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!

A Time for Tough Decisions

Yes, God calls us to love one another but He is also a holy God and wants His Church to be holy as well.  Paul gives us an example of when we must make a tough decision for the health of the Body and for the ultimate well being of the believer.   And for those watching to see if we are truly different.

1It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among the pagans: A an has his father’s wife.  2And you are proud!  Shouldn’t you rather have filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?  3Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit.  And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present.  4When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. –  1  Corinthians 5:1-5

Paul is clearly telling us here that there are times that we must judge for the sake of the Church Body and for the sake of the one caught in the sin.  Not to lord it over them but humbly in a hope to bring restoration in the end.

If we allow sin to run ramp hit in the Church than we are hypocrites and no different than the world.  This is why Paul writes on this subject because when one who is caught in a sin and is unrepentant, not willing to turn away from it, then the rest of the body must stand up for holiness and approach the one caught in the sin.

In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 Paul gives us instruction on how to handle a brother caught in sin.

9I have written in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-10not at all meaning people of this world who are immoral, or greedy and swindlers, or idolators.  In that case you would have to leave this world.  11But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolator or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler.  With such a man you must not even eat.

12What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?  13God will judge those outside.  Expel the wicked from among you.

These are never fun decisions but they are vital to the health of the body of the Church.  When we do not make these difficult decisions and they are found out that is when the Church looks like a bunch of hypocrites.

We must be a pillar of light standing in the darkness.  But if we allow the darkness to live among us our light will go out and we are useless to anyone and victim to the wrath of God for not doing His will and protecting His church.

We must call ourselves to a calling more stringent than that of the world.  Yes God is a God of love and mercy and when someone comes back truly repentant then we can accept them back into the fold.  But if they are rebellious and don’t care that they are sinning it is time to cut ties.  This is how the Body of Christ stays away from hypocrisy.  Let’s be deligent in this difficult task for the good of the Body of Christ.

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

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 28 God’s Unmerited Favor

Today I’m grateful for the unmerited favor the God has shown to me.  I’ve been living in a dark whole for many months and though I know that God was with me in that whole, today the light was visible.  It  was like I was lost in a dark forest, unable to find my way out and today finally the light shown thorough the branches of the trees.

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Where there was once despair there is now hope.  I’m back in God’s Word, after being away for more than four months, which has filled me with such joy, hope, inspiration, a kick in the butt (greatly needed), grace, and blessings beyond measure.   Today’s readings have not only reminded me of God’s grace, and hope but the truth that He is always there and so is His Word and the richness there of.

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During my times of depression when it was all I could do to get up watch TV, figure something out to eat and take care of my dog, there were times when I knew God was with me.  Most of the time I had to take that as a step of faith, that God was still there no matter how alone I felt, occasionally and these where rare but I’m oh so grateful for them, there were times when I could actually feel His embrace.  It was in those times that my faith was faltering that God was so kind as to shore up my faith and bless my wounded heart with the warmth of His embrace.  It is something I will never forget or take for granted.  Maybe it’s a sign of my own weakness that He came to me in such a physical way but weakness or not He knew what I needed at that very moment.  I was all alone and desperate and needed to feel loved.  I’m not saying that I’m anyone special because of that embrace, honestly more likely I’m someone less special.  I would love to say that my faith is so strong that I don’t doubt or cry out to God to show Himself, but sadly that is not the case.

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In this area and in many other areas God is molding me and making me into the Christian that He would have me be.  Some days I’m a more willing piece of clay than others and because of that I’m so grateful for His grace.  I would love to say that I meet my trials with courage, fortitude and a strong faith, but more often than not I fail, fall to the ground, stay there a while and then figure it out to call on God to help me out.

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This piece of clay is not only hard, so it needs a lot of water and pressure from the Potter, it also has far too dry parts that need to be removed completely in order to work the clay properly.  The more the Potter works with this clay the more evident the hard dried out pieces become and the painful process of removal must take place.  Thankfully even with these pieces the Potter has not given up on this piece of clay.

If you’re like me and have your off days as well as your on fire days.  Take hope in the fact that God’s grace (unmerited favor) is limitless.  His love is unconditional as long as you are His child.  So, if you haven’t accepted what Christ did for you on the cross, which was paying the penalty for all our sins and that penalty is death, ask forgiveness of your sins (anything short of perfection), accept what Christ did on the cross for you and ask Him to come into your life and help you life the kind of life He wants you to live.  It’s as easy as that to become a child of God.

30 Days of Gratitude Day 25 – Loving God’s Mercy

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Today I’m grateful for the glory of God’s mercy.  You see I also struggle with my weight.  I’m going to Weight Watchers and have days when I do program better than other days, but I must confess I still do not like the way I look over 44 pounds lighter than when I began.  That’s because I have about 100 more to shed.  I’m fully aware that this is vanity on my part but I grieve the face and body I once looked at that was so much thinner than this present form before me.

