Living Free

What does it mean to be alive to you? Do you distinguish between merely existing and really living? Is that distinction based on what you do or the possessions you have? Is it based on the relationships you have? Is one of those relationships your relationship with God?

We hear about quality of life. We may think of it from several different perspectives. Perhaps as part of end-of-life care. Perhaps as a work-life balance. It may include the location and size of the house we live in. It may include the job we have and the salary we receive.

Living the lives we are given includes many facets of life. For most of us, it does not include living in fear for our lives because of our faith in Christ. However, as Paul was writing to the Christians in Rome, persecution was a real concern. The early church was often misunderstood by those who were not part of it. They were accused of incest, being cannibals, and being atheists to name a few.

When Paul writes to the church in Rome the Spirit gives them life, he was trying to allay their fears. He was encouraging them to hold on to their faith. It is also an encouragement for us. To know the Holy Spirit gives us life is a comforting thought. The promise Paul repeats in today’s passage is a promise of resurrection. The same promise Jesus gave in John 11:25-26. It is a promise of eternal life spent with God. It was a reminder that the life we currently live is temporary, regardless of its length of time.

One other facet of the reminder Paul gave the church in Rome is that Christ has set us free. He not only set us free from our sins, but He set us from the oppression of this world. As we listen for the Holy Spirit and follow his guidance, we are set free from the desires to follow along with cultural norms. We can live a life that is truly free.

I pray we all take comfort in knowing the Holy Spirit gives us life. I pray we allow the Spirit to guide our lives. I pray each one of us realize we have been set free and live in our freedom. Be comforted. Listen for the Spirit’s guidance. Know you are free. Live in the freedom Christ has given you.

Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

New Life Given

What do you know of the Holy Spirit? Do you know that God has sent his Spirit to live within us? Do you know that God promised his Spirit would live in us long ago? Does it help you to know that God has delivered on his promise? Do you communicate with the Holy Spirit?

For many Christians, the Holy Spirit is often a mystery. We don’t often discuss the Spirit. There aren’t many sermons, classes, or Bible studies on the Spirit. We are told of the Spirit coming at Pentecost and that he comes to inhabit us when we accept Jesus as our Savior, but not much more.

God promised the prophet Ezekiel that he would send his Spirit some 500-600 years before Jesus was born. The story Ezekiel records in chapter 37 is an incredulous one. He is shown a valley full of dried-up bones in a vision. They were lying in disarray throughout the valley. God tells Ezekiel to prophecy to the bones commanding them to come together and be brought back to life. Ezekiel does as God commands and the bones come together, flesh is put on them, and the breath of life is breathed into them.

God tells Ezekiel this is the nation of Israel, and he will give them new life. The new life God promised came through Jesus. Not only did Jesus give new life to Israel, but He gives new life to anyone who will accept Him as Lord and Savior. Jesus also promised the Holy Spirit would be given, and he was. It is through the Holy Spirit that God teaches us, guides us, and changes us into the person he created us to be.

I pray each of us accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. I pray we accept the Holy Spirit into our lives. I pray each one of us will listen for the Holy Spirit to teach us, guide us, and change us. Accept Jesus as Savior. Accept Jesus as Lord. Listen for the Holy Spirit. Learn from the Holy Spirit. Follow his guidance. Be transformed by God.

Ezekiel 37:13-14 “And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.

One in Resurrection

What do you believe about the resurrection? Are you of the same mind as those you attend church with? Are you of the same mind with your pastor? Do you believe Jesus was resurrected? Will you testify to His resurrection to others?

The resurrection of the dead can be a fuzzy subject for us to discuss. Many of us believe in the resurrection, but we may not know much about it. We know it will occur at some point in the future, but don’t know the specific timeframe or what other events may indicate its coming.

When we talk of resurrection, we usually think of the end times. We think of Christ’s second coming. We think of the final victory over evil. We may even wonder if we will be among those to join Him in the end. There are several images and questions that come to our minds when we think of the final resurrection.

