Candy blogs: I am honored to be guest posting today over at my new online friends’, Kevin & Melissa Main’s, blog … MainWriters: Faith and Family. Click here to read it. This is one of my favorite posts written as I was pondering and praising God for freedom in Christ.
Kevin and Melissa Main are avid writers with many gifts and talents to share with the Body of Christ. You will enjoy their work, photographs and their wisdom.
For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy! Psalm 149:4-5
Candy blogs: God only opens the door to the future one step at a time. I remember about 15 years ago I was right in the middle of a huge jam. I was raised to DO and WORK and SERVE in the church. I was raised to try to get more on the DO side and less on the DON’T side. More on the good side than the bad side. I did and worked and served and rarely said no because I thought that the approval of men would make me more loveable to God.
At the age of 38 I found myself to be an angry, exhausted, resentful, frustrated, powerless, empty woman. I saw my life then as a mini tornado that swirled and swirled in front of my face. And I could see “issues” swirling around in the tornado but they were moving so fast I couldn’t make out what they were. I knew these were things God wanted to talk to me about but I didn’t know how to make the swirling stop so I could focus on those issues.
When I finally stepped off the roller coaster life I’d been leading my whole life, I began to see the swirling slow and then stop. The issues became clear to me.
What I had feared, my Red Sea, was solitude. Quietness. Lack of activity.
Through a powerful class and God’s Word, I began to unpack those issues in quietness and stillness. I was afraid of the quiet because I knew that the knocking on my heart’s door would become so loud I would have to
actually DEAL with it. The first lesson? Stop all forward motion. Sit at Jesus’ feet. Listen and don’t speak.
This seemed impossible for me to do. I was a doer. I was goer. But the direction was clear. STOP. BE. What I discovered was that I had gotten to the place where I could no longer hear God’s voice. I was wandering around in the desert hitting my head on brick walls. But as I put myself intentionally into times of quietness, adding margin for stillness into each day … time to process and think things all the way through … reading His Word and talking to the Lord … and just sitting in His presence, His voice became familiar to me and I could begin to understand the other issues He wanted to talk to me about.
When I held up the mirror of God’s Word, I saw ugliness looking back at me. … pride, arrogance, self-sufficiency, dominating, cruel, irritable, easily angered, needing to be the center of attention, craving approval & applause. These were my bondage, my Egypt.
The journey out of that mess was long and painful. I faced a few armies and obstacles and changes of course. It felt like I was crossing the Red Sea, looking at the wall of water on both sides of me and wondering if they would hold, wondering if God was truly making a way for ME … but all the while being totally aware that I was walking on dry land.
I crossed into freedom and have never been the same. I don’t walk perfectly but I no longer feel guilty about things that don’t really matter. I have a strong sense of joy and purpose. I rest in knowing that no matter what I DO or DON’T do, God will never love me more or less. I don’t wonder anymore if I am good enough. I listen more than I talk. I lean IN to His will and purposes for me instead of running away from them. I serve in my God-given strengths instead of saying yes to every opportunity that presents itself. My spirit is teachable and ready to hear and apply Truth. I hear His voice when He speaks to me.
I believe that every step of our journey is a choice. We can shake our fists at God and question His ways (which, BTW, He can handle and doesn’t love us less for) or we can look for how He is building our character. We may not always control what comes our way but we can choose our response.
Now … the questions for pondering and discussion on the way to our transformation …
What is your Egypt? Are you in bondage to anything?
What is your Red Sea? What do you fear?
We all have our own list. Is anything standing between you and freedom?
But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? Galatians 4:9
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36
There is an old song I used to sing. So meaningful to me at different times in my life. It came to mind as I was working through this post.
♥¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ Janet Pascal ♥¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥
Keep choosing His ways … they always lead to freedom.
