Devotional

FREEDOM! – Part 3 of 3

Freedom from Discouragement

The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. (Psalm 146:7b-9 RSV)

Sometimes when we are discouraged, it’s hard for us to see the Lord in the midst of the situation. Doesn’t He care? Is He who He claims to be? In those dark moments we may lose sight of what we already know and believe about God. Instead of living in the freedom the Lord has given us, we are imprisoned by fear or doubt. It may be for a short time, or for much longer, like it was for me after my mother’s death when I questioned God’s purpose, and depression was my chain.

John the Baptist got discouraged. He was in prison and would soon lose his life. (Matthew 11 and Luke 7)  The prophet questioned God, even though he had baptized Jesus and had heard God say “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  He sent two of his followers to Jesus. They said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you he who was to come, or shall we look for another?’”

In that hour Jesus had healed the blind, and cured many diseases and evil spirits. He answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.”(Luke 7:22, 23 RSV)

Jesus did not chastise John the Baptist. Jesus compassionately reassured John that He was indeed the one God’s Word foretold.  The LORD opens the eyes of the blind. (Psalm 146:7) John the Baptistknew he had been sent as a messenger before the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. I’m sure he remembered that the prophet Isaiah also foretold thatGod would come, bringing healing for the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the mute. (Isaiah 29:18-19; 35:4-6).

Image by John Hain from Pixabay 

When we are imprisoned by depression, despair, and doubt, it is the Lord who brings us freedom.  

When I was captive to depression after Mom’s death, it was the Lord who set me free. I was still attending church, but anger at God kept part of me from truly participating in worship. It was ‘more important’ to me that I get Mom’s house emptied and sold and her estate dealt with than it was to apply the Bible studies I participated in or to take care of my own health. I sang worship songs, but often the words did not penetrate my heart. Still, the Lord kept reaching for me. When I realized I couldn’t do everything on my own, He reassured me that He had been with me through the whole ordeal and would continue to be with me. He reminded me that Mom was no longer suffering and that she was in heaven with Him. While I could have told you those things all along, God’s truth took hold and released me. The truth went from my head to my heart. Jesus lifted me up. He gave me a new spiritual sight that looks with trust to Jesus.

Are you bowed down? Are you imprisoned in your soul, or even physically? Do you struggle with continuing on day after day? Maybe you are a widow or widower, or a single parent, trying to keep yourself and even a family afloat. Perhaps a loved one is out of control. Health issues may bind you or a family member.

Jesus knows all about it. He cares. He loves you.

There is no need to look for another; the Lord Jesus sets the prisoners free. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD upholds the widow and the fatherless.

Let’s seek Jesus. He frees us, encourages us, heals us, and loves us.

Dear Jesus, thank you for being the Lord, for being the one who came to set the captives free. Thank you for your encouragement and for your care for every detail in my life. Amen.

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Thank you for joining me and for reading my devotional blogs.  Blogs post every other Thursday. Past devotionals can be found in the Devotional archive.

Devotional

FREEDOM! – Part 2 of 3

We Are No Longer Slaves to Sin

We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. (Romans 6:6 NLT)

In Part 1 of this Freedom series, we were challenged to claim our freedom in Christ Jesus. 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.” (John 8:31, 32 NIV) We need to listen to the truth rather than listen to the lies that try to convince us that we will always be slaves to sin.

How are we doing in listening to the truth? Are we obedient to Jesus, who is the truth?

Two weeks ago I claimed freedom regarding my complaining, yet I confess I complained during the past fourteen days. With long car trips during our recent vacation and temperatures at 111⁰ F and up, I got cranky more than once. There were many days when I was doing better than others, but I cringe as I remember my failures. It is so discouraging.

It seems the battle is never-ending, but we can’t give up when we fail to obey God. The apostle Paul also battled between sin and righteousness. He wanted to do right, but the mighty apostle sinned again! I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.  (Romans 7:22-25a NLT, emphasis mine.)

Paul didn’t use his sinful nature as an excuse to keep on sinning. We can’t either.

Jesus died so He could break the power of sin. We are crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. (Romans 6) Like Jesus, we can glorify God with our lives. Paul tells us that it is our choice.

Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. (Romans 6:16 NLT)

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. (Romans 7:4 NLT)

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Let’s take action. Let’s make the right choices that will bring us freedom through the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Then we can produce the good deeds for God and give Him glory. We will be free from shame and the shackles of sin. I’m choosing not to complain today. When an irritation comes up, I plan to stop and to thank God that He is with me and that He will help me to obey Him. What are you choosing?

