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

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

Jesus: His Cross and His Resurrection – Part 4 of 4

A special weekly series for the Easter Season

Reflections on the hymn Christ the Lord is Risen Today

And the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” Matthew 28:5-7 NASB20

Charles Wesley composed more than 6,500 hymns. Some of the best known among Wesley’s hymns are “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”; “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”; “Rejoice, the Lord is King”; “Jesu, Lover of My Soul” and the hymn of this week’s devotional focus, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” (also called “Christ the Lord is Ris’n Today”). The lyrics below were published in 1739; Music from Lyra Davidica, London, 1708 public domain. Six verses are shown here, so some may be new to you as verses five and six are new to me. Emphasis in bold is mine.

Verse 1.	

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!
Verse 2.	

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Verse 3.
	
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!
Verse 4.	

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
Verse 5.
	
Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

Verse 6.	

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy pow’r to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!
Easter Image by fedden from Pixabay
Christ the Lord is risen! I love that the angel showed the empty tomb to the women, people who at the time were around the bottom of the social strata. They weren’t allowed past the Court of Women in the Temple. The angel gave them proof that the seemly impossible had happened. Death no longer had its sting. Their Savior was risen, just as He said. Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. 

Jesus gave us reason to raise our joys and triumphs high. He died to save our souls. Our redemption from sin is done.

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!

Foll’wing our exalted Head, Because Christ Jesus is alive, we can follow Him every day. Thee to know, Thy pow’r to prove, We can know Him by studying the Scriptures and by having a personal relationship with Him. His power is proven not only by His resurrection, but by the change He brings in our lives as we trust and rely on Him and become more like Him.  

Heaven is open to those who believe in Christ Jesus. When death comes, or if Jesus returns again before we die, His followers will rise to everlasting life.

Alleluia!

Let’s spend time thanking Jesus for what He has done. He fought the fight, the battle won. Christ the Lord is risen!  Let’s praise Him.

Lord, thank you that You gave me a reason to have joy! Thank you for Your redeeming work on the cross for me. I’m sorry it took the cross and Your death to rescue me. Thank you for allowing me to follow You. I praise You, for You alone are worthy of all praise. Amen.

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Dear Reader, thank you for following along with this four-part special Easter series, Jesus: His Cross and His Resurrection. If you missed any of it, or would like to review it, they are posted under devotionals on the following dates: 3/18/21 Part 1- At the Cross;  3/25/21 Part 2 – The Old Rugged Cross ; 4/1/21 Part 3 – Christ Arose; 4/8/21 Part 4 – Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Devotionals post every other Thursday (Special series may occur more frequently, such as the Easter series, Jesus: His Cross and His Resurrection.) They are archived under Devotionals.

Devotional

Jesus: His Cross and His Resurrection – Part 2 of 4

A special weekly series for the Easter Season

Reflections on the hymn The Old Rugged Cross

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. I Corinthians 1:18 NKJV

The cross of Jesus is despised by some. It seems like foolishness to the world. Why would God come to earth for humankind, knowing that they had already rejected Him or would do so in the future? Yet Jesus suffered and died on that cross to pardon and sanctify us. He sets us apart to follow Him, and to someday live in heaven with Him.

It is the message of the cross that led George Bernard to write the words and music to The Old Rugged Cross. He cherished the old rugged cross. (1913. Public domain.)

Verse 1: 

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,  
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;  
And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best  
For a world of lost sinners was slain.  

Verse 2: 

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,  
Has a wonderous attraction for me;  
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above  
To bear it to dark Calvary.  

Verse 3: 

In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,  
A wonderous beauty I see;  
For ‘twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died  
To pardon and sanctify me. 
Good Friday – Image by Marinas32 on Pixabay

Just think, Jesus left heaven for sinners- that’s us! I pray I’ll be faithful to Him, as George Bernard said in verse 4 and the refrain:  

Verse 4:	

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true, 
Its shame and reproach gladly bear; 
Then He’ll call me someday to my home faraway, 
Where His glory forever I’ll share.

Refrain: 	

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, 
Till my trophies at last I lay down; 
I will cling to the old rugged cross, 
And exchange it someday for a crown

Our sins were nailed to the cross with Jesus. He removed our sins as far as the east is from the west. I remember when I was on a church youth group trip, we wrote down our sins on pieces of paper and nailed them onto a board. After a time of silent confession, the nails with the attached papers were removed. Nail holes remained. For me personally the holes were a reminder of the consequences to sin, but that Jesus forgave my sins and chooses not to remember my confessed sins any longer. A variation of this is to write down our sins on a piece of paper, confess them, and then to burn the papers. I think I want to do that again. Perhaps you would like to do something similar? 

Dear Jesus, Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for removing my sins and not holding me eternally accountable for anything You have already forgiven. May I gladly bear the reproach of others for Your cross, and lay everything at Your feet. Amen.

Watch for the rest of this four-part special Easter series, Jesus: His Cross and His Resurrection.

3/18/21     Part 1-  At the Cross  
3/25/21     Part 2 - The Old Rugged Cross
4/1/21       Part 3 - Christ Arose
4/8/21       Part 4 - Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Devotionals post every other Thursday (Special series may occur more frequently, such as the Easter series, Jesus: His Cross and His Resurrection.) They are archived under Devotionals.