanctified. I looked up the definition of sanctification in Dictionary.com. and sanctification is defined as “to make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate; to purify or free from sin.” When we become Believers, we are set apart for God’s glory and to be used by Him to be an example of what God has done in us. Our attitude, our actions, our speech, everything about us is to reflect Jesus Christ living in us. Does that mean that after we become Christians we never sin? No, of course not! We are still human and fallible. However, Jesus made a way for us to be reinstated when we fall. His death on the cross and His shed blood covers us when we come to Him and repent of our sins. Does that mean we can just keep on sinning because we can continue to ask forgiveness? No! We are not to make a habit of sinning. We are to live lives that are set apart, holy, and consecrated to God.

The Christians in Rome dealt with this very problem. Paul tells them in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (NASB) It is true, God’s grace covers us when we sin, but we are not to abuse His grace toward us. Because Jesus paid for the penalty of sin, God has declared that we are sinless and perfect in His eyes, and it is He who gives you the power to overcome sin. God has sanctified us, made us holy, and because of this, we must live our lives in a way to give honor and glory to Him.

We can’t overcome sin on our own, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to help us defeat those things in us that would lead us into areas of sin. Temptation is not sin, however; succumbing to it is. When we delve into sinful attitudes and actions, not desiring to repent but continue, we can find ourselves in trouble. We can put ourselves into situations where we easily fall prey to the traps of the enemy. Each one of us has areas in our lives that we battle with daily. It is then that we must turn to Jesus, ask for His help and hold onto His hand, allowing Him to guide us in the pathway we are to go.

For me, I struggle with my weight, like a lot of us I suppose. I find that my “I want what I want when I want it” voice pops up more times than I like to admit. I fight that every single day. I’m not much on exercise either. My motto has always been, “Exercise will kill ya!” (LOL) My overindulgence in eating and not exercising is, for me, sin. I need to overcome my selfishness and seek God’s power to overcome in this area of my life. I have moments where I am successful, but then there comes a time when I’m tired of being good on my diet and I’m back where I started. Living a sanctified life isn’t always easy, but through the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s leading, we can be successful. We then can experience the freedom that comes in relenting to Jesus and turning our back on those things that lead us into sin.

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can put our rebellion behind us and be free from the power and penalty of sin. We can rejoice, knowing that through Him we are free!

Freedom from Fear

Fear. It’s something each of us deals with. Some people are enslaved by fear to the point that they won’t step out and tackle something new. Some are afraid of something that may happen to them. Some are so fearful that it paralyzes them emotionally and sometimes physically. Our Bible Journaling comes from 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (KJV) Notice the verse says that God has not given us the spirit of fear. Fear comes from the enemy!

Satan’s whole purpose is to “kill, steal, and destroy.” (John 10:10) He wants to derail us in our walk with the Lord. He wants us so paralyzed in fear that we become ineffective witnesses for Christ, and our lives are in bondage to the fear that holds us. On Sunday, my Pastor spoke about how Satan speaks to us, telling us we are less than what God says we are, degrading us, telling us we can’t do this because….” In the process we become bound by what the enemy is telling us because we allow him to demean us in our minds. We can be locked up in fear.

But our verse tells us that God has not given us the spirit of fear. Instead He gives us power, love, and a sound mind. Fear can be debilitating to the point of becoming a psychological disorder. Some people are afraid of being out in crowds or around people, that is called agoraphobia, and they are holed up in their houses, afraid to step outside. I have never experienced that kind of fear, but I do have a fear.

I am totally deaf in one ear due to an illness I had as a child. My fear is that I will lose my hearing totally in my good ear and go completely deaf. To this day I don’t like being in totally quiet rooms, I must have noise, the radio or TV, in the background. A few years ago, I experienced an ear infection that was so bad that I lost a part of my hearing in my good ear. My husband could stand next to me and yell in my ear and I could barely hear him. It scared me badly. I experienced the closest thing to being totally deaf, the thing I feared the most, and I was in a panic. Praise God for His healing and antibiotics and medication to clear the ear infection. I did regain my hearing, however; my hearing was diminished a little. I’ve worn hearing aids for about 30 years, and my hearing continues to decline. Losing my hearing completely is still a fear, but God has helped me through that experience, and it no longer is as strong of a fear as it was before. I have learned a little sign language, so that I will be able to communicate with others. I’m grateful for friends who are sign language interpreters and help me out when I don’t understand something. I’ve also learned to read lips a little.

There are other types of fear that can cause us to step back and not be who we are called to be. We can also be fearful to step out into an area of growth that God is calling us into. We must believe that we are who God says we are. We must remember that it is God who gives us the ability to do what He has called us to. When I first started doing my blog, I was very hesitant. Several years ago, a prophetic word, that I was to begin journaling and I would be ministering to others, was spoken over me. First, I had never had a prophetic word spoken over me before and I wasn’t sure just how to take it. After consulting with my Pastor and talking to some others about what I felt God was leading me to, I launched out. It has been a slow beginning, but I am now beginning to see some rewards, small ones, but rewards none the less. I had to believe that I was able to do what God said I could do and not allow fear to stop me from being obedient to step into my calling.

We must go to God’s Word to reaffirm what He says about us. Romans 8:37 tells us that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (NASB) God promises that He will not forsake us. (Psalm 37:25) Ephesians 4:8 tells us that He leads us out of slavery. “Wherefore he saith ‘When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men.’” (KJV) Philippians 4:3 says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (NASB) Jesus gives us the strength and helps us to step out into whatever it is that we need to do.

