Liberty, Freedom, and Love

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For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed  that ye be not consumed one of another.

Galatians 5:13-15, KJV

Liberty…freedom.

These words provoke feelings of patriotism in U.S. citizens, moreover, they elicit relief and celebration in Christian brothers and sisters. For those who live in free countries their hearts can swell at the mention of liberty, but how much more so those who have been set free and liberated from sin and death for all eternity?

This week’s protests in Baltimore and surrounding major U.S. cities have evoked different responses from citizens, news correspondents, and politicians alike. One will cry oppression and the next thug. Next the two will mull over the meaning behind the words and continue to put forth his or her views and, if we are lucky, actual facts concerning the situation at hand. Meanwhile, vandalism escalates and police are told to stand down and forget their training which would provide protection to the private citizens and business owners. Gang members gather and pursue face-time as the press seeks to bring us the latest on the breaking news in Baltimore.

Liberty…freedom.

Liberty and freedom ring loudest when the citizens are self-governing their moral and ethical obligations to their neighbors from a contrite heart who knows that it bears the image of God. The Imago Dei. Further that they will give an account of all their actions to their Creator.

Our society has fallen so far off the Biblical path that we are ignorant of the fact that we are created by a Someone, for a purpose, with an eternity after death. Insteadwe have a society largely comprised of people who believe they came from nothing, are going nowhere, and are held to no one’s standards or moral code than the one they choose for themselves.

Liberty and freedom are found at the threshold of obedience and discipline, not the scattered remains of crashed windows and looted goods. 

Government funds and legislation are not the answers to the problems in Baltimore, nor across the U.S. God is the answer to the problems. Once each neighbor realizes that he or she is created by God, bear His image, is held to His standards, will be judged by His premises, and can be saved and liberated from sin by His grace, then prayerfully,  they will live for His glory and obey His commands.

Our response as Christians to all the headlines of today’s news is evangelism and disciple making. Simply put, we are to fulfill the great commission and be ambassadors of Christ in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our places of work. We are to bear the image of Christ and spread His message on all street corners of America and the world.

The inner men must be changed before the outer actions of man become civil and just. Good Christians make for good citizens and good leaders. We must love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves, live within the law, and spread the gospel to stop the biting and devouring of one another in our country.

Another pertinent matter for prayer: in June, the Supreme Court of the United States will make a ruling concerning same sex marriage. Please be in prayer for the upholding of the biblical definition of marriage. You can follow the story from a much more knowledgeable source on legal matters than myself, Dr. Russell Moore, at his website (click here).

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A Lasting Legacy

I often find myself in second hand stores like the Goodwill or our local used library store. I love finding richness and bargains in the items others have deemed unnecessary or no longer useful. It is often a thrill to find a classic book in worn or like new condition.

I say find myself in such places, maybe lend myself to such places is a better way to put it. In any case, I like finding value and bargains in discarded items. The adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is certainly one that my mom taught me.

About a month ago, I was using some alone time to peruse our local Goodwill. I don’t often check out the furniture section, but decided I would. Imagine my surprise when I spotted a stunning, dark wood piano. I heard my breath catch and my coffee cup quickly found its way to a resting place as I eagerly fingered each key to check and see if they worked.

To my delight, each key let out a beautiful note equal to the beauty of the piano. The cost…a meager one hundred dollars. An expense great in some measures, but a bargain in this case. Dare I text my husband to see if I could purchase the piece? I dared… and waited.  While I was waiting for a response from Ron, I lifted the piano bench to find several very old and well-used hymnals. As I already said, I love old books, but even more than old books, I love a life lived worshiping the Lord Jesus. This bargain piano had belonged to a woman named Faith, who had been praising the Lord on this very piano for, as it appeared, quite some time.

A Lasting Legacy

Sold!