But what do we think about Christ’s resurrection? Because we have never seen someone who is dead come back to life, we may struggle with believing it deep within our hearts. We may write it off as a one off, God only event. Yet, we have eyewitness accounts of others being resurrected, including a valley full of dry bones in Ezekiel 37 which God brought back to life.

With the evidence and eyewitness accounts, why is it so challenging for us to speak of Jesus’ resurrection to others? We need to testify to His resurrection and state it is the reason for our hope. We need to be unified in our message. Put tradition a notch below and tell others about Jesus and His resurrection. It is the one reason all of us share that joins us together.

I pray we all are unified in the message of Christ’s resurrection. I pray we tell others about it. I pray each one of us set aside our differences to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Believe in Jesus’ resurrection. Tell others about the resurrection. Be of one heart and one mind. Be unified in Jesus Christ.

Acts 4:32-34a All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.

Our Healer

Do you see your favorite doctor when you are sick? Have you gone to a doctor who was not very good, in your opinion? Have you gone to a different doctor to receive a different or to confirm a diagnosis? Do you ask people you know for recommendations regarding which doctor to see?

Medical diagnosis is important. A proper diagnosis is needed to appropriately treat the ailment. Many of us have sought a second opinion for a diagnosis. We may also have changed our family doctor due to loosing trust in the one we were seeing. Trusting the doctor we see is important.

When it comes to seeing a doctor we trust, people haven’t changed much over the past couple of millennia. In the first century, the stories of Jesus’ healings spread like wildfire. People were amazed at Him healing all kinds of illnesses, including some diseases the doctors of the first century could not heal.

Jesus’ fame grew to the point that people merely wanted to touch the edge of his clothing, believing they would be healed by doing so. Being both fully human and fully God, He certainly could heal them with a touch. The power of healing emanated from Him. He is the master Healer who can heal us of whatever ails us. Though we do not hear of many miraculous healings today, we do hear of them. Jesus still heals.

Some may say Jesus’ healing depends on the faith of the person who is sick. Others will say it is the faith of those who ask Jesus for healing. Still others will say it is solely Jesus’ choice to heal or not to heal. The truth of the matter is…we don’t know. What we do know is Jesus heals and believing He can and submitting to His will is always the right way to approach Him for healing.

I pray we all believe Jesus can heal. I pray we seek Him to heal us of all our sickness—emotional, physical, and spiritual. I pray each one of us put our faith in Jesus and submit to His will. Put your faith in Jesus. Seek Jesus for healing. Submit to His will. Trust Jesus.

Mark 6:56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Spiritual Healing

Have you ever been sick—I mean really, really sick? Have you been so sick you could not get out of bed? Have you felt absolutely miserable, weak, and longing for healing? Where did you seek the healing you needed? Did you go to the doctor? Did you end up at the hospital?

When we are sick, we seek relief. We seek medicines that can relieve us of the symptoms and cure us of the illness we are suffering from. Sometimes we can get by with just over-the-counter medicines. Other times we need a doctor to write us a prescription. Still other times require hospitalization.

We may attempt to get by with over-the-counter medicines and discover they are not enough. Many of us prefer trying over-the-counter medicines first. We don’t want to go see a doctor unless there is no other alternative. Yet, when we finally go see the doctor, we receive the proper medicines to cure our illness quickly. We may battle the illness on our own for quite some time before submitting to seeing a doctor. In the end, there is no other choice.

This same paradigm applies to our spiritual life. We often like to attempt to fix ourselves first. We try the self-help books. We use physical exercise to help our emotional state. We may simply give in to the stress and overeat. When it is all said and done, we have made no progress toward the spiritual healing we need, even if those attempts provided short-term emotional relief.

Jesus came to call those who need spiritual healing. Unfortunately, it is only those who realize they need Him (a doctor) who will seek Him out. It is only those who seek Him who will be healed. And much like being very sick, it often requires someone else bringing the sick person to Him. If we are spiritually in need, we need to turn to Jesus. If we know someone who is spiritually in need, we need to lead them to Jesus.

