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.

Devotional

Am I a Content Daylily?

Come to the Garden series

Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13 RSV

I doubled my rose garden from six to twelve rose bushes; still, my longing gaze drifts to more varieties. I chafe to reestablish the large vegetable garden and flower beds I had before the gophers, water restrictions, and drought took out many of my plantings. I dream of overflowing flowerbeds of colorful annuals, perennials, and succulents. But such thoughts are selfish, for my budget currently only allows me to buy a few of my long list of desired purchases. Shouldn’t I appreciate what I have?

My discontentment isn’t limited to things. My adult child isn’t available to get together, my husband may be working on a project that takes priority over something we were going to do together, or someone may interrupt me and disrupt what I was scheduled to accomplish in a given period of time. I complain. I want to do what I desire, God, not be on the phone with the friend who needs to talk for an hour. “It’s too hot to weed.” “I don’t want to clean house.” My attitude is not Christ or others-centered. 

Oh, how I grieve the Lord with my discontentment.  I need to remember that my attitude is not reflecting the will of the Lord God.

I need to be more like the daylilies. They bloom where they are without demanding that conditions be “just right.” Daylilies are not picky about soil, or complaining they won’t bloom unless they get their full allotment of water.

Daylily at San Diego Botanical Gardens, 2019. Photo by Kathryn Hughes

Do you ever struggle with discontentment like me? Are you like a rose that gets leaf diseases if conditions are difficult? Or possibly a fern that wilts when the heat comes? Oh, that we would be like the contented daylily, blooming readily in different circumstances, satisfied with things as they are.

 When we desire more and fail to appreciate what we have, it shows an unthankful heart and a lack of trust in God. Scripture says “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19, NKJV) Do we focus on our fears and doubts and question what He says? Or are we content to let our Creator bring both the sun and the rain, knowing He cares for us?

The Lord said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” We can simply repeat it, or we can grow deep into knowing who God is and that He is with us. He doesn’t forget us. Even when life seems to be crashing down around us, we can know with certainty that the Lord is with us. He knows every detail. Jesus experienced the trials and difficulties of being human. He has compassion on us. The writer of Hebrews linked God’s promise to contentment. Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 (NKJV)

The Apostle Paul must have struggled with discontentment, for he said, “I have learned in whatever state I am to be content.” How did he learn? Paul continued with “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Paul took his wants and his needs to Jesus. Like Paul, we can learn to be content. Let’s give our discontentment to Jesus, trusting He loves us and knows what is best for us. Christ will help us

Lord, please forgive my grumbling and my discontented attitude. Teach me to be content no matter what my circumstances. Help me to remember that You are my helper and I don’t have to struggle or fear. You will never leave me nor forsake me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Devotionals post every other Thursday. Past devotionals can be found in the Devotional archive.

For information on Daylily plants, see my article on Daylily Care on my Gardening page.