To Be Free or Not To Be Free

Most people have heard about The Ten Commandments. They are often met with negative feelings as if they’re just a bunch of “Thou shalt and thou shalt nots.” We don’t like to be controlled. Aren’t they archaic?Are they really necessary in today’s world? In our subconscious we may also harbor the feeling that they can’t all be kept anyway so why try? What good is it to us?

The Ten Commandments are recorded in two places: Exodus 20:3-17 and Deuteronomy 5:7-21. However, it’s the verse that precedes those two passages that puts all those “thou shalt and thou shalt nots,” into proper perspective. Both Exodus 20:2 and Deuteronomy 5:6 reads as follows: “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.”

Do you see the vastness of God’s love here? He loved them so much that He not only rescued them from slavery, but He gave them instructions to keep them from going back into bondage again. Of course, He was talking about a far more serious act of enslavement than anything they experienced from the Egyptians. He was talking about spiritual slavery, the same captivity that threatens us today.

You see, when you and I accept God’s gift of eternal life with Him, and forgiveness of all our sins, He puts us on a new path of hope and joy where all things wonderful are possible. He sets us free from the daily drudgery this world keeps us in. He cleans up our hearts, gives us hope of better things to come, and places His own Holy Spirit within us. The Holy Spirit is our seal, guaranteeing that we belong to God. The Holy Spirit is our teacher and guide. However, we have the choice to ignore Him. What are the consequences if we do? Return to bondage.

When we accept the freedom of life in the joy and power of God, we are free indeed from the stranglehold of this world. If, in time, we turn from that freedom, allowing the allures of this world to choke out the joy, and flood the engine of our peace with a willful ignoring of His loving instructions, we will lose that power and that joy and that peace that only comes in full throttle from God Himself.

We can say we don’t like to be controlled, but in that we have no choice. We will be controlled by one of two things — either the light or the darkness. We can’t escape control, but we can choose who controls us. One leads to despair while the other leads to inner peace such as the world cannot fully understand. One returns us to slavery while the other keeps us free. I hope you choose to follow the paths of God who is filled with loving instructions for us — not some of the time, but all of the time. I wonder if the above is helped by the instruction found in Hebrews 10:24, “Let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works.” God uses each of us to encourage one another to stay on the good and right path. May we each encourage someone today to — stay focused on God’s loving guidance and stay free!

Nesting in the Storm

Some of you have seen the video I put on my Facebook page this week of the moorhens nesting. I have been watching for days as the parents carefully build their nest making it strong. We have not had the best weather this past week with heavy rain, strong winds, and freezing temperatures. Even so, I have never seen the parents abandon their nest. Soon their chicks will arrive. Keeping them safe is obviously foremost in mind.

As I have been, in great wonder, watching this nesting event, I have been reminded of God’s fingerprint in nature. As the moorhens build a home for their young, so our Father provides for His own. As these lovely birds protect their little ones, so our Father gives us sanctuary. I love the verse in Psalm 91:4, “He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”

Troubles in this world come to us all. Just as heavy rain pelted these moorhens, tragedy and despair batter us, too. As freezing temperature threatened the bird’s well being, deepest sorrow exposes us to unrelenting anguish. Does our Father care? Can He help us? Will He provide relief from our deep-rooted despondency?

Our Heavenly Father cherishes us so enormously that it says of Him in Psalm 56:8, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in a book.” What does this mean? Does God have an actual bottle for our tears? Whether or not the bottle is literal, the absolute fact is, God remembers our every tear. He is aware. He adores you and me. He cares without measure.

He desires to be our everything to get us through anything. To gain access to His comfort in times of great trouble, remember — look to Him, call to Him. Don’t turn away in your hour of distress; maintain steadfast focus on His promises and on His care. Just as the moorhens love their children, so your Heavenly Father is devoted to you with an unfaltering passion. Remember Him — He always remembers you.

Held Back On the Leash

Sometimes dogs snarl at each other for no obvious reason to our human eyes. I’ve watched our dog, Jack, approach a dog who snarled at him, telling Jack in no uncertain doggie language to, “get lost!” I have to admit I’ve watched our dear Jack do the same thing to other dogs from time to time. Are they in a bad mood? Do they sense something they don’t like in the other dog? Do they simply want to be left alone for awhile? (A bit like people, come to think of it.)

While snarling is a sign of dislike or fear, pulling on the leash can mean either, “I want to get that dog!” or “I want to play with that dog!” One day this week Jack began to pull hard. He had seen several dogs up ahead all playing chase together. Jack loves chase; therefore, I knew this sudden tugging was excitement building. He wanted to go and play, and he wanted to go now! I held him back while we crossed the road. It wasn’t time yet. He was pulling hard. “Wait, Jack,” I said. We came closer. Jack was still pulling. He could hardly wait another moment. Finally, we were there in the field. I could let Jack go, and wow! he zoomed away in great delight, joining the cluster of dogs, all jumping on each other, chasing each other, a happy sight of tails wagging and legs running.

I joined the other dog owners. We were all watching the play time. Except for the absence of tongues hanging out, we had the same happy looks on our faces as did our dogs. Reflecting on this later I began to think of something Jesus told His followers in Luke 6: 22-23, “What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets the same way.” These are difficult days we are living in — wars happening and rumors of war, unprecedented weather disasters, cold hearts toward God, acceptance of what is bad as now good.

When Christians stand up for the truth of God’s Word, there may come snarling from those who don’t agree. We may be hated, treated terribly, laughed at, cursed, even killed as many of God’s children are around the world. We are pulling against our leashes, longing for the day when we see Jesus face to face, when we are no longer harnessed to our own temptations and burdens that weigh us down. A time is coming when eternal joy is ours. There will be no more tears or any sorrow. We will be set free from any leash holding us back. We can hardly wait! We will indeed leap for joy!

