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

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.

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.