I wavered a bit between texts with Ron and conversations with the manager about pick up details. Ultimately, I knew this piano was a gift from God. He had seen my sideways glances at our silver keyboard seemingly out of place in our dinning room area. He knew that I would love a piano even though I hadn’t even hoped to acquire one, much less ask. I know it is a luxury item when compared to the poverty stricken world, but a laughable pocket change expense to the richest in our land. Even so, it was a gift of affordable price from the Lord wrapped in the remnants of a life of worship played on its keys for years before.

I find it amazing, that the choices we make in this life echo long after our bodies return to the dust. Faith’s legacy was apparent, in part, by the choices in music she made and the pages of worship she left behind. Our actions preach beyond our present and our legacy lasts beyond our life’s breath. 

Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.

Proverbs 20:11, KJV

Our life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions; but in the One who possess our very souls. We labor and toil and worry, and are liable to miss the point if we aren’t seeking to live the crucified and resurrected life of Christ. Yes, this means possessions will come and go, but how we use them, and for whom, is more the point.

For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune.

Ecclesiastes 2:21, NIV

It is a misfortune if the only reason for which we have toiled is to acquire or to satiate our selfish ambition in this life. If we have toiled to bless and to be an instrument of God’s glory then we are working for eternal riches to be realized in heaven for eternity. As David Platt says in his new book, Counter Culture, we aren’t working for twenty years from now, we are working for twenty million years from now. Solomon wrote the above verse in light of the temporary. When we work for the eternal, then our work is never meaningless and whatever remains for others to use is not a misfortune. The rewards that matter most comes from work that is lasting and ultimately realized in heaven.

Some of the greatest composers of all time were men who loved God and penned lasting music for God’s glory alone, Soli Deo Gloria. Consider:

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.

Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul.

Johann Sebastian Bach

What will those after us find when they open the boxes of our left behind possessions? Boxes filled with worldly remains or the remnants of a life well lived? In all that we say and all that we do we strive to do it Soli Deo Gloria. For the moments we fail there is grace found in faith through Jesus Christ. 

Praying we live a life of lasting legacy,

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Parting Words: An Easter Series

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Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. (Ecclesiastes 7:8,ESV)

Good-byes are difficult. The good-byes of life: the dorm room, the parting of child from family at the alter of marriage, the distance of a move, the deathbed…many moments in life involve parting words. As we enter into the Easter Season, I want to focus on the good-byes of Jesus and of Paul. What did the Savior of the world want to leave as parting lessons with his disciples–with us? How did Paul part with Timothy? What were his final instructions to the young man he mentored in the faith?

I believe that our good-byes can be strengthened by looking at the good-byes of Jesus and Paul. In the next five weeks leading up to Easter we will delve into:

  • Paul’s last words to Timothy
  • Jesus’ last words to the Apostles
  • Jesus’ parting words in Revelation

I look forward to learning how to say meaningful and lasting parting words in this life so that the hellos of eternity will be all the sweeter. I certainly need these lessons, and I eagerly anticipate learning them alongside you this Easter Season.

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Shades of Regret

Shades of Regret

When you are a mother of two small children, you spend a lot of time in public restrooms. It was my fourth trip to a public restroom in the last two hours, and I didn’t want to make another trip once our movie started.While waiting on my daughter to come out of the stall, an older woman was washing her hands and offered,

I just watched 50 Shades of Grey. I didn’t’ need that. My curiosity got the better of me.

She shakes her head and wrings her hands with soap. I nod and wonder what on earth I can tell this woman. What hope should I offer in a few seconds in the bathroom? It seemed she simply wanted to confess to me. She continued as I listened and nodded,

You know the man is just messed up.  Save your eight dollars and go get Chinese instead.

She shook her head, flung up her hand, and walked out the door while I meagerly offered a few remarks. This woman was clearly disturbed by the sadomasochistic movie that is sweeping the nation and was first within the grasp of teens, moms, and people of all ages at major chains such as Walmart, Target, and all bookstores and e-readers since 2011. It is reported to have sold 100 million copies in 52 languages worldwide.

