Monday, July 6, 2020

Let Freedom Ring

"Proclaim liberty throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof."        

Those words from Leviticus 25 are inscribed on a bell we have come to know as the Liberty Bell, originally cast in the Whitechapel Foundry in East London, England, and now housed at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Over the weekend we celebrated our nation's independence. July 4, 1776 was the date of the signing of our Declaration of Independence, and we celebrate that day every year.

But our independence, our freedom, is about more than a one-day-a-year celebration. It's about more than picnics and parades. It's about more than fireworks and flag-waving and funnel cakes.

Our freedom as Americans is something to celebrate every day of the year, not just on one day in the middle of summer. It's something to be cherished and protected. It's something we must never take for granted, but continually be thankful for. 

Our freedom as Americans is a precious thing that must be guarded and defended. And just as the verse from Leviticus that is inscribed on the Liberty Bell reminds us, we must "proclaim liberty throughout the land"!

If that is true of our freedom as Americans, how much more is all that true of our freedom in Christ! Our freedom in Christ isn't something just to be celebrated once a week on Sundays, but to be celebrated and cherished and treasured and proclaimed every day! Because "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!"  (John 8:36 ESV)

"For freedom Christ has set us free." (Galatians 5:1 ESV)

"For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death."  (Romans 8:2 ESV)

[Jesus said] "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32 ESV)


"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Romans 6:23 ESV)


Free in Christ Jesus! Free indeed! Our freedom in Christ is not dependent on political parties or political correctness or political whim. That freedom is all and only in and through Christ Jesus! Free indeed!

Proclaim that freedom "throughout the land and to all the inhabitants thereof"!

What will you do today to proclaim liberty? To let freedom ring?

"Let Freedom Ring" - The Gaither Vocal Band:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVVbSXz7jaU

Thursday, July 2, 2020

What Time Is It?

10:10
10:11
10:12
10:13
10:14
 4:59
 9:14




Every clock in this house showed a different time this morning! What's going on? And what time is it anyway? We've had a few episodes of power flickering on and off this week, so I suppose that could account for all these differences in time  Except perhaps for 4:59 and 9:14. One probably just needs a new battery, and the other never made it to Daylight Savings Time.

I checked my phone, and 10:14 was the actual time.

Recent world events have many questioning what time it is on the world calendar. We can't know that for certain. But we can know this:

"You know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed." (Romans 13:11 ESV)

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

What If?

We have all asked that question from time to time. Truth be told, there are some of us who can't seem to let go of that question!

What if I get sick?

What if we don't have enough money?

What if my child gets hurt?

What if I lose my job?

What if I get cancer?

What if we have a storm?

What if.......

You can complete the question with your own "what if". 

A number of years ago, when my husband was working as building and grounds manager for a large insurance company headquartered in our city, he often had to answer that question. Several times a week he would be called into the office of the person to whom he reported, and he would have to answer the question "what are the three worst things that will happen if we do this?"

That became a standing joke around our house! We asked that question about everything. And I do mean everything!

What are the three worst things that will happen if we buy this car? What are the three worst things that will happen if we go to Disney World? What are the three worst things that will happen if we go to the mall? What are the three worst things that will happen if we eat chicken for dinner? 

You get the idea. It bordered on ridiculous.

But if you think about it, don't we do the same - border on ridiculous - when we obsess over the "what ifs"? We worry far too much about things that probably won't even happen. Especially in these days, with Covid-19 never far from our minds, we have a lot of "what ifs". But even if some of our "what ifs" actually do become reality, what good does it do us to worry and fret?

A far better approach to the "what ifs" of our lives is to remember that God has it all under control. To remember that whatever happens to us, even if all our "what ifs" become reality, God knows and understands. And He is working it all together for our good and for His glory. 

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son." (Romans 8:28-29a ESV)

There is one "what if" we should keep in mind. The hymn writer Lelia N. Morris put it this way:

"Jesus is coming to earth again; What if it were today?"
 
Jesus is coming again. Are you ready?
 
"Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."  (Matthew 24:44 ESV)

Monday, June 29, 2020

Not Available

Even in these days when texting is the norm, we still sometimes use the telephone to make a call. And when we do, how frustrated we become when we hear "the person you have called is not available."


We are even more frustrated when we hear a list of prompts, followed by another list of prompts, and another, and another, all ending with "please leave a message after the beep."


In this world of instant everything, we don't want to wait. We want to talk to a real person, not an automated answering service. And we want to talk to that person now. When we call. Not at some future point that might or might not ever happen, because they might or might not decide to return the call. And if they do return the call, we might or might not decide to answer. And so it goes.


We want answers now. We expect people to answer when we call. Just like in the "olden days" when the phone rang, and you answered the person without even knowing who was on the other end of the line. The phone rang, and so you answered it. Perhaps I'm dating myself!


In these days of texting and telemarketing and robocalls, a person who actually answers the phone without knowing who on the other end of the call is a rarity indeed.


I must confess that I am not a fan of the telephone, particularly in this post-stroke season of my life. But when I do actually make a phone call, it's because I want to talk to the person I called. Actually talk to them. Not to their voice mail. I actually want to hear a real human voice. The voice of the person I called.