My boyfriend says I’m beautiful and that it grieves him that I feel ugly, mostly because he sees the hurt that causes me.  In that he reminds me of my heavenly Father and this quote I got from a devotional:

But no matter how far off the path or how long we are on it, God is patient with us and loves us as a dearly beloved chid – part of His family (Romans 8:16-17; Galatians 4:7).

This reminds me of a touching story shared by my friend Karen Ehman, who lost over one hundred pounds in the first stage of her journey toward health.  Her friend, Tammy, saw a “before” picture and was encouraging Karen enthusiastically when Karen’s young son, Spencer, walked in.  Tammy said, “Wow, Spencer, can you believe that was your mom?  She’s lost so much weight.  Doesn’t she look great?”  In  confusion, he looked back and forth between the photo and Karen and said, “Hmmm, they both look like Mama to me!”.

Out of the mouth of babes.

We are loved as God’s special girls!  No matter where you are in your struggle with healthy eating.  God looks at you and says, “She still looks like my precious  daughter to me!”  He loves you just the way you are.  But God loves you too much to leave stuck in defeat.  You were made for so much more.  You were made for victory.

This comes from, “Made to Crave Devotional: 60 Days to Craving God, Not Food” by Lysa Terkeurst.

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It’s so good to be reminded that God’s mercy extend into any area of our life that we may be struggling with.  Struggle with food?  God loves you and in His love He’s unwilling to leave you stuck where you are.  Alcohol?  God loves you where you are but is unwilling to leave you there.  Workaholic?  God loves you where you are but is unwilling to leave you there.  Shopaholic?  God loves you where you are but is unwilling to leave you there.  Gambler?  God loves you where you are but is unwilling to leave you there.  Sexaholic?  God loves you where you are but is unwilling to leave you there.  Have I made my point yet?  It doesn’t matter what you are struggling with even if it is a chemical imbalance in the brain, or diabetes whatever your struggle God loves you and wants you to live at your full potential.  Now the last two there is only so much that can be done and then it’s learning to live with it.  But both can be helped with healthy eating and exercise.

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God in His mercy doesn’t allow us to be stuck where we are in bondage to anything.  He wants us to live victoriously.  He promises an abundant life and that starts by allowing God to work in our lives and help us out of the muck and mire of our struggles.

Won’t you join me in surrendering our struggles to God and His almighty power.  With Him all things are possible including standing clean on firm ground.  Wouldn’t you prefer that to the muck and mire of the pit that your struggles currently have you in?  I know I would and that is why I cry out; “Abba!  Father!  Rush to my aide and pull me from the pit and set my feet on firm ground and cleanse me from my sins.”

Let me clarify something before I get angry comments in no way am I inferring that bi-polar disorder or any other chemical imbalance of the brain or diabetes are sins.  But if you know that eating healthy and exercise (and I’m talking to myself as well here because I’ve been blessed with both) will help symptoms and we don’t do it, aren’t we sinning?  Missing the mark?  Missing the best for our bodies?  Just something to think about.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & 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!

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 23 Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

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Today I’m grateful for the fact that God knew me before I was born and loved me just the same because He was the One that knit me together.  Because of that I actually love who I am because God doesn’t make junk!

Sometimes I feel guiltier for what I’m not than thankful for what I am.  I now in the light of Psalm 139:13-14

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

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believe that since I’m made in the image of God to believe that I’m guiltier for what I’m not is a sin and rather than guilty for what I have done.  God decides what I will and will not be and I can take pleasure and gratitude in what He has chosen to create in me.

It is not for the created to tell the creator how it should have been created.  I love to sing but I’m never going to be a great singer on this side of heaven.  That was not one of the things I was blessed with.  I can however sign to a  song and touch people in that respect, as long as my mouth is shut or at least silent.

Although I love the blessing of these verses it is often easy for the flesh to get in the way of remembering exactly who created me and for whose pleasure I was created for.  For that reason I love this prayer:

Dear Lord, You made me in Your image – and that is something I seem to forget daily.  Please help me remember to celebrate and live in who You made me to be, and not dwell on what I wish I were.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

By Lysa TerKeurst, from “Unglued Devotional: 60 Days of Imperfect Progress”

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

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 14

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Today I’m grateful for the fact that in Christ I am a new creation.  The old is gone and the new has come.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  –  2 Cor.  5:16-21

How can one not be grateful for God making it possible for us to be new that we might be reconciled to Him?  What an honor and blessing!

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God could have wiped His hands of us so many times in history.  With the first sin He could have decided I’m done with them they made their choice against Me, but that’s not who God is.  His love wouldn’t allow Himself to turn His back on humanity when humanity has turned it’s back on Him time and time again.  Anytime that He did divorce Himself of mankind once they cried out to Him, He responded.  That’s just the way of love.

God’s ultimate act of love was; that He loved sinful man so much that He sent Christ to pay the penalty of our sins thus reconciling us to Him and making us new and the righteousness of God through Christ.

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If God never did anything else for me my entire life I would sing His praises my entire life for this awesome blessing!  Hallelujah!!! Praise the Lord, God Almighty!!!  Thank you my Savior for dying for me and all sinners!!!

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