Candy blogs: The Israelites are such a great example of what not to do, aren’t they? I remember the first time I read through the entire Bible, I was in my 20’s. I kept stopping to whine to the Lord about what idiots the Israelites were as they wandered around in the desert. God would do a big miracle for them and they’d be happy for about five minutes. Then they’d go do something stupid and get themselves in a huge jam that only God could get them out of. And God would save them. And they’d be happy for another five minutes and the cycle just seemed to continue until Jesus came.
In my 20’s this was frustrating for me to read over and over. I just wanted them to learn the lesson, love and obey God and WIN! Get on with it. Start LIVING the life God freed them to live instead of wandering around hitting their heads against brick walls all the time.
And this happened right out of the chutes. They had just barely left Egypt after the HUGE miracles of the plagues. They were all believing God and ready to BE FREE. God had been leading them with the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. They could actually SEE the presence of God every minute of their day and night. God’s presence was tangible. I like to imagine going to sleep at night in that camp and perhaps awakening to troubling sounds. But then looking over at the pillar of fire … there it was. God’s presence. What a comfort.
Pharaoh changed his mind about letting them go and sent his army after them to bring them back. So when the Israelites saw that the Egyptian army was coming after them, they were suddenly aware that they were a huge, vulnerable group of newly freed slaves, untrained and unaccustomed to war. The Egyptian army, on the other hand, was the best trained and best equipped army in the world. So they had 600 Egyptian chariots coming at them from one side and when they turned the other way, there was the Red Sea.
They were truly trapped. This was their first huge jam.
Well, of course they were terrified and started screaming at Moses about why in the world they were out in the middle of the desert in this horrible situation when they could be back in Egypt happily making bricks and living in slavery.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But is it?
What would our first reaction be if we found ourselves figuratively between an army and the sea? We always SAY we would choose freedom. We’d choose GOD’S ways. We would be OBEDIENT because God’s side always WINS.
But the challenge the Lord put before me recently is this: WE SAY THAT GOD WILL MAKE A WAY. We believe this. We know God’s Word, the Bible, says this. We often say this to others when THEY’RE in a huge jam.
But when WE’RE facing adversity, often our life actually reflects something more like: BUT WILL HE MAKE A WAY FOR ME?
God usually leads us one step at a time.
Very seldom do we hear of someone who got the whole life plan from the Lord when they first came to know Him. It was the same for the Israelites. When they set out in the desert, no one knew exactly where they were going. They were just … going. They just followed the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. The pillars confirmed God’s presence and His leadership.
So that meant that God had led them directly to this very tight spot. It wasn’t a mistake. It wasn’t an error in judgment. It wasn’t rebellion. How could there possibly be so much trouble when they were clearly where God wanted them to be?
Moses was just following orders. He didn’t know what to do. He’d just spent 40 years on the other side of the desert. He didn’t know how to lead a million or more people. So God took over.
The pillar they’d been following then moved behind the people to stand between the army and the people. It stayed there all night. And while the pillar was protecting them, God told Moses to stretch out his staff over the sea so that the Israelites could go through the sea on dry land. This took all night long. I bet they weren’t expecting that.
What the Israelites feared (the sea)
became their way to freedom.
God’s plan for us doesn’t include coexisting with “the Egyptians”… he wants us free. Coping … getting by … settling for is NOT the plan. Overcoming is God’s plan. Staying in Egypt means slavery and bondage. God always wants to lead us to a better place. He always leads us forward to the promise.
What do I mean by God will “make a way”? Did God always intervene in the battles of Israel? Did they always win their battles? No. There were many, many years of enemy occupation of Israel. Does this mean that God will always get me out of all my jams … at least as I see jams? No. None of us
escapes hard things. The promise of God isn’t to spare us from conflict but to
help us overcome them.
God only opens the door to the future one step at a time.
This makes me think … does my life really line up with my beliefs, values and the words that come out of my mouth? There will be more in Part II …
This post was inspired by a lesson written by Daniel N. Berg
Candy blogs: You’ve been asking for it! The last characteristic of the Fruit of the Spirit for your set … self-control. Beth Moore says, “Any person without self-control is either an accident waiting for a place to happen or a slave in chains.”
