Journey From Bondage to Freedom

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I’m in bondage. Fear has taken ahold of me. I’ll be honest with you readers it has been quite awhile since I have been able to go to church, mostly for health reasons but that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t be listening to the tape of the service and even longer since I’ve read my Bible. Some Christian Right? I known overwhelming fear and while watching “The Fighting Temptations” twice yesterday with two different friends, (I thought the movie would be a blessing to them, but I think it blessed me the most).  I needed what it shared, my church and being in the choir was the first blessing it gave me, remembering the joy for it. But then when my friends were gone came the real blessing facing hard ugly truths about myself, and this to share with you, also terrifies me, but I know honesty and transparency is what is required. So as my stomach churns, I progress.

Phillipians 4:6-7  “In nothing be anxious, but in everything by prayer and thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” 

The Bible makes it very clear that we are not to fear! That we are to put our trust in the Lord. It is that simple. He promises peace if we just trust, pray and thank Him, easier said than done.

I did say that I’m in bondage and yes that as I sit here I realize I have been most of my life. Fear has been the main underlying storyline of my life that, and a general feeling of unworthiness. This last week I’ve been drowning in fear.

Letting myself fear is a sin of not putting my trust in God the creator of the universe. How can I be so arrogant? Could it be that I feel unworthy of His love? His grace? His care? How can I say I put my faith, my salvation in His hands, yet I don’t trust Him with my health issues, with my families issues, with my friends? Do I really believe God to be the God of gods and the Lord of Lords? The Holy Father of the Son of God Jesus Christ who died for my sins? If I do how is it that this magnificent God is not worthy of my trust?

Matthew 6:25-26 “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t so or reap or gather into barns, yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?”

You would think that these two verses, especially the last sentence would calm me and put my mind at ease; to know that the God of the universe thinks I’m of more worth than the birds of the air. I wish I could honestly tell you that the nerves in my stomach the overwhelming fear of the unknown has been comforted, it has not.

Matthew 6:27 “Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying?”

Makes worrying seem rather futile doesn’t it? I know it does to me logically as well, but that doesn’t change the truth of what I’m really feeling, anxiety/fear/worry still.

Matthew 6:28-30 “And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was not adorned like one of these! If that’s how God cloths the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you – you of little faith?”

There it is again He will take care of us with not just adequate care, or good care, but adorned by God. He clearly tells us all over His word how much He loves and adores us. Yet my sin, my shinning folly is staring back at me from the words I’ve just typed, ” – you of little faith”. I’ve been out of a Bible study and of my own studying of the Word, away from church, and only talking with God for a very long time. I know our relationship needs more than that my faith has lessoned. I’ve fallen. My God help @me! Save me from the fear, the worry that permeates my being. Help me put my heath issues in your hand!

Matthew 6:31-34 “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat? or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

There is the answer on how to actively stop worrying! First we must make the decision to obey God by letting Him know what’s our my heart. Phillipians 4:6 “in everything by prayer and thanksgiving, let your requests be made know to God. ” We need communicate with our Lord, pour out whatever it is that is weighing us down, He wants to know it all. After all He already knows it – He’s waiting for us to let Him in. As I type this I realize I haven’t really been letting my Lord in. Father forgive me. Even better when we take everything by prayer and thanksgiving, making them known to God it will eliminate the worry!

Now before you call me crazy let me try to explain if it isn’t clear. When we give  our worries to God and thank Him for answering our answering our prayers (in advance) we have no need to take them back, thus causing us to worry that day. If we are tempted to take the item back we are commanded to pray in everything by prayer and thanksgiving, to let our requests be made know to God, it doesn’t say that there is any time limit. That we can only come to Him once a day, no! Our Father knows our frailties and loves us. He never slumbers or sleeps, available 24/7, 365, praise Him!

Better yet, that promise goes on to, Phillipians 4:7 “And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” Not only will God eliminate worry He will replace it with a peace that surpasses all understanding! How does that sound for a promise? All we have to do is come to God in prayer and thanksgiving. He is such a gracious Father. There is no way that we can comprehend His peace but to experience it is a blessing of being a child of the King.

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Once we’ve poured our requests to Him, He commands us not to worry, Matthew 6:34 “…don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  As the promise gives us peace, the command keeps us in the present. As Matthew 6:34 says, tomorrow (and as for that the next day and the next have/ [mine]) has enough worry for itself. The promise helps us stay in the present taking our requests to the Lord. The command protects us from living outside of the promise, which is what I was doing. Lord forgive my foolishness!

Joy – A Fellow SoJourner!

Jesus Loves Me!

There is the sound of meals rolling down the aisle of the ward and the distinction of plastic utensils for every meal or the calling of staff for the starting of a group to attend.

During the weekdays it wasn’t bad. We kept busy with groups and doctor visits but weekends were awful. You may wait around all day in the hopes of a visitor, but most of the time was spent in your room or pacing the hall. There was rarely enough staff to take us out in what was referred to as outside. Ounce you got out, there was a very high chain-link fence to keep anyone from leaving. The other option was the TV room, which was also only assessable when there was enough staff to watch everyone. These rarely happened because the unit was usually under staffed.