Dear Lord, Thank you for liberating me from sin. Please forgive me for the wrong choices I make. Please help me to glorify you with my decisions and actions. Help me to choose Your will in my life and obedience to You. I pray this in Jesus’ precious and powerful name. Amen.

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Thank you for joining me and for reading my devotional blogs.  Blogs post every other Thursday. Past devotionals can be found in the Devotional archive.

Devotional

FREEDOM!

The Truth Will Set You Free – Part 1 of 3

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.” John 8:31, 32 NIV

Freedom.

It’s something that is longed for, fought for, and cherished. People should be free from imprisonment or slavery. Many wars have been fought to keep another government from taking over a nation or people, or to bring or keep freedom within one’s nation and allow for self-rule.  We desire to have the power to act, speak, and think as we want without hindrance.  

A few holidays during June and July celebrate freedom in North America.

  • Juneteenth is a celebration that started when the freed slaves of Galveston, Texas received the news that the civil war was over and they were free in 1865 on June 19th, a date that was melded into the word “Juneteenth.” Juneteenth became a U.S. federal holiday in 2021.
  • For Canadians, July 1, Canada Day, is a commemoration of a united Canada and independence. It is the anniversary of Canadian confederation which occurred on July 1, 1867, when the three separate colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were united into a single Dominion within the British Empire called Canada. It was formerly called Dominion Day.
  • The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, honors the founding of the United States of America. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress announced the political separation of the thirteen North American colonies from Great Britain.

Thinking about these observations of freedom got me thinking about the even greater freedom we have in Jesus Christ. Jesus told His disciples that the truth would set them free. How were they, and we, to know the truth?

Jesus claimed to be the truth. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” John 14;6 NLT. Notice He said the way, the truth and the life, not a way, or a truth, nor one of many.  Now, if we believe Jesus to be the God the Son, and that He spoke truth, then it follows that His claim to be the truth and the only way to the Father are also true.

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.” How do we hold to His teaching? We must know what the Bible says and follow it. That comes through careful and regular study of Scripture and through obedience to what we read and learn from it. It always comes down to obedience to God and not just head knowledge about Him if we want our spirits to be free.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What are we being set free from?

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34 NIV) Have you ever felt that sin controlled you? I know some of my bad habits, or sins, seem impossible to break. I say I won’t complain, but then I do so again and again. I tell myself that I will spend time in prayer every day, but then I crawl into bed realizing that while I spent time watching television, I didn’t read my Bible or pray. I too often fail to make Jesus first in my life. The chain of sin binds me.

Jesus breaks the chains. It is in the Son that you and I have freedom. Jesus continued with, “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.” (John 8:35-36 NIV) Jesus set us free on the cross by His death and resurrection. He gives us the power to live for Him because if we believe in Him the Holy Spirit lives within us. He makes us part of His family.

Let’s claim our freedom. Let’s listen to the truth and not the lies that try to convince us that we will always be shackled. Choose one area that you want to have Jesus free you from bondage, and memorize verses that address it. For me, it’s my complaining. I plan to look at verses that talk about being content and not complaining. I’ll ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen me and to help me be aware of what I say, and to practice thankfulness. What freedom will you seek?

Dear Lord, Thank you for the freedom that only You can give through Jesus Christ. Please lead me in Your truth and set me free. Amen.

Thank you for joining me and for reading my devotional blogs.  Blogs post every other Thursday. Past devotionals can be found in the Devotional archive.

Devotional

A Song of Praise

Garden Devotionals – Spring 2021- Part 4 of 4

Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful. Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praises on the harp to our God… Psalm 147:1,7 (NKJV)

The Dawn Chorus of birds fill the air with beautiful song at the first hint of light. Every morning the trills, coos, warbles, and chirps of various birds join together from the tree outside my bedroom window. The mockingbird adds his variety of songs. Joyfully they begin each day. They do not worry or get too busy to begin their music. I believe they are praising their Creator.

The LORD desires our praise, for praise glorifies Him. God wants us to praise Him for who He is, His attributes and His character. He is the Creator who determines the number of the stars and names them. He lovingly cares for each of us, as well as the rest of His creation. He gives to the beast its food, and to the young ravens that cry….the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His steadfast love. (Psalm 147:4, 9, 11). He is the one true God. He is truth. There is no falsehood with the Lord. We can rejoice in God because He keeps His promises.