A reminder: this series on the Fruit of the Spirit has been my humble attempt to personally process Beth Moore’s study, Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit. The posts have been based on Beth’s study and are my attempts to get the truths I learned even deeper into my understanding. I created the postcards for a dear family member as a means of encouragement during a difficult time. There has been much reader response to this series, but ultimately, the response is to the Truth of God’s strong and holy word. It has the same effect on me.
Let’s talk about self-control. Ugh … this one is almost as hard as patience.
How does this compound word make you feel? We don’t usually think very positively about this word. But it’s on the list, people, so we have to look at it. The list started with love and ends with self-control. Beth says that “love keeps us afloat, and self-control keep us anchored. Love lends us liberality, and self-control provide the boundaries within which love can be unleashed.” Very insightful. It’s sounding more positive now.
In I Corinthians 6:12 the Apostle Paul says, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.”
We do have every freedom in Christ; we aren’t bound by the the Law anymore. But according to this verse, freedom doesn’t mean we can disregard God’s principles and do as we please. This verse says our freedom is a choice not to allow ourselves to be controlled by anything that would steer us away from Christ. Allowing anything to control us other than Christ is bondage. We are the ones who make that call. Freedom is always there if we will walk in it.
Why do we need self-control anyway? This is America! Look at Proverbs 25:28: “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a person who lacks self-control.”
What can happen to a city whose walls are broken down? There is no protection. Enemies have free reign in the city to take what they want. Anything of value is vulnerable. In Bible times God demanded walls everywhere He chose to dwell … the Tabernacle had portable walls, the Temple had several layers of walls, Jerusalem had its walls built, destroyed and re-built several times.
Today God dwells in US. What is our wall of protection? Self-control! Because self-control “is the ability to make choices which invite and enhance the authority and filling of the Holy Spirit. Self-control is the decision to remain within the boundaries of victory.”
Beth says, “Self-control is an issue of mastery, of authority, of boundaries.” Ouch … is this “an issue” with you? It certainly is with me. I balk at boundaries and authority. At a recent family reunion I had the opportunity to exercise self-control, to not allow my opinions and emotions to override better judgment and decorum. I didn’t choose well. Like Nehemiah in 2:1-20, I had to set out with a few good men, some close trusted friends, to examine my wall of protection and inspect where it was crumbling. There had to be a section in need of repair since the enemy had entered my city and taken what he wanted.
With their help I found the damaged area and did some work there. We had brutally honest conversations. It took some serious self-examination and letting go and grieving perceived loss. But the wall is going back up. I don’t want to be outside the wall of protection.
Are there other areas in my city that need to be re-built? Yes. One stone at a time. But the phrase ‘love lends us liberality, and self-control provides the boundaries within which love can be unleashed’ needs a practical spin.
If I had exercised self-control at my family reunion, the unleashing of love would have had far more impact than my stomping off to make a point about my opinions and emotions. If I had chosen to restrain and put aside my own opinions and not be mastered by them, I would have enjoyed love unleashed in worship and sharing together as families. We don’t have “freedom” to hurt others or cause undue tension or impose our opinions on others. We’re free to have those opinions; we may even be right but we aren’t free to bully or dismiss others with them. So, for the sake of love, we choose to be mastered by love and not self.
THIS is the exercising of self-control. The choosing. The Holy Spirit doesn’t send it by some magical osmosis. It is offered at every decision point. We make the call.
♪♫♪ I’m forgiven because You were forsaken …
I’m accepted, You were condemned … ♪♫♪
Yet even in our times of lack of self-control the Lord extends mercy and forgiveness because of His great love for us.
This study is changing my life. I pray God’s word is changing yours, too. I’d love to hear how.
Guest blog post: I was so taken by my pastor’s message on the 4th of July Sunday that I asked him to share his thoughts, especially about joy, on this blog. I am honored that he said yes! I have loved having Pastor Darrel as my pastor for the last five and a half years. He is the real thing. I’m sure you’ll be as inspired by his words as I was. Here is Pastor Darrel Wiseman.