During one of my hospital stays I met a precious little angel, we’ll call, Annie. This dear soul had down syndrome, was blind, heard voices (schizophrenia), and loved Jesus with all her heart. When the voices got really bad the only thing that would calm her down was singing, “Jesus Loves Me”.

She didn’t spend anytime outside her room with the general population. It never occurred to me to ask the staff why. I can only guess that it was too much stimuli for her to handle. There were a couple of us that would visit her during our down time from groups and meals. Any time we would hear Annie screaming we would get to her as soon as possible to hold her hands and talk to her about what the voices were telling her and the fallacy in what they were saying, pray with her and if all that didn’t work we would sing, “Jesus Loves Me”. As she started feeling better she would join us in singing. Such a simple song, that rang out the words of truth. A song that brought such comfort and healing.

For some reason that none of us will ever know why, they decided Annie should be transferred somewhere else. This made Annie very scared and anxious. I was with her holding her hand singing to her right up until the guys with the gurney started to take her away. I told one EMT “Sing the song ‘Jesus Loves Me’ to her, it calms her.” He said, “You’re a Proverbs 31 woman.” My heart warmed, my throat tightened up & tears ebbed on my eyelids (as is happening as I write this) and I smiled as he wheeled her away. There in a Psychiatric Hospital a patient, not as an employee, he saw something in me; in the psych ward where the most humiliating labels come from, that touched my heart and sent it souring higher than any bird you can imagine. That moment though my body was locked up, my heart and soul were in heaven!

I’ve been hospitalized over 35 times and I could tell you how God met me each time. Some people may see all of these hospitalizations as a failure of me not trusting God or of God not meeting me when I needed Him the most. But that could be nothing further from the truth, in each and everyone I can see how God has blessed me. He has either used me, open my eyes by someone else or both.

Sometimes I wonder why God chose to bless me with the thorns He did. But then I’m reminded that God can meet you anywhere no matter what the circumstances. I’m also reminded how truly blessed I am. I’m truly blessed the more bows in your arsenal the more lives you are able to affect. For that affect I’ll ask God for as many as He feels I am capable of handling.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the hospital and if God calls me to go again; wherever He calls I’ll go.

Joy – A Woman After God’s Own Heart

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 24 Legalism & Grace

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Today I’m grateful for the grace that God shows me when it comes to my legalism.  This is something that God has been working on for many decades and I’m pleased to say that I’ve come quite a way, I’m also sad to say that I have a long way to go.

It saddens me when I read things like Galatians 5:2-4:

Mark my words!  I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.  3Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.  4You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

Bare with me here, I see my legalism as a form of circumcision because it obligates me to the law and negates the grace of Christ and stand in the way of my relationship with Him.  For those reasons I take firm warning from Galatians 5:2-4.

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As much as I struggle with legalism it breaks my heart that I’ve allowed it to come between me and my Lord Jesus Christ.  I long for a relationship with Him and the last thing that I want to do is fall away from grace.  I want what Galatians 5:1 states:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.

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I want the freedom that Christ offers and I don’t want to allow myself to be burdened again by the yoke of slavery, mainly my legalism.  So I ask God to continue working with me in this area of bondage.  That He make me keenly aware of when I’m struggling with it.  So that I might ask forgiveness and wisdom in how to get out of it.

I’m grateful that God is gracious with me in this area of sin.  I know He wants to see progress in this as much or more than I do.  He is so loving and patient with me when I come to a verse that seems one I can perch my legalistic hat on.  These days knowing His grace those verses cause me confusion, with questions like, “How can that be when God says?” or  “I don’t understand wouldn’t that mean?”  When I hear those questions I can usually assume I’m struggling with that ugly old friend legalism.  Being that I want to rid myself of that friend and things still get caught in my head, I seek wise counsel and that helps to quench the old demon.

When I’m in the midst of legalism my relationship with Christ suffers but if I ask the Holy Spirit to help me find the truth to find grace my relationship with Christ is restored.

God is gracious with us as long as we are earnestly seeking His will.  He is patient and long suffering for our sake.  What an awesome God we serve.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

Jesus Wants An Intimate Relationship 30 Days of Gratitude – Day 20

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Today I’m grateful that Jesus wants an intimate relationship with me.  He doesn’t just want to hear from me on Sunday’s or Wednesday nights, He wants to know and be invited into every part of my life.

He is omnipotent (all knowing) so He knows all about my life but that isn’t enough for Him.  He wants to hear it from me.  He wants me to open my heart to all the areas of my life that I might like to call secret.  How do I know this?  John 14:23

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.  My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

“We will come to them and make our home with them”, that is a pretty intimate relationship.  It’s a relationship of love.

