Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Children Not Slaves

The word, slave, is a strong word.  In fact, it is so strong that we don't even use it today when we refer to the global problem of human trafficking.  We use the term "human trafficking," but the reality is that people's freedom is stolen from them and they are forced to be slaves.  They are controlled both through emotional and physical threats.  This is such a deplorable thing to do to another human and for most people it is considered unacceptable.  But at the time the book of Romans was written, slavery was considered acceptable by many.  So, when the reference to slavery was used, the audience reading it would understand how the life of a slave was not their own.  Please use the link and read how it was used to make a point about who we are through Christ: Romans 8:12-17.

I love the difference that is made in these verses!  I want you to keep the picture in your head of what a slave truly is.  This is a person who is being forced to do something they do not want to do with little or nothing in return.  When we choose to follow our human nature, we are told that we become slaves to our sin.  There is no way out accept through Christ.  When we allow ourselves to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, we are not under his control as slaves.  We are brought into His family as His children.  What difference!  We are given great promises as His children.

What God wants from us isn't always easy, but we are given His power through the Holy Spirit to get it done.  We are not slaves to sin; we are children of our Creator.  The Holy Spirit doesn't make us obey as a fearful slave; instead we obey out of love.  We obey out of confidence that we are God's children!

Do you believe that in Christ you have freedom?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Control

Would you rather be in control or under control?  What if it turns out that you can be under the control of someone who wants what is best for you?  I know that I like to feel like I am in control; however, over the years I have learned that isn't what is best.  I have learned that not only is it okay to relinquish control, but I am more content when I give control over to God (this doesn't mean I do it perfectly!).  Please use the link and read what Romans 8:9-14 tells us about the Holy Spirit's control.

We are told in these verses that we no longer need to control everything because when we do that we really are not in control - our sinful nature is in control.  When we accept the Holy Spirit's control over our lives, we will find life and empowerment to do what God wants for us.  When we are living by our sinful nature, we may think we are in control, but we are really just doing what sin wants us to do.  When we are living by the Spirit, we know we are not in control but the Spirit is in control and that is when we can also realize the incredible power that is living in us!  It really is an amazing thing - trying to control our lives leads to powerlessness and death.  Allowing the Spirit to control our lives leads to life and we experience power that is beyond our ability to comprehend.

What controls you?

Monday, May 19, 2014

What the Law Could Not Do

As I was reading through Romans 8 this morning, I was struck by the amazing gifts of mercy and power we are promised in this chapter.  I guess it is the idea that not only do we receive mercy, but we are given the power to live a life that is pleasing to God.  Please use the link and read Romans 8:1-8.

In these verses we are told that if we are in Christ there is no condemnation because through Christ God did what the Law could not do - provide mercy.  But Jesus' sacrifice went beyond that, He declared an end to sin's control over us.  That is amazing!  We are told in these verses that not only does sin no longer control us, but we are now given the power of the Holy Spirit to do what is pleasing to God.  We are told that as long as we allow the Holy Spirit to control our hearts, we will do what pleases Him.  But we are warned that if we allow our sinful nature to take control, we will sin.

You can see in these verses that the gift of mercy through Jesus isn't just a band-aide; it is a life changing gift!  It is life changing because we are given the Holy Spirit to live out the life that God created us to live.  We were created with love and purpose and when we are in Christ, we are empowered to live out our purpose.  So, the Law tells us how we should live, but it couldn't break us away from our sin.  Christ broke sin's control over us and gave us the Holy Spirit.

What controls you?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What We Do Not Have

What do you hope for?  Some things we hope for are big...we hope for healing, we hope for resolution to a major problem.  Some things we hope for are small...we hope we have time to grab a cup of coffee on our way to work, we hope that our baby will sleep through the night (maybe that's not so small!).  Either way we don't sit on our couch in the living room hoping that we can have that couch - we already have it.  We don't hope for what we already have; we hope for the things we do not have.  Our greatest hope is what we are promised in Jesus - eternal life with our Creator.  Yesterday, I looked at Romans 8:31-39 and focused on how God's love for us is so great and we can know that nothing can destroy our eternal hope we have in Jesus.  Today, I want to back-track a little and look at more of Romans 8 and see how great our hope is in Jesus.  Please use the link and read Romans 8:18-25.

We all have days that remind us that there is a better life waiting for us; a life with our Savior.  All we have to do is watch the news to remember how much pain this world is in.  Hundreds of innocent girls are kidnapped so a terrorist group can use them as pawns in their deadly games.  An incomprehensible number of people have their lives stolen from them and are forced into slavery.  People do not value life and kill one another.  War.  Natural disasters.  Divorce.  I could go on and on.  This world is hurting and there are times when we get caught in its turbulence.  But we have a hope that goes beyond the suffering of this world.  You see, this life we are currently living is for a short time in comparison to all of eternity.  We can cling to the hope we have in Jesus that we will some day receive the inheritance we have been promised.

It makes me think of when I was in labor with my first child.  It was a labor that lasted 31 hours and the thought that I had throughout was the fact that millions of women had done this before me and when it was over I would have my precious baby.  That was the hope that got me through each painful minute of my labor.  Seventeen years later, those 31 hours seem like a small little blip compared to the life we've had with our son.  That doesn't diminish the pain I experienced in the moment, but it gives me a picture of what this life will be like to us once we are living out the promise we are given through Jesus.  We can hope in the fact that it really will be so much better!  Life with our Savior is beyond anything we can understand and that hope can help us when the pain of this world overwhelms us.

