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Just how FREE are you anyway?

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This post is a continuation of my previous post “The bondage of MORE”, where we saw that the need for “MORE” brings about a type of bondage that can be extremely difficult to break free of.

As anyone can tell you, when you are in bondage you are not free. You are a debtor, or slave to that which has you bound. Every choice and decision you make is centered around satisfying the source of your bondage.

Does that sound like freedom to you? Of course not, yet untold millions of Christians are living this very life today. They should be free, having been set free by God’s Son, yet find themselves ignoring the clear mandate of scripture to avoid becoming entangled again with the yoke of bondage. [1]

Jesus had much to say about freedom, and rightly so because he is the great Liberator. In one of his many exchanges with the temple Jews, Jesus had an encounter with them concerning the freedom that comes from knowing Him.

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. [2]

In these verses we find that Jesus has told the temple Jews of two distinct ways in which they can be free. Now, keep in mind that these Jews thought themselves above the need to be set free because they claimed to be descendants of Abraham. They were, of course, familiar with the social hierarchy where both free and slave co-existed. To them it was simple. The Jews were at the top of the ladder, while Gentiles and slaves were at or near the bottom.

The first way they could know freedom was to abide in, or follow, the Word that Jesus taught them. If you will do that, He said, “you shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free”. In essence Jesus was telling them that if you will lay aside your religious traditions and instead follow me, you will be free. Free of guilt, free of sin, and free of bondage.

We understand then that truth brings freedom both in this life and ultimately eternal salvation. Where does this freedom producing truth come from? It comes from God’s Word. If they would accept the truths that Jesus gave them, they would be completely free.

The second way they could no freedom was to place their trust in the One who had the power to set at liberty them that are held captive. [3]  Jesus told them that “if the Son makes you free, then you are free indeed“. How could he make such a statement? It was because as the Son of God, He abides forever as ruler over the house of God. In other words, He alone has such authority.

All of this brings me back to the question “Just how FREE are you anyway”? This is a question that all of us need to answer. If we say we hold to the truth that “if the Son makes you free, then you are free indeed“, do our actions reflect this? If we agree that “the truth shall make you free“, are we living our lives as one who is not bound by the “lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life“? [4]

I submit that until and unless we are daily trusting in the Lord Jesus for our every need, we are not completely free. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t saved and on our way to heaven. It does not mean that we are not a child of God.

What it DOES mean is that we are living in a place where we shouldn’t be, which means we are unnecessarily having to struggle with things that the Lord can give us victory over. After all, “if the Son makes you free, then you are free indeed“.

There is no freedom like the complete freedom that God offers to us. Being “free indeed” means there are no chains still attached to us. There is nothing we are in bondage to. Our hearts and minds are free of guilt. We are free to live our lives in a way that pleases Him, not ourselves. Complete freedom in Christ means victory.

That’s how free I want to live my life, and I trust you do as well!

Have a blessed day everyone,

Ron

 

[1] Galatians 5:1  KJV

[2] John 8:31-36  NKJV

[3] Luke 4:18  ESV

[4] 1 John 2:16  NKJV

THIS is what the Church is missing today!

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In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!”
And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.
Isaiah 6:1-4  NKJV

Here a man named Isaiah is given a vision of the majesty of God, seated on His throne, exalted far above anything our minds can comprehend, so capacious that just the train of His royal robe fills the temple, while worshipping angels declare His Holiness and Glory.

Who but God could reveal such things? Seeing and acknowledging God for who He is, the righteous ruler of every kingdom and domain. The Lord of all, unequaled in splendor and Glory on full display!

This vision that Isaiah saw is one that should be permanently imprinted in the minds of all of God’s children. In this vision we are given a glimpse of the mighty God of creation, too glorious and magnificent for our small minds to comprehend.

Yet God, however, chose to reveal a small part of Himself in a vision to his servant Isaiah, and because of that we have a record of His great majesty. I say again, who but God could reveal such things?

To see Him as anything less than the Supreme Ruler of the ages is to view Him as less than, and if there is anything God is not it is ‘less than’.

What a contrast; in our world we strive to elevate man to god-like status, yet God chose to reveal Himself as God to this world! How incredible is that?

Hollywood, sports, politics, all of them have their champions. Indeed, some of them revel in the cult-like devotion of their followers. None of them however can ever be more than what they currently are, for try as they might, they will never be equal to God.

As Believers in Christ who have entrusted our very souls to this One that Isaiah saw. Our hope and trust is in the One who gave his servant a tiny glimpse into eternity. Our future is secure in the arms of the One who is worshipped by the angels of God.

