Freedom

Charles Stanley wrote about surviving “the wait” with courage. He says “Continued delays can be disheartening, especially when circumstances don’t go your way or your burdens become too heavy to carry. Most likely, you’ve experienced heartbreaking occasions before—devastating disappointments that have robbed you of the last of your strength and resolve. The days, weeks, months, and sometimes years go by without any answers to your prayers. The illness, financial difficulty, conflict, loneliness, uncertainty, or need persists. You struggle, feeling the overwhelming temptation to give in to utter despair and fall back into destructive habits.”

I’ve been there. I sometimes feel as though I have spent my entire life there, waiting. Sometimes patiently, but mostly impatiently. The years I’ve spent waiting for answers, through my husband’s illnesses, financial difficulties, so many conflicts; through loneliness and uncertainty.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 NASB

We sang this old hymn written by Isaac Watts in 1708 on Sunday. It’s still a great reminder of what we are waiting for, and of our security while we wait.

Our God, Our Help in Ages Past –
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home;
2 Under the shadow of thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone,
And our defence is sure.
3 Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting thou art God,
To endless years the same.
4 A thousand ages in thy sight
Are like an evening gone,
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.
5 Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
6 O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.
(Paraphrased from Psalm 90)

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16‭-‬18 NASB

Exodus tells of the Israelites leaving Egypt. They had been in slavery for 430 years, but their bondage was all they knew and it was comfortable. We are like that. Our sin is comfortable. Our despair is comfortable. It’s often easier to stay in bondage than to change it, but Jesus has come to redeem us, to loose each of us from our shackles, our bondage, the oppression of sin. It is just as true now as what Moses said then, “The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” Exodus 14:14 NASB

In Exodus 14:20, God LITERALLY put a barrier between the camps so that the Egyptians cannot attack the Israelites. GOD is working out their salvation; it was nothing that the Israelites did or could do, just as OUR salvation is nothing that we can do. Standing at the edge of death, God creates the way so we can escape death. We are called to live under His Covenant. He has led us through the waters and to our salvation. We are SET FREE from bondage to sin, we are SAVED from the consequences of sin, and we are SPOKEN FOR by the God of the Universe.

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 NASB

I may not be free of these things I’ve dealt with during my life until the day I die, but I pray that someone, somewhere, might have seen my struggle and realized that my goal is not of this world. I pray that they might see the One God, and the One Mediator in the person of Jesus Christ Who is taking care of me. I’m a terrible example of a Christian, so it will have to be the work of the Holy Spirit!

What Is Important To You?

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace ….” Romans 8:6 NASB

My thoughts and desires – my “needs” (okay, my WANTS) often consume my thoughts so that nothing else seems to matter. That is death. Lord, help keep my mind on what’s REALLY important, especially when it seems to be impossible.

Pastor Wayne Cordeiro said “I don’t have to tie myself to an imaginary, unrelenting cycle to produce more, make more or try to outdo last week’s numbers. I have just so much time in the day, and I want to do what I can with all my heart involved. When the clock runs out, then I’ll say, “Come back tomorrow, and I’ll have more.”

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NASB

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:15‭-‬19 NASB

Do Not Fear

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:7‭-‬8 NASB

There’s a lot to cause fear and dismay going on. It makes me sick to my stomach, seeing the ugliness and the destruction going on just to satisfy someone’s inner demons. Destroying our heritage? Throwing down statues? What does that solve? In the Middle Ages, books and buildings were destroyed because they didn’t conform to someone’s vision of their world. In Nazi Germany, books and buildings and statues were burned and destroyed, because they did not fit someone’s vision of their world. In Cuba, in Italy, in Iraq, the same thing has happened.

Does destruction make your life better?

“The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 NASB

We need more dependence on GOD. Less dependence on people. People will always let us down, but the LORD will never stumble or fall with me – or you. Put your trust in the LORD. Read between the lines of whatever the “news” people and the politicians say. Look at their attitudes and their actions. Remember that they are all human and, therefore, imperfect.