Where are you placing your hope?

Monday, May 12, 2014

More Than Conquerors

I don't know about you, but it is often difficult for me to think of things with the perspective of eternity.  I am bombarded all day with things that seem urgent or of great importance.  It can be hard to see past all those influences with the idea that what I am experiencing in the moment is really just that - it is for a moment.  With the perspective of eternity, I would remember what is more important.  I think there are decisions that I would have made differently if I would have had the perspective of eternity at the forefront of my mind.  To see what I mean, please use the link and read Romans 8:31-39.

These verses are very powerful!  They remind us that there is nothing that will ever separate us from God's love.  No matter what we face, no matter what the world calls us; we can have the assurance that we are who God says we are.  When we believe and follow Jesus, we are adopted into God's family as His children.  As a result, we are reminded that nothing can change who we are in Christ.  We are God loved children, so that can empower us to make decisions that will please God.

Here is what I mean:  if we remember that our position as God's children is more important than what we are facing here on earth, it will drastically change what we do.  If we remember that we dearly loved by God, He will not let whatever we face to destroy who we are in Him.  So, we do not need to be afraid of talking to our neighbors about the great hope we have in Christ because their response will not change who we are in Christ.  And when we focus on who we are in Christ and His great love for us, we will want others to have that as well.  We may face persecution or suffering, we may even face physical death; that will not change who we are in Christ.  We are told we are more than conquerors because God is the One who justifies us and the enemy cannot change that.  Do you see how that perspective changes how we can respond to the influences around us?

Do you believe that you are who God says you are?  Do you believe that God loves you dearly?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Love Your Enemies

This week, God has really been pointing out the importance of love to me.  He has been reminding me above all, love is the greatest.  After all, love is why Jesus came and sacrificed His life for us.  So, we are told that just as we are loved by God, we should love others.  I guess that it is challenging in all situations, but when we are talking about the people we choose to be with that it doesn't seem too crazy.  But then, when we start talking about the people who seem to grate on our nerves or hurt us it becomes something bigger than ourselves.  Please see what Jesus said about love in Matthew 4:43-48.

We are to love others, even our enemies.  That seems like an impossible task and it is when we are operating in our human selves.  So, if it is impossible for us to do that why would Jesus command it?  This is because we are to love through God, not through ourselves.  We have the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit to give us this supernatural love that is completely unnatural to the human nature.  Think of the impact that could have!  If we show love for everyone, not just the people we like to be with it will make a mark in this world.

Who would you rather not love?  Ask God to change your heart to love that person and see them as God sees them.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Be Intentional

I was talking with a few people who had been challenged to think about if they are being asked by other people about their faith.  They were then challenged to consider the reasons why they were not having conversations about their faith.  Either they do not know people outside of church who do not know Christ, or they are not living their lives in a way that shows there is a difference.  That is challenging to think about, isn't it?  I currently work at a church, so I cannot rely on my workplace to help me get to know those who don't know Christ.  What that means is that I have to purposely and actively pursue relationships with people outside of church.  Think about it...if I don't intentionally pursue those relationships, I will not have the opportunities to share Christ with others.

How can we be intentional?  For me, I've done things that I enjoy to be intentional.  I like to read and I love music, so I've participated in a book club in the past and I have played in community bands.  God gave us our skills and talents so they can be used by Him - whether in your local church or through other ministry.  And the wonderful thing is that we are not doing it alone!  Please use the link and read what we are told in Romans 5:1-5.  We are reminded of the great hope we have in Christ, and we are also reminded that we have the Holy Spirit who fills our hearts with God's love.

God's love in us is changing us and those who don't know Christ should be seeing a difference in us.  We should be drawing people to Christ because of the love residing in us.  The more we spend with God in prayer and in the Bible, the more His love will shine through.  This love isn't just for us; His love is for everyone!

Do you have opportunities to show God's love?  If not, how can you be intentional to be in a place where opportunities will happen?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Faith Expressed Through Love

After taking several weeks off, I am so happy to say that I am back!  When I decided to take a break, I had been suffering from daily migraines and finally decided that I needed to stop since I was moving so slow in the mornings.  The daily migraines are gone and seem to be under control.  This was the first major break I have taken in five years of writing this blog.  I can honestly say that it is only by God's power that I have written a blog for that long.  When I started this blog, it was with the intention to write for a short period of time.  God had very different plans for me!

I am going to ease back into things this week by sharing some verses that God has used to speak to me over this break.  Yesterday, I read Galatians 5:6 and as I looked it up in context this morning, I wanted to share Galatians 5:5-6 (NIV):  "For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."  We are saved by Christ through faith in Him.  He showed us the greatest act of love this world will ever know by sacrificing Himself when He had no fault.  So, it is no surprise then that we see that we are told in Galatians 5:6 that the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.  God wants us to show our faith in Him by loving others.

I was challenged to consider who is in my life right now that is difficult to love.  Then I was reminded how the ability to love has been given to us through the Holy Spirit.  We can love even those who make it hard for us to love through the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

Is your faith being expressed through love?