Malachi – #4 in series

Our Magnifying Glass

I enjoy the writings of C.S. Lewis. Many of you reading will feel the same way. God gave him wise and thought-provoking insights into daily living; or perhaps I should say, into how best to live daily. In his essay, Is Theology Poetry, he wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen — not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” I have often pondered this quote, meditating upon what it implies.

It is easy to look at all that takes place in our world, be it good or evil, and make a judgement upon it, based on our own understanding of God and His Word. We may rightly or mistakingly say, this is right and that is wrong. It’s important to have a grasp of God’s Word so that we can identify good and evil. However, we can also make a common mistake when we seek to be constantly looking at everything wrong. Our vision can be so far reaching that we lose sight of what’s in the mirror.

Jesus said something in this regard in Luke 6:42, “How can you say to you brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” Jesus is wisely teaching us to keep our magnifying mirror close at hand. We must first examine our own lives before we point accusing fingers at someone else’s. When we do this, and do it in honesty, we allow the Holy Spirit to both, create a clean heart within us, but also to see others with the same compassion Jesus had when the adulterous woman was brought to Him. That story is recorded in John 8:1-11.

Jesus did not ignore the wrongness of what the woman had been doing, but He forced her accusers to take a long look at their own selves first. Then Jesus, with compassion, urged the woman from that point of meeting Him, to walk in holiness, to acknowledge Him, to seek a path of goodness and rightness. It is no different for you and me today.

We need to rightly see the wrong of the world so we may pray with knowledge, and also pray with compassion for those who do not yet know the One who can set them free to a new life of joy and peace in the midst of any storm, and to forgiveness of any sin ever committed. However, before we can pray with a holy heart, we must first take that magnifying glass, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, take an honest look at ourselves, and then reach out in the love of God to help someone fallen to stand.

Malachi – (#3 in series)

Helps for daily Christian living.

Strong Together

I traveled back in time this week. In my memories I was twelve years old again. My sister and I, along with two cousins, were squashed together in the back seat of the car. My aunt was driving and my mother was in the passenger seat. All four of us kids were excited as we made our way to go swimming at Lake Weir, Florida, USA. The skies were grey, but in Florida, it can pour rain one minute and spread bright sunshine the next. My aunt and mother had already informed us, if it rained we wouldn’t be swimming, because lightening could suddenly fill the sky and that was dangerous.

Our spirits were nervous as we drove along. Suddenly, I had an idea. Being the oldest I somehow came up with things the others willingly followed. I began to chant in a sing-song fashion, “rain, rain, go away, come again another day.” My sister and cousins joined in. We chanted this phrase over and over. Did the rain actually stop? Yes. Do I believe our chanting shut the clouds? No, but I remember the hope that filled us. The more we repeated the words, faith grew. In this instance, it was mere coincidence the rain stopped so we could go swimming, but is there a spiritual lesson in this? Oh, yes.

There are two verses in Hebrews 10:24-25 that remind me of our chanting in the car experience. “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” These are challenging and troubling days around the world. The signs of the nearness of Christ’s return is upon us. These are days when the enemy, Satan, seeks to instill fear and doubt. As brothers and sisters in Christ, in the midst of weather disasters, wars and rumors of war, it’s a time to remind each other, over and over again, to take our courage from God’s love letter to us — His Word. It is without error. As we know from II Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do right.”

Many of you have experienced, as have I, encouragements when we meet with brothers and sisters in the Lord, sharing together God’s truths, over and over again. When we praise repeatedly, share testimony repeatedly, learn from Scripture repeatedly, we sense hope build within us, and faith rise that is unconquerable, standing strong against attacks from the enemy. It is of great importance that we meet together, worship and learn together. Together, with Christ in the middle, we are strong. When we repeat together the truths of God’s love for us, rains of fear subside; we swim in His peace instead.

A Message of Love in Nature

I am often amazed at how God’s love is so evident in nature. In everything He creates there is a thumbprint of Himself; His DNA in every living thing. Romans 1:20 tells us, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities — His eternal power and His divine nature.”

A friend recently shared the following on her Facebook page. The author is unknown. The story is a touching testament to the very heart of God and His love for us. The heart of God is revealed in nature. May you be blessed as I was in the following:

“My dad has bees.Today I went to his house and he showed me all of the honey he had gotten from the hives. He took the lid off of a 5 gallon bucket full of honey and on top of the honey there were 3 little bees, struggling. They were covered in sticky honey and drowning. I asked him if we could help them and he said he was sure they wouldn’t survive. Casualties of honey collection I suppose.I asked him again if we could at least get them out and kill them quickly, after all he was the one who taught me to put a suffering animal (or bug) out of its misery. He finally conceded and scooped the bees out of the bucket. He put them in an empty Chobani yogurt container and put the plastic container outside.Because he had disrupted the hive with the earlier honey collection, there were bees flying all over outside.We put the 3 little bees in the container on a bench and left them to their fate. My dad called me out a little while later to show me what was happening. These three little bees were surrounded by all of their sisters (all of the bees are females) and they were cleaning the sticky nearly dead bees, helping them to get all of the honey off of their bodies. We came back a short time later and there was only one little bee left in the container. She was still being tended to by her sisters.When it was time for me to leave we checked one last time and all three of the bees had been cleaned off enough to fly away and the container was empty.Those three little bees lived because they were surrounded by family and friends who would not give up on them, family and friends who refused to let them drown in their own stickiness and resolved to help until the last little bee could be set free.”

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

“Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

Malachi – (#2 in series)

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