The LORD is just and righteous, unable to look on sin. But because He also loves us unconditionally, His Son Jesus shed His own blood to pay the penalty for our sin so we could have His forgiveness.  He is our provider, forgiver, and the healer of our mind, body, and spirit.

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Photo by Kevin Blanzy on Pexels.com

Praise not only glorifies God, but lifts our souls. I find it harder to complain while I’m praising God for what He has done or is doing in my life or in the lives of my loved ones. Worry about the future is displaced when I praise the Lord for providing for our past needs and often our wants too. Remembering His past provision, even while my husband was unemployed, helps me to trust Him with my future.

I’ve learned that praise can even be part of grief.  While my father was suffering with terminal cancer, I was able to praise God for how much closer Dad began to walk with Jesus, and for the lives of friends that turned to the Lord as a result of Dad’s testimony and his death. The pain of saying goodbye for now was there, but as I turned to the Lord, He helped me. He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.   

The LORD is worthy of praise! As the Psalmist said in Psalm 147:5, Great is our LORD, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.

Lord, may I praise You daily like the dawn chorus of birds do each morning. You are worthy of all praise. You are great, Lord. Your power and understanding are beyond measure. Amen.  

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Thank you for joining me and for reading my devotional blogs.  Blogs post every other Thursday. Past devotionals can be found in the Devotional archive.

For information on making your garden a home for birds, see my article “Planting to Encourage Birds” on my Gardening page.

Devotional

Quench the Thirst

 Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like the tree planted by the waters…and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.                                                                                                              Jeremiah 17:7,8 (NKJV)

I bought a Gaura lindheimeri plant (aka. Butterfly Bush or Beeblossom). I was delighted that it had two plants within the pot, one with pink flowers, and the other with white.  Before I got them planted into the soil, a record heat wave hit our area. To my dismay, the next day part of the plant was crispy and dry, while the rest of it sat limp and wilted. The soil was dry, though it had received water the previous day.  I plunged the nursery container into a bucket of water, which revived part of the Gaura. Instead of butterflies visiting the airy branching flowering spikes of pink or white flowers, it lost all of its flower buds. It showed the damage done from going thirsty during trying times. It’s in the flower bed now. It took some time, but as it received the water it needed the new growth is once again beautiful.

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Guara lindheimeri – Image by Annette Meyer from Pixabay

We can be like the Gaura plant, beautiful until the scorching heat of a trial arrives and it wilts us. We grow more and more anxious. Fear controls us. Our souls are thirsty, needing to plunge into the Word of God for the life- giving refreshment of the Holy Spirit. If we don’t quench the thirst, damage can result within us just as surely as it does for a plant without water.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote of a person being blessed because of his hope and trust in the Lord. “For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes;…” (Jeremiah 17:8a)

If my Gaura had its roots in the water instead of trapped in a thin plastic nursery pot, water would have replaced what it was losing to the drying sun. The water it received before the heat wave was not enough to keep it healthy.

Likewise, the time we spent with God last Sunday or even yesterday is not enough to keep us thriving during today’s hot, drying winds. How can we be like that tree planted by the rivers of water?

  • Study the Bible. “…his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water…” (Psalm 1:2, 3a; NKJV). Are we spending time daily reading the Bible and thinking about what the Holy Spirit shows us? Are we applying it to our lives?
  • Commit to staying immersed in the Living Water of Jesus. He replenishes us as we stay connected to him. We will remain fruitful for Jesus’ kingdom as others see us go through trials and survive them. We do not need to fear the heat.
  • Confession is on-going. Believers in Jesus Christ are forgiven once at salvation. However, we don’t always obey God. When we sin, we need to confess that to our Heavenly Father and seek His forgiveness.
  • Pray. Jesus Christ spent time praying to His heavenly Father. If Jesus, the Son of God, needed time with the heavenly Father, certainly we do, too.

Dear Lord, Thank you for being the source of Living Water. I confess I try to go through life on my own power and don’t spend time with you every day. Please forgive me. I need you, Jesus. Help me to sink my roots deep into You, and not into the dry dirt of the world. Quench the thirst of my soul. In Jesus’ holy name, Amen.

Thank you for joining me and for reading my devotional blogs.  Blogs post every other Thursday. Past devotionals can be found in the Devotional archive.

For information on watering plants, see my article “Quench the Thirst of Your Plants” on my Gardening page.