We obey His teaching not because it will make us acceptable, we were made acceptable by what Christ did on the cross.  We don’t obey his commands because it will make us worthy.  Christ obeyed the commands of God and that didn’t make Him any more worthy than He had been at the beginning of time, nor did it make the perfect more acceptable.  He obeys God’s commands out of love for the Father.  A love so perfect its hard for us mere humans to understand.  But all the same that love is offered to us and out of an outpouring of that love we should obey His commands.  “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5  If we can live up to this commandment and the other that Jesus gave us “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Then we are obeying His commandments.

I must admit that I’m not always the best at loving the unlovely.  For that I’m truly ashamed of myself.  I don’t always follow through on actions as best as I could.  Sometimes I wonder what they are going to do with the money they ask for and then other times I think there but for the grace of God go I and figure it’s none of my business what they are going to do with it.  My duty is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and do as He guides me to do.  The rest is their business between them and God.  But maybe you struggle with me on this and maybe we could go to the Father and ask for His help in this matter.

Lord God, make me a more loving person both to You and to my neighbor.  I long to bring you pleasure.  Help me in that desire. Amen.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

Faith or Fear

A lot of what I’m sharing today I got from a sermon from my pastor Mike Erre called “Faith in an age of Fear”.  I was so impressed by it that I decided to share it and my thoughts on it with you my readers.

Matthew 6:19-34 are our verses for today.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moths and vermin do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where you treasure is there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body if your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light but if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you to much more valuable tan they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers in the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans fun after all these things, and you heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The passage starts about storing up our treasures in heaven.  This is more than just talking about money but where your heart is.  What is your main focus on things of this earth which will decay or the things of God which will never decay?

Then Jesus puts it another way talking about the eye being the lamp of the body.  During Jesus day an unhealthy eye was one who was greedy and cheap and miserly.  The healthy eye was generous, helpful and thought of as good.  The healthy eye would be carrying out God’s will while the unhealthy would not.  One is storing up treasures in heaven the other on earth.

Then He talks about the serving of only one masters either God or money.  How we can’t have it both ways it’s either or.  Either your heart is with God and that is where your treasure is or your heart is elsewhere with some other idol here on earth where moth and vermin destroy and thieves can steal.  Since we can’t take it with us it is important we make the right choice.

Mike Erre made a very good point that in America we see the don’t worry passage and think God is going to give us good things and supply all that we need.  But there are Christians who love the LORD that don’t have food or drink or clothes what do we do about that?

He believes and I agree with him that the don’t worry follows the other passages in the same train of thought.  Let me try and explain the grass of the field is thrown in the fire it is not all good for the grass.  In that day and age the birds of the air were used for sacrifice again not all good for the birds.  What they do have in common is that they don’t worry about their food or death or anything they just exist as God intended them to.

Verse 33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Could this verse in the light that bad things do happen to those that love God, actually mean by seeking his kingdom and righteousness that the things of the kingdom, peace in the midst of turmoil, faith in the face of fear, and joy in the midst of mourning are all ours to have?  Could it mean that there is an even more fulfilling and abundant life to be had than what we are told on this earth via commercials and peer pressure?  I believe the answer to be “Yes!”

I look with new eyes at the do not worry verses and realize that my hope is in God alone and whatever He has in-store for me His grace and mercy will be sufficient for me.

Lord God, let me walk boldly in faith and keep these scriptures ever present in my mind when I am tempted to fall away from a bold walk with you in my journey of faith.  I want to stand confident in Your power, grace, mercy and unchanging will. Lord help me to do just that and confront me when I falter.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 18

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Today I’m grateful for my thorns in the flesh.  There have been times that I  wish they weren’t there but they keeps me dependent on God and that is where I want to stay.

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If these thorns are the only way that I will continue to rely on God and not myself and not to become prideful, then I say, “Praise God for them!”

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m no super woman I still have times when I scream and cry to God, “Why me?” “Can’t You take these things from me?”

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  –  2 Cor. 12:9

This verse is such a comfort to me, it means I don’t have to attempt to do it on my power that God is waiting to show His power through me.  What a blessing.

So thank you Lord for what You have seen fit to give me and I will do my best to be grateful for all that You give me blessings and thorns.  I know all are for Your glory and for my benefit.  Just as a loving Father does for His child.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

Isaiah 43:1b, 4

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Not only is God gracious enough to redeem us and call us by name but we are precious in His sight.  If that isn’t something to praise God about I don’t know what is.

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It is also something that should do wonders for your self-esteem.  If you and I are precious and honored in the sight of God then who are we to say anything different about ourselves?  I’m preaching as much to myself here as to anyone reading this.

I’ve had a hard time with my identity in Christ but these verses make it very clear that we are something very special to God and for us to cut ourselves down or beat ourselves up is contrary to God and thus sin.  Ouch!  Rather harsh to look at it that way isn’t it?  But when we get real with ourselves and God we can see it for what it is and anything contrary to God and His righteousness is sin.

Maybe it’s time for those of us that struggle with this to start stashing away the Word of God in our hearts, so when we are tempted we will hear the truth and the truth will set us free from sin.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!