An estimated 900 teens in Orlando (see here) stormed a movie theater in attempts to watch the rated R movie earlier this week.

The Christian community has not remained silent on this topic. Consider Dannah Gresh’s book, Pulling Back the Shades. (Read about it here.) Or, this thought provoking article by Dr. Russell Moore, Women Stop Submitting to Men? (click here). However, in the case that you have missed these, I want to warn you: flee the temptation to see what all the hype is about!

Men and women of the Church, do not use this as an opportunity to research pop culture. Consider this a call to be in the world and not of it. Protect your minds and relationships from this obvious working of evil. Many times we can fall into a spiritual pit of despair and sin we were not seeking, but consider this your warning that the pit is within your vision and the choice to descend is up to you.

Sex is so perverted in our fallen state post garden– post forbidden fruit. The good gift that God created from the time He introduced Adam and Eve has been polluted by the sins of this world. We worship the created act of sex above the Creator and pervert the original gift of sex within marriage. 50 Shades of Grey is another proof of this fact.

Don’t let curiosity rob you of your peace of mind and spirit. Heed the lesson from the woman I met, and warn your friends likewise.

Fight the good fight of faith and finish the race having won the battle over curiosities that God’s Word blatantly speaks over as evil and destructive.

Did I miss an opportunity to share Christ with this woman? Perhaps. I pray that she will seek out, or already knows the truth for herself. However, I didn’t miss an opportunity to pray for her. Further, I don’t think that it was any accident that I was in the right place at the right time to hear her confession and tell her story to you.  I can see her distraught look even now. I pray that the shades of regret will not be mirrored on your face.

Choose life.

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What Learning Looks Like From Here

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They stoop low at the ocean’s edge inspecting a Florida horse conch. The sun has just begun to peak out from beneath the clouds and warm the final January day in Florida.

I snap their picture and think, this is what learning looks like from here.

Bent low, searching, seeking the knowledge and adventure that await in a moment of exploration. God’s sea creatures each tell a story, and the seemingly peaceful shore mocks the real truth that life in the sea is fierce and tumultuous even as the soothing, rhythmic sounds of the ocean lull me into a peaceful state.

There is always this tension just beneath the surface of life.

There is no escaping the forces of good and evil when we live on this side of eternity.

There is a constant need to bend low and search out the still, small voice of God that can also boom like approaching thunder.

At the supposed age of Christ during his final year in earthly ministry, I feel what most people feel as they steadily grow older: wisdom comes with age and it is harder not to be blinded by the cares of this world nor the skepticism reality brings with each passing year. I am learning that I can no more hold on to the present than it becomes the past. I must enjoy each moment for what it is, for it only comes once and then a memory.

Is it any wonder that God asks us to approach Him with the faith of a child? The child that is oblivious to the cares and demands of life. The child that sees not distractions, but opportunities to explore and learn. The child that sees now even as she anticipates the future. The older they grow the faster they desire to grow up and shed the contentment of their age at present.

Life, like the tide, is in a constant state of give and take, come and go. Even this week, we celebrate the seventh birthday of our daughter and only three weeks ago the fifth of our son; we join with the throngs who utter, “Where did the time go?”.  But hidden with the jewels of the sea, there are lessons to be learned, discoveries to be made that utter even of the passing of time. Anne Morrow Lindbergh captures a few of these lessons in her book, Gift from the Sea:

One learns to accept the fact that no permanent return is possible to an old form of relationship; and, more deeply still, that there is no holding of a relationship to a single form. This is not tragedy but part of the ever-recurrent miracle of life and growth. All living relationships are in process of change, of expansion, and must perpetually be building themselves new forms.

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

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The jewels of the sea grow larger with age–their age brings constant rebuilding of their present forms. So do we, don’t you agree? We shouldn’t look the same at fifty as we did at five, nor should we come to the same hobbies void of new knowledge and understanding.

