Freedom

This morning I was awakened very early, maybe by a firecracker, or maybe just the first light of dawn. Some prophetic verses foretelling the Christ in the Old Testament had been on my mind and one in particular, actually one word in that verse was dangling in my consciousness. It was just like an itch, I just had to itch! 😊 . Watching the Son rise in my mind literally was enlightening and it was one of those occasions where I would have loved to shout what I found on the roof tops. Somehow the word smashes walls and barriers and lifts you up and makes you feel like you can fly.

On this day, we celebrate the 4th of July. It is a celebration of the freedom we have in America thanks to the believing and love of some very wise men that founded this country on a set principles whose original source is the creator. They weren’t perfect men but they rested their beliefs humbly in something much bigger than themselves.

God is so much bigger than our minds truly can grasp, but His word can open our hearts to make more space in our narrow minds beyond what we can even describe!

True freedom comes from God and it rests in the knowledge of his Son and what was done for us through him and what he is to us today. Jesus Christ spoke God’s word. He was/and/is the son speaking for and showing the Father.

Back in the time that he specifically lived on earth he saids to those who followed him:

31 Then said Jesus to those Judeans which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:31-32

These are beautiful words! They continue to speak throughout history and continue to speak to us today.

What is real freedom? People talk about it, they define it and they value it! But do we humans settled for our own perceived notion of freedom? Honestly, our own notions of freedom probably limit us. My perceptions of freedom have continued to grow as I continue to seek its real definition. Each stage of growth is another stepping stone to not settling for a worldly mundane existence. Once you have seen another level of freedom, there is no turning backward.

So today as I celebrate the founding of this country, I am thankful to God and to his son, Jesus Christ despite the hoopla going on in the world. I pray for this country, its leaders, our families and friends, that they may understand true freedom and not settle for a narrow, limited vision.

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Power Struggles and What’s Right

Gilead was the region on the east side of the Jordan River. Two and one half tribes (Gad, Reuben and Manasseh) of Israel decided to settle there when the Israelites were about to cross over into the promised land located on the west side of the river.  The Israelites had been careful to go around the regions of Moab and Ammon (descendants of Lot) as God had directed. At that time the Amorites attacked them and Israel defeated them and obtained the land which then became Gilead.

A couple of hundred years later, these tribes had trouble with the Ammonites who attacked them so as to occupy their land. In Judges 11, is a record of Jephthah who arose as a deliverer against the Ammonites.  His life story is interesting.

Jephthah’s father had relations with a harlot and Jephthah was the result. His father had other sons and they rejected Jephthah as an illegitimate heir to their father’s land. Jephthah left home and became a valiant, mighty warrior. When the Gileadites were attacked by the Ammonites later, they asked Jephthah to come back and lead the cause.

Jephthah first reasoned with the Ammonites reminding them of the history of their settlement in Gilead:

12 And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land? 13 And the king of the children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan: now therefore restore those lands again peaceably.

14 And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon: 15 And said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon:16 But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red sea, and came to Kadesh; 17 Then Israel sent messengers unto the king of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land: but the king of Edom would not hearken thereto. And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab: but he would not consent: and Israel abode in Kadesh.

18 Then they went along through the wilderness, and compassed (went around) the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not within the border of Moab: for Arnon was the border of Moab.

Jephthah set the record straight on how it all had happened. He also set the record straight on how the Amorites got defeated:

19 And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon; and Israel said unto him, Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land into my place.20 But Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through his coast: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought against Israel. (Sihon attacked Israel)

21 And the Lord God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they smote them: so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. 22 And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan.

23 So now the Lord God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it?

Jephthah, a valiant warrior reasoned with the Amorites,and stood up for Israel, but the king of the Ammonites did not buy it and tried to take what was not their to take:

27 Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me: the Lord the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon. 28 Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him.

The Ammonites ended up defeated. Jephthah had a right to defend his people against attack and God was with him.

Light dispels darkness.  There is a great benefit in exposing truth in a loving direct manner. Gossip, projection, power plays, lying and false judgements spread darkness. Truth only has the potential to dispel hurt and misunderstandings and spread love. The Ammonites did not respond positively to Jephthah’s logic and thus ended up where darkness always end up – defeated because of their own actions.