We know that there will come a day when every child of God will see for themselves what Isaiah saw. Not only will we see it, we will live it for all of eternity. Heaven will become real for us one day, and with it the knowledge that we will never be separated from God. Isaiah may have enjoyed a momentary glimpse, but you and I will have all of eternity to bask in His Glory!

The vision that Isaiah saw of God is the vision that the Church must recapture. High and lifted up far above any man. The epitome of Holiness and Righteousness. Worshipped by countless numbers of angels.

If we could recapture this vision of God, it would go a long way towards turning our hearts back to Him.

Blessings to all,

Ron

“My house shall be called a house of prayer”

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My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.

Those were the words of Jesus, quoting Isaiah 56:7 after he had entered the temple and drove out all who were buying and selling, or profiting off of God’s house. The Jews had turned the house of God into something it was never intended to be, and Jesus had literally had enough and decided to do something about it.

Many of us have a problem envisioning the gentle Savior becoming angry, don’t we?Harder still is imagining the scene where Jesus overturns the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. Images of tables overturned, coins tossed all about, and men scrambling to get out of his way are not the images we associate with Jesus. [1]

Yet this was Jesus in action, whip in hand, taking authority over what had become the desecration of the temple. The temple was the place where men assembled for one purpose: to worship God. This was a sacred and a holy place, for it was here that men went to call upon the Lord.

Because their hearts were so far from the one true God, the Jews had long ago stopped worshiping Him and instead had resorted to using the temple as a means of profiteering. They knew that since the people came from many different areas to worship, that they would need to purchase animals to sacrifice.

Money changers would be needed to exchange the various types of money for shekels so the people could purchase these animals, and these money changers were all too happy to tack on a little extra charge for the privilege. In other words, they found a way to profit off of God.

A religious racket if you will.

This is what had infuriated Jesus that day. Worship now came at a monetary cost. If you wanted to worship in the temple, you now had to pony up and pay the going rate, otherwise you were left on the outside looking in.

The Jews had distorted the true meaning of worship. They had prostituted the worship of God in exchange for money. The new order of the day was ‘you wanna play, you gotta pay’.

All of this in a place designed as a house of prayer. A place where devout worshipers went to meet with God had been turned into a cold, dead, lifeless building operating under the marketplace mentality of those who knew not God.

How sobering is that?

I submit to you that it is no more sobering than seeing what we Christians have done to God’s house in our day. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that the church has taken this to levels the temple Jews never dreamed of.

It didn’t start out this way, of this much we know for certain. The early New Testament church faced an unrelenting persecution levied against it by king Herod. It was this Herod who made James(the brother of John) the 1st of the Disciples to be martyred for Christ. [2]

Seeing that this pleased the Jews so much, Herod then took Peter and threw him in jail, intending to kill him as well. Knowing full well what had happened to James, the church then began an earnest prayer meeting on behalf of Peter. [3]

So intense was this prayer meeting that the Bible tells us that “prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him(Peter). No two minute prayer read from a prayer book meets the definition of ‘prayer without ceasing’. No, this was praying on a whole different level. [3]

These men and women were praying around the clock for Peter because they knew that his very life depended upon them interceding with God for him. I liken this type of prayer to a woman in labor. Intense prayer, prayer wrought with tears of desperation and anguish.

If you know this story at all, then you know that God did indeed intervene. He sent an angel to deliver Peter from the prison, a pattern of deliverance that was repeated time and again in the early church. Their formula was simple: whenever a great need arose, the church banded together in one mind and one accord and prayed until they saw the victory.

These early believers knew something we don’t know today. They understood that God intended for his church to come together in meaningful and enduring prayer, hence the prophet Isaiah’s words that “my house shall be called a house of prayer”.

Is that how we would best describe your church or mine today? Are we gathering together in seasons of meaningful, enduring prayer as the early church did?

Unlike so many of us, they understood that the connection between God’s power and presence was solidified through prayer. Not preaching or teaching, not singing or music, not programs or activities.

God showed up when people prayed.

None of those other things are capable of bringing the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit unless they are first bathed in meaningful and enduring prayer. There is an anointing, or spiritual power that exists in our efforts when those same efforts are saturated in prayer.

There is no anointing my friends on the flesh-centered mindset that permeates so many of our churches today. Services that have been carefully designed to make you feel as though you are the most important thing in the building are devoid of any Spirit that “breaks the yoke” of sin. [4]

Do you see the difference? I have commented on this before, this absurdity of believing that someone can “lead us into the presence of God” or somehow ‘bring a word’ when they themselves never approach Him in prayer. Yet for some odd reason, God’s people seem to be content to have it this way. [5]

Could it be we don’t even know what we’re missing?

Prayer is the key whether we are talking about an individual or an entire church. Without it we are left to stumble along, guided by our own ideas and methods that can never have the impact they could have were they birthed in prayer.