I have always loved the shore. The splash of waves and the picking up of shells. However, now I enjoy it with specificity. That is, I see it more like God sees it. Crying forth its message of creation, fall, redemption, life, death, catastrophe, and rebuilding. I can name the shells I once only admired. Isn’t that grand, that learning from here continues, but looks different than nearly three decades ago?

I can only imagine the discoveries I will make and the view-point I will take in one, two, or perhaps three decades time. Then, maybe I will stoop with my grandchildren and ponder, So this is what learning looks like from here.

beach 2015

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Same Song, Second Verse

I grew up in a small Baptist church where hymn books were opened every Sunday morning and evening. When we were first dating, my husband often joked with me saying I knew every hymn by heart. Well, I may know the first and fourth stanzas, but the second and third ones are a little more of a reach.

Over the Christmas break, Ron and I attended my sister and brother-in-law’s church. During the singing of one particular hymn, the second verse caught me by most pleasant surprise. The second verse to How Great Thou Art is probably one of the most skipped verses in all my hymn-singing upbringing.

When through the woods and forest glades I wander

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,

When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,

And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

~How Great Thou Art, by Carl C. Boberg adapted by Stuart K. Hine

My soul feels most at peace when I am in awe of God’s creation.

I have sat at the base of a waterfall and heard the mighty rushing waters never ceasing. I’ve hiked in some of the most beautiful rock formations in America. I have paddled a kayak in the waters of the gulf and sat in observation of countless sunsets. In each of these settings the thoughts that are provoked are ones of worship of the Lord.

Ron Havasu Falls

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Family Hike

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The last pictured mountain is part of the Carpathian Mountain Range in Ukraine; the same mountains that the writer Carl C. Boberg crossed while penning this famous hymn. Ron and I traveled there in 2006.

Rediscovering this second verse of the beloved hymn, How Great Thou Art, is important to me for two reasons. First, this is a song–in particular a verse–which resonates with the Holy Spirit within me. This reflects the sentiments of many Christ followers; we feel closest to God when we are divulged in creation. Secondly, the memories that this verse provokes remind me of the thoughts I was thinking during each adventure. Some thoughts were pure, peaceful, and filled with worship. Others were full of discontent, complaining, or comparison.

It is clear, even in the most ideal surroundings we have choices to make. On what will we focus? Will we choose contentment? Will we choose to approach the Father with gratitude, or grumbling? Will we look at things as they are and see the good, or will we look at situations as we want them to be and see only what is missing?

By far, the fondest memories for me are those in which my inner worship matched the outer grandeur. I revel in the ones in which my thoughts were pure, prayer was on my spirit’s lips, my worship was vibrant, I was enjoying my companions or my solitude, and my thoughts were set on things above.

Certainly, my more favorable memories were when I was acting in the will of God.

This year, we will sing many of the same verses we have sung in years past. The difference in our singing lies with the heart and mind with which we approach the song. There are lessons to be learned and paths to be traveled. May we worship God in His greatness in the forests, by the brook, and in mountain grandeur.

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What Happens When We Rest?

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“God has to knock me out to make me rest.  That’s how He gets me to slow down.” I’ve had several women say this to me while recovering from sickness.

As women, we often conceive that in order to be our best, we must be constantly about our business, a superwoman. I don’t believe we consciously understand or express this mindset, but, in our subconscious mind, we equate rest–the act of stillness, quietness, a break from usual routines, time away–with guilt and indulgence. After all, we reason, what woman has changed the world because she rested?

Join me at iBelieve today to wrestle with this idea of rest. (click here)

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Inspiration for the New Year

A little inspiration for our new year’s aspirations, paths to be tread, dreams to be dreamed, and travels that await.

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Dear Lord, please give me…

A few friends who understand me and yet remain my friends.

A work to do which has real value, without which the world would feel the poorer…

A mind unafraid to travel, even though the trail be not blazed.

An understanding heart…

A sense of humor.