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The Peaceful Path

This morning was just one of those mornings when I couldn’t find some things and started fretting and stewing about where they were at. The first thing was a shoe box that I just had to find.  I ran around everywhere looking and as each moment went by my anxiety elevated. I tried alleviating my angst by asking my husband if he knew where it was and he looked around but it seemed to have vanished in thin air. So I just sat down and got quiet and bingo I knew where it was! The second thing was a folder with cable and computer passwords on it. I went through the same exact routine (you would think I had learned 😉). Again when I settled down it popped into my head where it might be and there it was.

Why do we fret over stuff first? I ask myself that question all the time. I guess it is just a bad mind habit that we really need to actively let go of. This is a very real practical application of Matthew 6:33:

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Later on in the day we traveled home from our vacation spot. We unpacked and I went through our phone messages. I came across one that was on the surface pretty alarming. As soon as my fret level started registering in, I stopped and remembered my earlier experiences and decided  to let go, give it to God. I took care of the situation in a peaceful manner and it worked out perfectly!

There’s a lot in this world to get our level of frustration elevated, most of it is needless. God’s rest, peace and grace are available at a moment’s notice when we allow him into the situation. In that moment the simplest solutions appear on the scene and we marvel at the outcome. God is always inviting us into peace, he never stops. We just have to acknowledge it and accept it.

The real enemies in our lives: guilt, frustration, fear, and anxiety cannot co-exist with God’s presence unless we give them room by giving in to them. God’s presence floods light on any situation when we

focus on him; everything else shrinks and shrivels away into nothingness. The word applies practically in everything we do. It is not just some high idealism  to shoot for, it is supposed to be reality.

11 Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.Psalm 27:11

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Of Mountains and Mustard Seeds

Matthew 17:14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, 15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure (therapuo) him.
17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse (diastrepho – twisting what is right) generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. 

Mark 9:23-24 fits in here: 23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. 24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief (apistia: littleness of  faith) for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

Mustard seeds are pretty small and mountains are pretty big. Hebrews use hyperbolic (exaggeration) language to make a noteworthy point. The hyperbole is used throughout the Bible! It is a literary (not literal) form to draw your attention to the significance of what is being said. Another well-known example of this is: “And if your right eye offend you, pluck it out,” Matthew 5:29. God loves us! Do you really think he’d want us to do this? The scripture used in this kind of a figure is to make us look at what is being said and how serious it is.

Clearly Jesus believed that his disciples should have been able to help this father. Why couldn’t they?Their small believing held them back. Perhaps it was the situation, perhaps it was the culture, both religious and social.  The same thing is true of today.

This whole point with the mustard seed is such a loving encouragement from Jesus.We don’t have to have faith the size of a watermelon to take care of a molehill either!  God’s love is simple and his word is really simple (except when we try and twist it with perfecting our own performance). God’s love has been proven over and over. We just need to start with honest prayer and talk any difficulty over with God and then let him answer (I guess that is the hard part).

This record is fascinating and has so much in it. The father of this child was humble and respected Jesus.  His statement “I believe, help thou mine unbelief” is revealing. We may have believing in some areas and not in other areas.  This man was asking for help in his believing. There is nothing wrong with that. In the church (God’s people not buildings) of today, the called out  have been given holy spirit to have a connected relationship with the God through the faith of Jesus Christ. We have the right to ask for help in our believing as we continue to get to know how much God loves us. There ‘ain’t no mountain high enough’ to stop God’s love from reaching each of us.

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Skip To My ‘Luo’

The Greek word ‘luo’ is an interesting word in the New Testament. Some of the words used to define it are: to break, destroy,  and loose.  The first record of Jesus Christ using ‘luo’ is in Matthew 5:19:

18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:18-20

The context of the use of ‘luo’ is centered on the importance of the word as revealed in the word ‘commandments’. It is important to know the word of God and to do it and then we can teach it. Anyone can just teach something, but with God’s word which is full of life, there is an excitement to share it when you see it work in application. God wants the vitality of his word shared and used to help others help themselves.