I think it’s time that Christians everywhere were reminded of the fact that the church was birthed in a prayer meeting. This thing we call ‘Church’ began in an upper room in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, when the Disciples of Jesus along with several others were filled with the Holy Ghost. [6]

My hope is that all of us would stop to consider that if the Church was birthed in a prayer meeting, wouldn’t it make sense that the Church should continue in the same manner?

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

 

[1] John 2:15

[2] Acts 12:2

[3] Acts 12:5

[4] Zechariah 4:6

[5] Jeremiah 5:31

[6] Acts 2:4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Vision Of the Lord

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In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”  And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.    Isaiah 6: 1-4

This is what Isaiah saw in a vision as he was being called to be a prophet to the nations. Angelic beings flying about the throne, testifying to the greatest attribute of Almighty God: his Holiness.

I will be speaking on this subject this evening, and my message will end with the question: “how do we see the Lord in our personal walk with Him. Is He high and lifted up, or have we reduced Him to being on the same level as ourselves?”

Something to consider, I think….

Be blessed,

Ron

How would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

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Would you change anything? Would you do anything different?

Would you notice the crying baby, or the fussy children?

Would you notice what the person next to you was wearing?

Would you take extra care in picking out what you would wear, or take no thought at all?

Would the volume of the music bother you as much as it usually does, or not at all?

Would you care that your favorite song wasn’t sung, yet again?

I’m jotting all of this down very early Sunday morning as I’m waiting to start getting ready for church. I woke this morning thinking, wondering, is there anything inhibiting my worship? And how would I worship if I had advance notice that this would be my last opportunity?

Worship

To offer Him praise and thanksgiving for all He has done in our lives,to take the time to express our gratitude to God for His many blessings. Isn’t that why we assemble on the Lord’s Day?

As I thought about all of this, my mind began to drift to the different types of worship we read about in the Bible.

Ritual Temple Worship

From the priestly worship inside the Temple we find the descendants of Aaron offering up animal sacrifices as an act of worship for the people: sin offerings, trespass offerings, guilt offerings, and on it goes.

Sacrificial Worship

The people often traveled great distances to worship, and let’s not forget that travel then was very hard and dangerous. Still, they went onward, determined to worship.

We see a man by the name of Elkanah going up yearly to the Temple to make sacrificial worship offerings. Year after year his wives went with him, and God received the worship of his wife Hannah, who was blessed with a son who you might remember was Samuel.

Emotional Worship

And how could we forget David, warrior king of Israel who danced in worship before the Lord with all his might?

Holy Worship

In the New Testament we read where there is worship in heaven, glorious, other-worldly worship where twenty four elders cast their crowns at the feet of God while crying Holy, Holy, Holy.

Whenever we find worship mentioned in scripture we typically find God responding to it, because we are told that God inhabits the praise of His people (Psalms 22:3)

Knowing all these things, the thought of “what if today was my last day to worship God” is front and center in my heart. Would we permit anything to inhibit our worship,if this was truly the case? Would all the things that we get hung up on now really matter?

As I continue working on this post, church has been over for nearly three hours. During the service today this topic was never far from my thoughts. Whether during the music portion, receiving the offering, or while being taught the word of God, I purposed in my heart that I would focus only on Him.

I couldn’t even tell you if anyone had a doughnut in their hand!😉

How then should we approach worship? Is there a right way to worship? Should our worship be limited by what our particular denomination allows, or considers acceptable?

Should our worship be traditional or contemporary? High Church or Cowboy Church? Quiet or loud, exuberant or solemn? Last time I checked, the Lord wasn’t handing out style points, but was looking for sincere hearts.

I don’t pretend to be able to answer those questions for you. I can, however, offer up this thought. I believe God expects, no demands, our very best worship. And what is “best” is different for each of us.

Take the busy single mom, who after working all day comes home exhausted knowing that her day is far from over. With kids to feed and bathe, homework to help with, laundry to be done, and a thousand other daily chores that won’t get done without her, her best worship opportunity might mean bowing her head and heart in the shower during her only 10 minute respite of the day.

Or think about the business man or woman who routinely works 80-100 hours a week. The pressure and stress never seems to let up, even on Sunday mornings. The advancements in technology have made intrusions into their quiet time with God almost predictable. For them, their best worship opportunity might be fleeting at best.

As I said, I believe God demands our best worship, and I believe He will meet with us, regardless of method, place, or duration. The important thing is that we acknowledge Him as Lord, and that we connect with Him as often as we can.

So, how would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

If you think you know the answer, why not try it out the next opportunity you get? After all, it could well be your last “audition”.

Be blessed,

Ron