I pray we all turn to Jesus to heal our spiritual sickness. I pray we lead others to Jesus to heal them. I pray each one of us see Jesus as our ultimate healer and seek Him each day of our lives. Recognize your need. Read God’s Word. Spend time in prayer. Seek Jesus for healing.

Matthew 9:12-13 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Believe in Jesus

What do you believe in? Do you believe the sun will rise tomorrow? Do you believe you have or will find love? Do you believe you have enough money for retirement? Do you believe you will find the perfect job? Do you believe in God? Do you believe in Jesus?

We believe in many things. We believe the sun will rise again in the morning. We believe in finding love. We believe in education. We believe in being self-sufficient. We believe in taking care of ourselves. We believe in looking for success in our work.

A child was born blind. He grew up blind. He became a man and lived blind. But one day, he met someone who would change his life. Jesus opened his eyes. Suddenly, the man could see. He saw the vivid colors. He saw the drab buildings, and thought they were wonderful. He saw the pool of water in which he washed his eyes. He saw his own reflection. He saw people for the first time. He saw Jesus for who he is and believed Him.

Do we see Jesus for who He is? Do we believe in Him? If we do, we may have our eyes opened as well. We will then see things as they are and not how we want them to be. We will see God working in our lives and in this world. We will see Jesus as our Lord and our Savior.

I pray we all believe in Jesus. I pray we ask Him to open our eyes. I pray each one of us will see God at work in our lives and in the world around us. Believe in Jesus. Ask Him to open your eyes. See Jesus as Lord. See Jesus as Savior. See God at work in your life.

John 9:35-38 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

Our Shepherd

What is the guide for your life? Who is it you look to for guidance? Is there someone you desire to model yourself after? Is there someone who exemplifies who you want to be? What does it mean to be a shepherd? Do you have a shepherd? Are you listening for his voice?

We often look up to certain people, especially when we are young. But we can also look up to people when we are older. Often the people we look up to are those who appear to be living a life that is good and wholesome. This is truer of us as adults than children.

The twenty-third Psalm is one that many people around the world know or have heard, even if they are not Christians. The opening line speaks of the Lord being our shepherd. In today’s world, we have lost the understanding of who or what a shepherd is. We don’t see many true shepherds around anymore.

A shepherd was more than someone who prodded along the sheep or the goats. The shepherd talked to them, and they knew his voice. The shepherd knew where to find food for them, and they followed. The shepherd knew where the water was and would lead them to it. The sheep and goats listened for the shepherd’s voice. They trusted him with their lives, for he also protected them from predators.

If we know God as our shepherd, we trust him. We will follow him wherever he leads us. We know that he will lead us down the right path for our life. We take comfort in his rod and staff, knowing they are used for our protection, warding off evil. We trust that he has anointed us, and our blessings will overflow. We believe we will live in his house forever.

I pray we all view God as our shepherd. I pray we trust that he will lead us down the right path. I pray each one of us take comfort in God’s protection and that he has anointed us with blessings. See God as your shepherd. Trust him to lead you. Take comfort in his protection. Trust in his blessings.

Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Fruit of the Light

What does producing fruit mean to you? Do you think of an apple tree? Do you think of an orange tree? Do you think of a grape vine? Do you think of your vegetable garden? Have you given thought to the fruit you produce? Have you thought about the kind of fruit you produce?

Producing fruit is a common metaphor. We use it in many different settings. We may use it in relation to our job. We may use it in a sports environment. We may even use it within our family. Producing fruit happens throughout all aspects of our lives, even when we don’t think so.

We don’t give it much thought sometimes, but our words, attitudes, body language, clothing, and tone of voice produce fruit. They may produce happiness, sorrow, anger, lust, repulsiveness, or misunderstanding. Does that seem odd? It shouldn’t. Do we not react to others? If so, then why should we be surprised when others react to us? If we think about it long enough, it might motivate us to be more like Jesus.