We can follow God and His call on our lives because He does not give us the spirit of fear, He frees us from it. All we need to do is allow Him to free us from that fear and surrender it to Him.

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.

Freedom is Found in Christ

In the United States we celebrate our Independence Day on July 4th. There is much celebrating as we remember what was given so that we can live in a country where we are free to live and worship as we please. There is also a Spiritual freedom that comes through belief and acceptance of Jesus Christ. Our Bible Journaling today comes from John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.” (CSB)

First off, we need to know the definition of freedom. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines freedom as “the quality or state of being free: such as the absence of necessity, coercion or constraint in choice or action, liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another.” Spiritually, we are free from the power of sin over our lives once we become Born-Again Believers. However, that does not mean we will never sin. We still are human beings who are not perfect and do sin. But that does not mean that all is hopeless. God forgives our sin when we repent and ask for His forgiveness. If we are free in Jesus does that mean we have a license to do whatever we want, even go against God’s law and will for our lives? No. The Apostle Paul dealt with this issue in Romans 6:1-2. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (NASB) There were some in the church who were teaching that because God would forgive their sin when they asked forgiveness (I John 1:9) then they could go out and live any way they wanted, including returning to their old life. What they forgot was, with sin comes consequences and that means discipline from God. Paul had to deal with this issue in the church a lot, it seems.

Freedom doesn’t mean that we can return to our former lifestyle without having to suffer the penalty for disobedience. Just as we in the United States have freedom to live as we please, there are still laws that must be obeyed, or we suffer the consequences.

Today there are still those who think that once they have become Christians, they have an insurance policy to get into Heaven. They think they can go out and live like the Devil himself without repercussion. But Paul says no, there must be accountability and we must be obedient to God and His Word to ensure that we are living holy, justified lives. So, what does freedom in Christ mean? It means that we are free to follow Him and His precepts, Not only are we free from the penalty of our sin, but we are also free to love and worship God and have a close relationship with Him. We are free from Satan’s hold on us and we are free to follow God, free to choose to live a life of joy, peace, and restoration.

We are also free to believe what God says about us. Sometimes, I have a hard time accepting what God says about me. I know myself, and I know I don’t measure up to God’s standards. I look at myself in the mirror and what I see doesn’t please me a lot of the time. But when I look at myself through God’s Word and see what it is that He says about me, then I realize that I must quiet the sound of the enemy in my head telling me that I’m not who God says I am. God says I am His (Isaiah 43:1), He says I am precious to Him (Isaiah 43:4), He says I am loved (Jeremiah 31:3), He says I am beautiful (Isaiah 62:3, Ephesians 2:10), He says I am accepted (Ephesians 1:3-6), and He says that I am restored (Psalm 23:3). We have freedom in Christ to believe what He says about us and to live accordingly. We can then rejoice in our freedom. I am so thankful that God provided a way for me to enjoy the freedom I find in Jesus. My heart is full of peace and joy, knowing that I have freedom in Christ. You can also know that freedom. If you have ever asked Jesus to save you from your sins, now is a good time. 2 Corinthians says, “…Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation.” When you accept Jesus’ free gift of salvation you can begin to enjoy a life of freedom in Him.

Clinging to God Brings Life

Our relationship with God is determined by how close we are to Him. In today’s Bible Journaling, God says we are to cling to Him because this is our life. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (NASB) Our life comes from God, physically and spiritually. In order to receive the blessings of God, we must choose the pathway He has laid out for us and we must be obedient to His Word.

In Hebrew the word “L’Chaim” means “to life”. This is a common toast given at Jewish weddings. It is a blessing upon the new couple for a long and happy life. In our Scripture today God is encouraging Israel to turn from their rebellion by being obedient to Him, and walking closely to Him, thereby choosing the life God gives over the death that disobedience and rebellion brings. Israel had been contentious from the moment they came out of Egypt. They were always complaining, going against everything the Lord had directed them to do, and because of their disobedience, a whole generation were kept out of the Promised Land. Israel continued, even after being in the Promised Land, to rebel and follow the idols of other nations. This brought about judgement upon them. God had to punish their disobedience. However, He promised restoration if they chose to follow Him and live the life He laid down for them. He had given them the law by which they were to follow. If they chose to follow Him closely, life was theirs, if not then they would receive curses.

It is the same for us as Believers. God desires a close relationship with us, and He wants us to stay close to His side, live holy and pure lives, offering our last ounce of devotion and love to Him. By walking in the pathway He has for us, we receive eternal life. Blessings will be ours; a life of peace and joy will be our reward. By accepting Jesus as our Savior, and promising and endeavoring to live holy lives, we are guaranteed salvation and a life in eternity in Heaven with Him.

We must remember also that our lives are a shining example of the work God has done in our hearts. When we live pure, holy, and clean lives before the world and love God with all our heart, it is a testament of what Jesus has done for us. Our obedience brings a light that shines, reflecting Jesus’ light in us, and directs them toward God. When we live lives that are so radically different from the world, it becomes a beacon. Just as a lighthouse gives out light to keep ships safe in the harbor, the light of Jesus directs the world to a safe harbor into the arms of God and life.

When we read our Bibles in daily study and quiet time, pray, gather with fellow Believers, follow the instruction given in His word, and show love to others, we are choosing life over death and blessing over curses. Not only do we benefit from obedience to God, but so do those around us. They see how our obedience to Him affects our lives and it makes them desire what it is we have. We witness to others with our lives. The adage, “witness to others and when necessary use words” is so appropriate and true. Our lives are an open testimony of what God has done in us. Love God, live in obedience, and show His love to others. That is how we win this world for Jesus and receive life!