Time for quiet, silent mediation.

A feeling of the presence of God.

And the patience to wait for the coming of these things, with the wisdom to know them when they come.

~W.R. Hunt

Taken from Treasured Stories of Christmas  by Guideposts

 

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I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,

with thee, O Father, as my harbor,

thee, O Son at my helm,

thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

~The Valley of Vision

Inspirations for a New Year

Roads go ever on and on,

Over rock and under tree, 

By caves where sun has never shone, 

By streams that never find the sea;

Over snow by winter sown, 

And through the merry flowers of June, 

Over grass and over stone, 

And under mountains in the moon.

Roads Go Ever On and On ~J. R.R. Tolkien

 

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. ~Proverbs 19:21

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Homeland: Until We’re There

Homeland Part 3

He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

~O’Holy Night

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:14, ESV)

We find find ourselves waking to a world akin to the setting Christ entered into over 2,000 years ago. He came to bring peace and redeem lost mankind; even now, especially now, the Prince of Peace is needed on this earth.

The hopeful message of Christmas is that God became man and sympathizes with our weaknesses, our daily needs, and the temptations that are common to man. He is no stranger to the sting of death, separation from loved ones, betrayal, want, and the disappointment of broken relationships and broken people. Christ knows that rejoicing in darkness is impossible apart from the Light of the world; so He came to deliver the Light–Himself–for all mankind. (See John 1:9-13)

He is the Light that gives birth to the sons and the daughters of God. He is the Light that pierces the darkness with the full knowledge of how the darkness bears weight on all mankind. Jesus drew near to us so that we could draw near to the Father. How are we to press on in the meantime? How do we live until we reach our Homeland?

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4:15, ESV)

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:11-12, ESV)

So, until we reach our Homeland, until we cross the threshold of time and space to Heaven and eternity, Christ sets the example for us to follow. He gives us a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12) to imitate their faith and patience so we may inherit the promises of God–eternal life through Christ Jesus.

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:14-16, ESV)

He knows our needs, and to our weaknesses He is no stranger. Behold our King this Christmas season and before Him lowly bend. God is with us and if He is with us and for us, then none shall stand against us.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

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Homeland: Finishing Well

HomelandFinishing Well

Each year as we approach Christmas, it is with the mindset that the new year is only days behind the unwrapping of our brown paper packages tied up with string. We pause amidst the hustle and the bustle of the season and wind down before preparing for New Year’s resolutions. We might make excuses to put off until next year what we can do today. We let the diet go, the dust bunnies settle, the visits to the gym wane. We might even give up on catching up on our daily Bible reading plan thinking we have fallen too far behind.

Today, I want us to think about the importance of finishing well. We have only 15 days left in this year. It would be easy for us to close shop, so to speak, and leave whatever is undone for a to do list in the new year, but we may miss out on the blessing of finishing well. Consider:

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. ~Ecclesiastes 7:8

In this Homeland series, we are taking to heart the model set by the greats of the faith in Hebrews 11. The cloud of witnesses considered themselves strangers and exiles on earth; speaking in such a way that they made it clear they were seeking a homeland: Heaven. The faith heroes of Hebrews 11 set the example for us to finish well. I believe this means in life in totality and in daily circumstances in general. We do not live faithful lives without first living faithful days.

Abraham was looking forward to the city that has foundations whose designer and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:10) This forward looking approach lead Abraham to make daily decisions to follow God no matter where the yeses led him. Did he blunder and bauble along the way? Most definitely! So will you and I. However, Abraham sets an example for us in that we should faithfully serve and trust God even when His promises seem slow in fulfillment or outside the time parameters that we would have chosen.

Who has God asked you to reach out to this year? What has He asked of you that you are tempted to put off until the New Year? What yes do we need to say in the last days of 2014 so that the first days of 2015 our feet are pointed in the right direction to pursue Christ and journey to our Homeland?

…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV)

Looking to finish well,

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