In 1776, 50 men signed a document written by Thomas Jefferson. Here is just one sentence from its text: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That statement is found in what is known as the Declaration of Independence signed on July 4, 1776. And freedom has been the battle cry of this country since that day.
But unfortunately today, many in our country have a much different idea than did our founding fathers as to what this freedom is. Many in our society today are clueless as to what real freedom is. Most think that freedom is license to do whatever they want – whenever they want – no matter what anybody else thinks.
Yet the founding of this nation was based on three fundamental pursuits – life, liberty and happiness. Without these three values our country becomes just like any other people bound by an oppressive government which does not take kindly to freedom of expression. Go to any of those countries and ask them what they’re willing to pay for freedom. Most will say, “Everything.” I think we can all agree that freedom is never free.
31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:31, 32, 36
Verse 36, “If the Son sets you free, you are truly free,” implies that there is a ‘true’ freedom that can be experienced in real or self-imposed prison cells anywhere in this world. The Bible illustrates this truth several times. Paul and Silas found freedom “IN” their prison experience. Shadrack, Meshak, and Abednigo found freedom “IN” the fire of a furnace. Daniel found freedom “IN” the lion’s den. God didn’t take them out of these physical prisons.
In that light, let’s look at TRUE life, TRUE liberty and TRUE happiness.
Jesus says in John 10:10 that “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” Most people would say that real life is found in pleasure, leisure and the niceties of wealth and riches. I see so many pursuing those things. But what do they see us Christ-followers pursuing as they look at our lives? Do our lives look different than theirs? While there is nothing wrong with pleasure, leisure, wealth or riches, our prayer should be that the underlying values they see us pursuing reflect Jesus: THE Way, THE Truth, THE Life. Others should be able to see our pursuit of Jesus being lived out in our life. That’s really how I want to live.
In the last one third of my life, I have learned that those things truly worth pursuing are less about what I want … what my plans are, what makes me the most comfortable, and more about what Jesus’ purposes and plans are for me … which people to help and encourage, how best to spend my time and money and energy.
Webster’s definition is appropriate here: “Having the freedom to choose, especially between ways of acting or living.” We all want to pursue liberty. Liberty is more than a statue that stands in the harbor welcoming those from afar with her burning torch. It is more than being able to climb up the ladder of prosperity. It is more than being able to choose your own spouse. It is more than being able to choose where you eat lunch today; Coke or Pepsi?
True liberty is the root of all hope. The possibility of liberty causes the prisoner to dream of tomorrow. Look at what Jesus says in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.” We are surrounded with people who are poor in Spirit and in bondage to their choice of prisons. They can’t even see it. True liberty is found in Jesus. He helps us make the right choices.
Happiness can come and go; it can be so temporary. Joy is the better pursuit. Abbot Coumba Marmion said, “Joy is the echo of God’s life in us.” Yet, as a pastor, I hear all the time, in justification of crazy choices, “I just wanted to be happy!” Most of the time, my only question to them is, “How‘s that workin’ for ya?” Choices that are less than God’s best for us are the ones that so quickly turn from ‘happiness’ to despair and loneliness. When we choose to live far away from God, or pursue happiness for happiness sake, it usually leads to disappointment. Cutting corners with our honesty and integrity seems to be a quick route to happiness – getting what we want, when we want it. But I could tell you story after story that would convince you it’s not worth it.
Jesus gives joy. This joy isn’t based on temporary circumstances but on the reality of God’s life IN us. Real joy comes from being the right person, for the right reasons, in spite of all the other choices.
Isn’t it amazing that the introductory song to Jesus’ arrival on planet Earth was “JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD IS COME! LET EARTH RECEIVE HER KING!” This was the song he chose to be sung to the earth at His coming! He was saying to us, “I am here! There is reason for joy!”
Only in Jesus, will we find true life, true liberty and true happiness.
You are loved!
Pastor Darrel Wiseman
Boise First Community Church
a Church of the Nazarene