Pray for our country. We don’t need to destroy it.

I Waited Patiently. ….. NOT

“I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of Praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD. How Blessed is the man who has made the LORD his Trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.” Psalms 40:1‭-‬4 NASB

“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2 NASB

Picture two vultures sitting on a branch, hungry, waiting on something to die so they can eat. One turns to the other and says “Patience my ass, I want to kill something.” ….. Yes, it’s crude, but very descriptive of how we often act when God doesn’t deliver WHAT we want, HOW we want, WHEN we want. I don’t like to wait. It’s often painful, and aggravating. We are God’s garden. Ask anyone who grows things, and they will tell you that plants often have to be aggressively pruned in order to get the best fruits and flowers and vegetables. They have to be patient, and wait for that plant to produce and mature. God is patient with us, and He is training us to produce the best. I’M not patient, but I’m very grateful that HE is.

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NASB

This is so true. I married young because I wanted to. Emphasis on “I WANTED.” There were lots of reasons, but I was in LOVE. God wasn’t in that marriage, and it was a disaster. I spent years trying to “fix” my life without God, using human men as a poor, poor substitute. Ladies, pay attention to those who love God and who love you. Listen to their counsel. Pray about any relationship. If you feel ANY hesitation, STOP. Same for you guys. If GOD isn’t first in the relationship, It. Will. Be. A. Disaster. Might takes years, but without the LORD, no relationship will prosper. It’s no fun, seeing friends in relationships when you/I am not ….. but, back to that “patience” thing. Trust the LORD. He knows. He KNOWS.

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven….” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NASB

God knows. He knows what we want, but more importantly He knows what is best for us. Really. We don’t. As difficult as it is, listen to Him, even when it isn’t what we want to hear. God is in control. Don’t be a backseat driver!

Trust In GOD

“Who out there fears GOD, actually listens to the Voice of His servant? For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going, anyone groping in the dark, Here’s what: Trust in God. Lean on your GOD! But if all you’re after is making trouble, playing with fire, Go ahead and see where it gets you. Set your fires, stir people up, blow on the flames, But don’t expect ME to just stand there and watch. I’ll hold your feet to those flames.” Isaiah 50:10‭-‬11 MSG

I wonder a lot about why we have to suffer so much; why people have to go through so many hardships. I’m reading a devotional by Elizabeth Elliot, called Suffering is Never for Nothing. If you are going through a period of suffering, it’s well worth your time to read. Even if you are in a good time of your life, it’s very insightful. She refers to this verse from Psalms 34:1, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Then she says this:

“Just start thanking God in advance because no matter what is about to happen, you already know that God is in charge. You are not adrift in a sea of chaos. So, what is there to be grateful for in the midst of suffering? Well, God is still love. Nothing has changed that. God is still God. He’s sovereign. He’s got the whole world in His hands.”

Just think on that for a minute. Is your world falling in on your head? I know how that feels, and how utterly helpless and hopeless it can feel to be in the midst of it. But think on that verse.

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

Never Alone

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.” Isaiah 43:2 NASB

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” Romans 8:18‭-‬19 NASB

Not if, but when bad things happen, how do we handle them? “Why me, God! What did I ever do to deserve this horrible thing!” Isn’t a better question, “Why not me, God?” I don’t deserve anything good; I deserve everything bad…. I am a sinner, and the only good thing in me is the Love and forgiveness of my Saviour, Jesus Christ. When we experience the bad, what do we do with it?

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:17‭-‬18 NASB

Elizabeth Elliot, missionary, faced many dark times while on the mission field, including losing her husband. After one experience, where a friend was killed, she wrote this:

Now if I had had a faith that was determined God had to give me a particular kind of answer to my particular prayers, that faith would have disintegrated. But my faith had to be founded on the character of God Himself. And so, what looked like a contradiction in terms: God loves me; God lets this awful thing happen to me. What looked like a contradiction in terms, I had to leave in God’s hands and say okay, Lord. I don’t understand it. I don’t like it. But I only had two choices. He is either God or He’s not. I am either held in the Everlasting Arms or I’m at the mercy of chance and I have to trust Him or deny Him. Is there any middle ground? I don’t think so.”

