Thursday, June 26, 2014

Free in Christ!

Before going to pick up our daughter in Vietnam, my husband and I made lists of essential items to bring on the trip.  Garth is a bit of a germaphobe.  He was worried about the drinking water in Vietnam, and so he brought a water purifier and iodine tablets to rid our drinking water of bacteria.  Luckily, we were able to purchase bottled water in Vietnam.  However, in a Vietnamese store, we saw one brand that bore the following words on its label: "Free Bacteria." This was obviously a grammatical mistake. Needless to say, we did not purchase this brand of water!:)

John 8: 31-35
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
They answered him, "we are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?"
Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Later in John we read,

Jesus said: " I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

What does it mean that the truth will set us free?
Academic organizations will use the phrase stated by Jesus, "The truth will set you free." to posit that knowledge will open a new world to us and allow us to better understand what we experience in life. Yet, I don't think this was Christ's intent when He made the statement.  His words had nothing to do with classroom learning.  Jesus was speaking about a different sort of knowledge. Christ had just spoken at the temple where He was explaining that He is not of this world.  He was telling those gathered that we will die in our sins if we do not put our faith in Him (John 8:23-24). Many believed in Jesus because of His teaching that day (John 8:30).  Jesus then spoke to His followers: "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples" (John 8:31). Christ was implying more than academic knowledge.  His followers "hold" to His teaching or Word. His Word gives them an understanding that brings freedom - freedom, not from governmental oppression but from spiritual oppression. We are free from sin and the anxiety it brings to us.  In verse 35 of John 8, Jesus says, "Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever."  If we do not know Christ, we are slaves to sin. Yet, if we "hold" to his Word and know that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, we become His adopted children and, despite not being biological descendants of Abraham, are now members of God's family. Those who believe in Christ as the Truth are free from sin and are invited into the family of Christ.

What does this mean to me? I may still have to worry about bacteria, but my conscience is clear, even when I do stupid things or make mistakes, or say something fallacious - because I am free in Christ.  I can live unburdened in the knowledge that my Savior loves me and forgives me.  Praise be to God!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Running in Circles

Running in Circles

Our lives are so busy nowadays.  How do we keep up with all of the commotion, the blogs, e-mails, activities, work...that consume us?  We rush around in circles and have little energy left for quiet time.  Even our home life becomes a scuttle to complete chores and check them off. Are you so task oriented that you are unable to sit still and enjoy the beauty of summer?

How do we center ourselves in God when our minds dart to so many areas that require our attention? How do we learn to "be still" and ground our lives in the Lord (Psalm 46:10: Be still and know that I am God)?  Please tell me if you've figured this out! 

In Romans 12:2, we read, "do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." I can best renew my mind when I sit still and pray. This means finding a quiet place and sometimes forcing myself to be still before God.  When I can't figure out what to pray for, I tell God all that I am thankful for.  It is amazing how much calmer I become when I take the time to relate with God.

I ask you too to take time to be still before God and share your busy life and your gratefulness with Him.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Am I thankful, triumphant and sweet-smelling?

Am I thankful, triumphant and sweet-smelling?

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).

As the mother of an adopted child, I marvel at the fact that each of us who is saved by Christ's blood is adopted into a new family.  We have been given new life by our Redeemer. By the power of Christ's blood, we who trust in Jesus Christ, have been adopted and renewed. We are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), holy and blameless, because of our redemption through Christ (Ephesians 1:4-6). As adopted children, we belong to a new family, a united family of believers. Our new condition is not a result of anything we have done - it is because of the sacrifice and grace of our Savior alone that we have been given this gift of love, a gift we do not deserve.

How do I respond to Christ and share my new state with others?  In 2 Corinthians, we read:
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ's triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.  For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, and aroma that brings life.  And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.  On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

Paul first thanks God. When I am grateful, I am more able to wear my gratitude as a fragrance that is enticing to others. As a member of God's family, we can be Christ's instruments to share His love with others.  Christ has won the victory for us; we are no longer in bondage to sin. We can get up after failing, dust off our boots and take on the aroma of Christ in our behavior and attitude. How encouraging this is to me!  I try, fall, but will get up and walk again bearing the aroma of my Savior as His adopted daughter. I want to be an aroma that brings life. With Christ in me, I can walk in His triumphal procession and share His Good News with others. I may not be equal to this task, but if I ask Him, Christ will intercede for me and enable me, His adopted child and His new creation - rather than to issue a sour smell, to leave behind a fragrant reminder of His love. Christ makes it possible for us to be thankful, triumphant, and to bear His fragrance.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" (Matthew 26: 36-46).

I must admit that blogging to people whose faces I can't see is not yet comfortable to me. I am learning the process and ask you to bear with me as I get used to this oddity.  
I've started reading and responding to adoption blogs, and this has opened my eyes to the tremendous amount of pain felt both by adopting parents as well as birth parents.  I've read entries written by young women who have endured repeated failed IVF procedures.  Their hopes of having a child have been raised and dashed over and over again.  One of these women then went through two adoption proceedings.  She and her husband were matched with birth mothers (2 subsequent times), decorated a nursery, excitedly bought furniture, toys and clothing, were thrown baby showers - only to encounter the decisions of both birth mothers to change their minds last minute and parent the babies themselves. 
In response to this woman, one blogger wrote harshly that no one should go into the adoption process without realistic expectations that the birth mother might change her mind. Birth mothers chimed in to share how difficult it is to know which couple can best raise their child and expressed the sadness they experience throughout the pregnancy carrying the knowledge that someone other than they will raise their child.  I am repeatedly reminded that I'm not alone in having endured  heart-wrenching waits and disappointments.  I am at a loss as to how to comfort these parents.
I'm reading Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest.  Today, the devotion I read is entitled: The Initiative Against Despair. Chambers begins with Matthew 26:46: Rise, let us be going.
Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane where he prays in preparation for what He knows will be a painful death.  He is emotionally distraught. He asks his disciples to wait with Him while he prays, yet, they fall asleep. When his disciples awaken, they realize they weren't available to comfort their teacher. Oswald Chambers writes, "The sense of the irreparable is apt to make us despair, and we say --'It is all up now, it is no use trying anymore.' And Jesus Christ comes and says---'Sleep on now, that opportunity is lost forever, you cannot alter it, but arise and go to the next thing.'" Chambers continues, "Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ, and go out into the irresistible future with Him....The disciples in this instance had done a downright unforgivable thing; they had gone to sleep instead of watching with Jesus, but He came with a spiritual initiative against their despair and said -- "Arise and do the next thing." If we are inspired of God, what is the next thing?  To trust Him absolutely and to pray on the ground of His Redemption."
I cannot comfort the despairing women whose blogs I read, but I can pray that they will "Arise and do the next thing" leaning on their Savior and trusting in Him absolutely.

Monday, June 2, 2014

You may be a person who plans out your life years in advance. You've set clear objectives and neatly laid out how you expect things to run.  We need to remember that our plans are often quite different than the way reality plays out.  How do you react when roadblocks, changes, and delays alter your vision into the unexpected? If you're like me, you try to control the situation by actively doing things.  This keeps your mind occupied and makes you feel that you can somehow manipulate the unexpected.   Or, you may react passively and withdraw, filled with a sense of hopelessness.
Scripture reminds us that although our plans may change:

I the Lord do not change. (Malachi 3:6a, ESV)


Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

When life throws us curveballs, we can be comforted in the knowledge that God is with us:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

What can we do with our frustration when things don't pan out as we had planned? We can learn and grow in faith through the experiences we face. We can embrace change, because it brings us into a closer relationship with God.