The “do and teach’ theme is brought up right away in the beginning of Acts:

1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Acts 1:1  

Jesus Christ certainly had a lot of things to share because he had a dynamic relationship with God and his word. The ultimate thing he did and taught about is in Act 2:24 where the word ‘luo’ is used as ‘loosed’.

22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. Acts 2:22-24

In I John 3:8b the word ‘luo’ is translated ‘destroy’:

For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. I John 3:b

In reading through the Book of Judges, the difficulties people faced, but not the force behind it, are revealed. Problems came through people, forces of nature and pagan religion. The devil is behind anything contrary to God’s heart. Jesus Christ came to expose all that and how to deal with it.

Jesus Christ”s purpose and life was and is to be our way to God. Ultimately we have eternal life, but in the meantime, our relationship to God and Jesus Christ is key to destroying the works of the adversary in this world in our own lives and in the lives of others. We can peacefully and patiently apply the word to untangle, unwind and untwist the knots, quirks and assaults on life as they arise.

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Vowing A Vow

In the book of Judges, the concept of “vows” comes up in the record about Jephthah.  He made a vow to God that if God give victory to him to defeat the Ammonites he would offer a burnt offering of the first thing that comes out his door upon returning home:

30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, 31 Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. Judges 11:30-31

As the record goes, his one and only daughter came through the door. He had just fought an enemy whose main god was appeased by child sacrifices. Many scholars believe that Jephthah’s vow meant that his daughter would be dedicated to serve in the temple the rest of her life and there are some who believe she was an actual burnt offering. Irregardless, God did help to deliver the enemy into his hands, but I have issues with the ‘vow’ part. The way this reads sounds like an ‘I will do this, if you will do this’ proposition. Are we taught in God’s word somewhere to pray this way????

Things digress in the book of Judges. Israel went from a God-only culture to a God plus gods of the surrounding culture to then to the stage of forsaking God and worshipping the idols of the culture around them:

6 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the Lord, and served not him. Judges 10:6

Jephthah’s ‘vow’ to God seems off to me. God does not do things because of bribes or manipulation. God delivered them because of his love, compassion and grace when they trusted and listened to him.

Jesus Christ talks about oath in Matthew 5:33-37:

33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

James 5:12 says essentially the same thing:

12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

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Unity of the Spirit

There is one God over all. God is a spirit, not a man, who is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). There is one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is Lord, appointed by God for that very purpose. The spirit is what God gives us through Jesus Christ when we choose to believe. This is the church! It is what the New Testament is all about!

The only way to keep unity in the church is through the spirit which has its ultimate source in God:

Ephesians 4:3-4 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body (not 24,000, God recognizes one body), and one spirit (it is genitive so it is the unity that proceeds from the spirit {spirit of God in Christ in a person}) 

Unity doesn’t come from a particular denomination or non-denomination, unity comes from the spirit.There is so much disagreement in the world today. It is everywhere. In the religious culture, it is rampant. I run across blogs and podcasts and even though I may disagree on one point or another, I enjoy reading or listening to someone who discusses God’s word. I know that there is no one that gets it all right.

In the Word of God there it is true there is a lot of doctrine, but there also is so much in its pages about practice.  The book of Acts is an example (The book of ‘Praxis’). The first half of Romans is certainly doctrine, the second half is practice.  The first three chapters of Ephesians is about doctrine, chapters 4-6 is about practice. Practice is important without which life is nothing but lifelessness and error. God’s word is exciting and vibrant. The word in conjunction with the holy spirit’s in-working lights up the word and its energy motivates the practical walk.

God wants us all to know his heart. Listening to others often stimulates my interest spiritually in areas of the Word that I may have questions about. With God’s assistance I enjoy digging into the Bible and over and over my expectations are rewarded with great treasure.

The Word of God is more than just words on a page. It is not a dust-covered lifeless book.   The Word of God can lift the heavy veil of darkness off of a person’s heart. It is access to comfort, inspiration, excitement, joy, genuine peace and undeniable heart and life healing.

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