How thankful I am that when I want to talk to God, I don't have to worry that He's too busy to pick up the phone. When I want to talk to God, He listens. And He responds. Not audibly, of course, but with that still, small voice that let's me know He's listening.


When I want to speak with God, I don't get put on hold. There's no endless list of prompts to get through. I don't have to press 1 for requests and 2 for praises. I don't have to leave a call-back number.


When I call, He answers. When I call, He hears. When I call, He responds. When I call, He answers.


"He bends down to listen....." (Psalm 116:2 NLT)


I am overwhelmed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Is Your God In A Box?

Do you keep God in a box?

Is He in your "Sunday box"? The box you only use once a week - if it's convenient, or less often if it's not. Is He the God you take out of the Sunday box so you can dust Him off and take Him to church with you? If you bother to go. Or if you bother to take Him with you.

Do you keep God in a "special occasion box"? You only get that box out when you really need it. You know, when your grandma is really sick or your best friend is in an accident or your husband loses his job.

Is your God in a box that defines Him by popular opinion or political correctness? Does your understanding of who God is depend on what culture says (or doesn't say!) about Him?

Or do you have Him in some other kind of box? Some box of your own design and making. A box of your cultural or ethnic origin, or your political persuasion. Are you trying to make God fit into your box rather than you being fitted into Him?

I'm afraid that many of us have our God in a box. We know so little about Him and His ways that we box Him into what we do know. And sadly, much of what we know is either inaccurate or inadequate.

But if we really get to know Him in all His fulness, we can no longer keep Him boxed up! It's easy to say "I want to know God". It's a much greater challenge to actually live that out. To be willing to submit our will, our desires, our plans, to His will and His purposes.

After all, what if He expects us to change our lifestyle? To change our culture? To move to some faraway place? What if He sends us to Africa? Or Siberia? What if He expects us to give up things or people that are really important to us? What if?

How much do you love God? How much do you really want to know Him? How much are you willing to do what He says?

Are you willing, as A. W. Tozer put it, to follow hard after God?

"Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee......"  (A. W. Tozer, from The Pursuit of God, chapter 1, "Following Hard After God")

Or are you content to leave Him in your box?

"My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me."  (Psalm 63:8 KJV)

Monday, June 22, 2020

Anyway

We were supposed to be on a cruise ship this morning, sailing to the Bahamas with our family. But, because of Covid-19, cruises are cancelled. And I'm disappointed. Certainly I would have enjoyed the cruise. But what disappoints me more is missing out on the time with family.


Inevitably there will be some disappointments in life. Life, even at its best, can be challenging, and those challenges come in all shapes and sizes, in all areas of our lives.

In health.
In relationships.
In politics.
In the workplace.
And in the current virus and hate-filled environment we now find ourselves in, life is full of disappointments and challenges.

Everywhere we turn, there are challenges to be faced and disappointments to be dealt with. Some days it seems there is a new crisis hiding around every corner.

How do we deal with all that? How do we handle these challenges and crises and disappointments? What do we do?

We trust God anyway. Even when things aren't going our way. Even when we have health issues or financial issues or relationship issues. Even when we have been hurt or disappointed. Even when politicians seem to have no moral compass. Even when those we love are suffering. Even when we don't know how we will pay our bills. Even when there aren't enough hours in the day. Even when the pain is more than we think we can bear.

Even then. Anyway.

Martina McBride expressed this well in a song she wrote and recorded a few years ago. One verse of that song says, "God is great, But sometimes life ain't good, And when I pray it doesn't always turn out like I think it should. But I do it anyway, I do it anyway."

Anyway.

That's what faith is all about. Faith is not dependent on circumstances. Faith is faith in spite of circumstances.

Trust God anyway.

Obey God anyway.

Believe God anyway.

Let your light shine anyway.



"Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD!  I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!  The Sovereign LORD is my strength!  (Habakkuk 3:17-19a NLT, emphasis mine)

Saturday, June 20, 2020

A Light Bulb Moment

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all your understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."                            (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)

I was reading this verse yesterday. Pondering it. As I have done many times in recent weeks. But this time I had a light bulb moment. You know what I mean.  That moment when what you read really clicks.

I have read and quoted this verse hundreds of times. Perhaps even thousands of times.

I have rattled through this verse many times, but yesterday I was stopped in my tracks by this verse.

The verse tells us not to be anxious about anything. It tells us to pray about everything.

Never once does it say anything about the answer to our prayers.

It does say that when we stop worrying and when we pray about everything, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds.

It does not say that when our prayers are answered, then we will be at peace.

It does say that when we bring all our concerns to God, then His peace surrounds us and guards our hearts and minds.

The answer, in a sense, is irrelevant. The act of praying, of bringing all our concerns to God, is what brings us peace. 

The answer to the request becomes a bonus. The blessing is in the praying.

Light bulb moment!

 
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
 
from "What a Friend We have in Jesus"
words:  Joseph Scriven; music:  Charles C. Converse