What a statement! He is either God or He’s not.Will you stand on the side of the ALMIGHTY, alongside Elizabeth Elliot, Daniel, Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego, Paul, Peter, John…… we either stand with Him, or we are against Him. Jesus said “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” Revelation 3:15‭-‬16 NASB

Where are you? With Him, or against Him?

The New Earth

“But the Day of the LORD will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the Day of GOD, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:10‭-‬13 NASB

What an intense passage! This is the only passage where the end of the world is described. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief: after the Tribulation and the 1000 year reign, the earth and heavens will be remade. Read chapters 21-22 of Revelations. This will not be an “edit” of the earth, but a total re-make. In the above passage Peter says “the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat.” Literally, the atoms, the building blocks of the Universe, will become a cosmic conflagration, causing complete destruction of the earth and the heavens. God made it, He will destroy it, and He will re-make it all perfectly.

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.” Revelation 20:11 NASB

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.” Revelation 21:1 NASB

The earth will be new in quality and nature. What a thought! (Read all of chapter 21.)

The Day : it’s on God’s calendar; it will happen. In history, “the day of the Lord” refers to when an entire military campaign took place in one day, so any time God intervenes directly and decisively is a day of the LORD. The day referred to here by Peter is THE Day, like D-Day, only amplified at least a million times! In 1 Thessalonians 5, we are told that the Day of the LORD will come like a thief in the night, and in Matthew 24 “…..even so, the Son of Man is coming like a thief in the night…..” This means any day, any moment. No one knows or can predict the exact time.

So what should we be doing while waiting? I like the way our pastor says it: Clean up, Look up, Speak up. Living holiness and godliness in plural, living them over and over. When you fail, and we all will fail, because we are sinful humans, confess it and move on. MARANATHA; “our LORD comes. We can speed up the coming of the day of the LORD by speaking up through preaching, teaching, evangelism, mission, prayer, and godly living. Live for the Eternal. When Jesus returns, let us be found doing our job; our duty.

“I have not written to you because you do not know the Truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the Truth. Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is Righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.” 1 John 2:21‭, ‬28‭-‬29 NASB AMEN.

Now to Him

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NASB

It is so easy to be judgmental based on how a person looks. We can look at someone on a street corner & think “Get a job! Quit begging!” But do you know their circumstances? Personally, I find it difficult to understand how – and why – anyone is homeless with all of the resources available now… And yet, I spent several months living on the street years ago because of my own bad choices. I was too proud to reach out for help, so God used others to help me out of that pit. Not with money, because He knew that wouldn’t help me, but with a place to stay and food to eat until I got my health back, and I could get a job and my own place. We look at the outside, but thank God that He looks at the heart!

“I thank Him who has given me strength, CHRIST JESUS our LORD, because He judged me Faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received Mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief*, and the Grace of our LORD overflowed for me with the Faith and Love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received Mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:12‭-‬17 ESV

*Unlike Paul, I was not ignorant of God, nor was I an unbeliever. Still, in His infinite Mercy and Grace, the LORD of the Universe forgave me and took me back into His arms. How thankful I am for His Mercy and my wholly undeserved forgiveness! I remain convinced that of those people who helped lift me out of the muck, some had to be angels in disguise. Take time today to thank God for what you have, and do something good for someone. We never know when we might be entertaining angels!

“Now to Him Who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20‭-‬21 NASB

Every Good Thing; It’s Simple

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from Above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with Whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” James 1:17 NASB

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27‭-‬30 NASB

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:7‭, ‬9‭-‬10 ESV

“But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “Do not say in your heart , ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss ?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart ” – that is, the Word of Faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as LORD, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same LORD is LORD of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the Name of the LORD will be saved.” So Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” Romans 10:6‭-‬13‭, ‬17 NASB

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 NASB

Is there a simpler, more easily understood way to say it?