The Apostle Paul tells the Ephesians they no longer belong to the darkness but to the light. Therefore, they should produce fruit from the light. Of course, he was talking about no longer belonging to the evil of this world and now belonging to the light of Jesus.

Notice what the fruit is. It is good fruit. It is doing good for others. It is being on our best behavior. It is doing what is right, even if it costs us a little or takes us out of our way. It is following God’s guidance and direction. It is being true to God. It is knowing God’s Word and following it the best we can. It is being honest—with others AND ourselves. It is knowing ourselves well and taking steps to correct ourselves when we are not being good and doing right.

I pray we all choose to do good and do what is right. I pray we are true to God and ourselves. I pray each one of us chooses to follow Jesus to the best of our ability and ask Him to change us for the good. Product good fruit. Do what is good. Do what is right. Be true to God. Be honest with yourself.

Ephesians 5:8-9 For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.

More Than Giving

Is it important to you to give to charities? Is it important to you to give to the church? Do you strictly adhere to giving ten percent? How well are you at administering justice? How well do you show mercy. Does your faithfulness meet God’s expectations?

Many of us give to charities. We often give money to support children’s relief and support efforts. We give to support abused women. We give to help our veterans. We give to support a wide variety of people in need. There is nothing wrong with any of that. It is good we do.

But Jesus tells the crowd and the leadership that isn’t enough. We are also to administer justice. How do we administer justice? In the little things. It’s not all about the legal definition of justice but about doing what is right in the situation. Godly justice is about doing what we can to help those in need.

Jesus also tells the crowd they are to show mercy. Mercy is more than merely feeling sorry for someone. It is helping them in their time of need. It is about forgiving them when they do wrong. It is about coming alongside them and lovingly helping them understand how to improve their lives.

All of this is to be done through our faith in Jesus. Our faith has to be more than mere belief. It needs to be an active faith, one that causes us to take action. This kind of faith is what allows us to administer justice and mercy. It is through an active faith that we can carry out the work God desires us to do.

I pray we all desire to administer justice. I pray we seek to show mercy to others. I pray each one of us seek to grow our faith, have an active faith, and carry out the work God has set aside for us. Administer justice. Show mercy. Grow your faith. Make your faith be active. Do not stop giving.

Matthew 23:23-24 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

Open Your Minds’ Eye

Have you ever been fed up with people? Have you wondered why they just don’t seem to understand what you are telling them? Does it frustrate you to no end? Is it worse when it is something extremely important? Can you imagine how Jesus felt?

Trying to get your point across to someone who doesn’t understand can be very frustrating. We can get to a point of boiling over. Explaining over and over or saying the same thing over and over, and not being understood can get under our skin. We may finally shake our head and just walk away.

Jesus tells the crowd that gathers around Him some very important insights into the kingdom of God. Evidently, He has tried to tell the Pharisees this before or they are in the crowd. In either case, Jesus is telling them they need to rethink what they believe is important.

Their blindness was not in their eyesight, but in their way of thinking. They put more emphasis on the expensive decorations within the temple than the temple itself. It was the temple that was sacred and what made the decorations sacred. It was not the gold itself.

Do we do this yet today? Do we put more emphasis on the decorations within our churches than the church itself? Think about it for just a moment. What is the church? No, it is not the building. It is the people. The temple Jesus spoke of was not the building either. The temple He spoke of was Himself. Only God can make something sacred or holy. Jesus told the crowd, the Pharisees, and He tells us that we need to put God first. We need to serve our people. The church building needs to be cared for, but it doesn’t need to be extravagantly decorated.

I pray we all put our emphasis on God. I pray we take care of the membership of our churches. I pray each one of us will ask God to remove the blindness in our minds and help us see as he sees. Open your minds’ eye. Ask God to remove your blindness. See as God sees. Take care of his people.

Matthew 23:16-17 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?”