True Freedom

fireworksHaving  just celebrated the fourth of July, I’d have to say it is one of my absolute very favorite holiday’s of all. Celebrating the signing of the declaration of Independence and the freedoms we enjoy as a country because of it, is truly remarkable. I also love the 4th because it also represents family, friends, fun, food, and of course fireworks.

As wonderful as all those things are, and the freedoms that we enjoy in this beautiful country, truly the greatest freedom we can ever experience comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says . . . “Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

True freedom comes from being set free! Sin held us captive, Christ Jesus sets us free. Jesus came to earth to pay the price for the sin debt we owed. He stamped our bill, paid in full and in doing so released us from the bondage of sin. This doesn’t mean we no longer sin, but that we are released from burden of sin which brings death. It was a miraculous exchange, his death bought us life and therefore buying our freedom!

Prior to His death, The law (ten commandments) was given to show us our sin (Romans 3:20).  Jesus death on the cross bought us freedom from the curse of the law. Galatians 3:13 says . . But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Jesus paid the punishment for our sin so that we could be set free from it.

With freedom comes responsibility. God did not purchase our freedom so that we could then live however we wanted and do whatever we choose, but that we would rather serve one another humbly in love (Galatians 5:1-2) Galatians 5:3 goes on to say . . . “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In Ephesians 5:29 it says, “No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.”

If we are to truly love our neighbor, it requires us to live selflessly by loving and serving others and doing what is in the best interest for them.  This requires wisdom to do things God’s way instead of ours. It’s choosing to walk in the Spirit versus walking in the flesh. James 3:17 tells us a little bit about true wisdom . . . “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

True freedom comes when we identify ourselves with Christ, in his death, burial and resurrection. Christ came to set us free and when we have freedom, we have choices. Lets choose to walk in Spirit and live in all the fullness that God has for us. Now that’s true freedom and that’s a reason to celebrate!  So if the son set you free, you are truly free. John 8:36

Father God thank you for sending your son Jesus to pay the penalty for my sin. Thank you that you bought my freedom with the precious blood of your son. My freedom came at a great cost to you. Help me to use my freedom wisely by loving and serving my brothers and sisters in love. Forgive me for the times I so often fail. Thank you for the forgiveness we have in You. Help me to daily die to self so that I may live for you. Help me to put on your love and to walk in the empowerment of your Spirit. Thank you for who you are and for all you do. To you be the glory both now and forever. AMEN

Faith in Action

pilot rockA few days ago my family and I had a chance to climb to the top of Pilot Rock. Now mind you the climb to the top of Pilot Rock is no cake walk. It can be a very challenging and frightening climb even for adults. The initial hike up to the base of Pilot Rock is very steep. Once you start climbing the rock face, there are a few places where a bit of rock climbing skills are required. There is rough terrain, steep cliffs and huge drop off’s.

Two years earlier, my family had attempted the same hike. On our last attempt, we arrived at a certain point in the climb where it was extremely steep.  My youngest daughter (who was only nine at the time) became paralyzed with fear and refused to go any further. Not certain of what lie ahead, and not wanting to push her any further, my husband decided to stop with the kids while I continued on to the top of the rock.

So this year when we discussed doing the hike once again, my youngest daughter was still a bit apprehensive about trying it. Having completed the climb myself and knowing what was required, my husband and I had confidence that we could safely climb to the top with our children. We realized that my youngest was now two years older and were hoping this would make the difference. I found this a great opportunity to talk with my daughter about facing her fear with faith.

My youngest daughter is very athletic and not afraid of heights. This is the same girl who goes down our zip line standing up instead of sitting down. So to help my daughter overcome her fear of this climb and increase her faith, I asked her what bible verse could help her when she was feeling afraid.  Scripture tells us that, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). She immediately recited Philippians 4:13 which is, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” I told her that was an excellent promise from God to remember and recite it when she was feeling fearful.

I assured my daughter that during our climb her dad and I would go before and behind her to make sure that nothing would happen to her. I also told her that if any point she was afraid, to recite Philippians 4:13 and remember that God could give her the courage to overcome and face her fear. Courage is acting in spite of fear and trusting God with the outcome. Trusting God and acting courageously then helps increase our faith because our faith is then put into action.

On the whole hike up to the rock, I could tell my daughter was a bit nervous because she was anxiously holding my hand the entire time. But as soon as we caught sight of Pilot Rock, she exclaimed, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” Philippians 4:13. She let go of my hand and bolted on ahead of her dad and I to catch up with her two older siblings who were in the lead. Right there and then I knew I had witnessed a child’s faith in action, I couldn’t have been more proud and encouraged to see her climbing and trusting Jesus to overcome her fear and make it to the top.

I believe stirring up faith within our children, is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. Children are little sponges.  They are more likely to do what we do, verses do what we say (they will mimic what they see). Children must see our faith in action and then be given opportunities to act upon their own faith.

The bible tells us that, Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). God often requires that we follow Him in blind obedience meaning we fully trust Him, not knowing what lies ahead. This is the kind of faith that pleases God and the kind of faith we can help pass on to our children. I’m not saying we all have to take our kids rock climbing to show them faith in God, but rather that we would lead by example and then show them opportunities to take their own steps of faith.

In Hebrews 11:1 it says that, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see”.  In Hebrews 11 we also read about all the “heroes of the faith.” These were men and women who acted by faith in spite of fear. They were not great in and of themselves but it was their faith in their great God that was credited to them as righteousness. By faith, they trusted God and believed that he would do what he said he would do and therefore they acted out of obedience. This is true faith in action. This is the kind of faith I want for myself and the kind of faith I want to help cultivate in my children.

Matthew 17:20 says,  “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” God wants to help us move mountains by faith. Meaning doing things that are seemingly impossible to us, but absolutely possible through faith in Him and His strength working through us.

Father God give us the faith to move those mountains. Help rid us of all those things that hinder us from fully trusting you. Help us to climb those mountains of fear with faith. And above all, help our greatest desire to be that of pleasing You. Thank you for who you are and for all you do. To you be the Glory both now and forever. AMEN