Create in me…

Create in mePsalm 51 is David’s cry to the Lord for forgiveness.  It’s one of my favorite passages in the Psalms.  David has just realized his sins against the Lord, which happen to include adultery and murder.

I don’t see myself as a “bad” person.  I’m basically good.  I work everyday, try to be nice to all I meet.  I pay my bills, go to church, put money in the collection plate.  I’m usually slow to anger, letting others be who they are.  So why would I need to repent?  How sinful can a good person be?

I don’t want to think that I’m sinful.  It’s our culture, it’s in the world.  If I am basically good, I’m OK, I’m a “good” person.  But even with what I described above,  God considers me sinful.  What about those thoughts that I don’t act on?  What about the “self-talk” that goes on in my head?  God knows those thoughts.  Paul says in Romans:

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. Romans 7:18-20

I need to come before the Lord daily and pray this Psalm.  God knows my heart and if I come before Him, with a contrite heart and pray, He can do wonderful things in my life.  Do you want to join me?

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Freedom, Responsibility, & Unity With Christ

Good morning! Today is July 4th. It’s a day that we, in America, celebrate our country’s independence. We celebrate with cookouts, spending time with family/ friends, and of course fireworks.

As I sit and think about the idea of gaining independence, my mind gravitates to thinking about the responsibility that comes with it. Being independent does afford us freedoms, but are we truly, 100% free? The answer is no. We are still under the authority of our government, in fact three branches of it, at national, state, and local levels. We are all under the authority of the law of the land and we must obey it. If you are still finishing your education, whatever level you are at, you are still under the authority of your school and your teachers. In the workplace, we are subject to the rules and regulations of our superiors. If you are still living in your parents house, whether you are an adult or not, you are bound to your parents rules and the way they choose to run it.

When we become adults, we feel as though we are free to do things we once weren’t allowed to do…drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, doing drugs, going to clubs, having a credit card, going into X-rated places, parading around at all hours of the night, buying your own car, buying your own house, marrying whom you choose to marry, speaking the way you want to, dressing the way you want to, acting the way you want to.

All of our freedoms come with great responsibility. Just because you are allowed to do things you once were not, does NOT mean you should. Each choice we make in life comes with consequences, both good and bad. Our choices don’t just affect us, but they affect the people around us as well. Let me give you some examples…

  • you can choose to drink alcohol (and that’s fine) but it comes with the responsibility to not become so intoxicated that you harm yourself or other people
  • you can smoke cigarettes (perfectly legal) but you are choosing to harm your body physically and harm the bodies of those most closest to you by breathing 2nd hand smoke
  • you can choose to do drugs but once you take that first dose of poison into your veins the craving for it becomes stronger and ultimately leads to death…leaving behind love ones to pick up the pieces your brokenness has caused
  • you can go to a club to go dancing (this can be pretty harmless) but it comes with the sexual responsibility of not hooking up with a different person each time
  • as an adult, to gain credit worthiness in our world, you must have a credit card… but it comes with the responsibility to NOT live outside of your means and NOT to become loaded with a huge lump of debt that you cannot pay for
  • you can choose to look at pornography or go to a strip club, but ultimately you hurt yourself and your relationships… both now and in the future… because those images are ingrained in your mind and lead you down a path that is very difficult to come back from (Just watch Ted Bundy’s last words and interview on YouTube, with Dr. James Dobson, before his death sentence was carried out… eye opening!)
  • buying your own car and house are things we all have to do, but comes with the responsibility of paying your bills on time and maintaining your property
  • Speaking how you want…dressing how you want…acting how you want… these are things that can be good, but come with the responsibility of being respectful of yourself and other people

All freedoms come with the price of responsibility, whether we like it or not. The responsibility we have keeps us in check, and ultimately keeps us from pushing the boundaries of sin. Freedom and independence are really about our relationship with God. If we are in an intimate, growing relationship with God, seeking to be more Christ like in our thinking and our actions, the more we understand the great responsibility we have and the price that was paid for it.

Jesus paid the ultimate price for ALL mankind when he took OUR sins, on HIS shoulders, and died on the cross. As sinners, saved by Grace, we have a great responsibility… and an immense freedom that comes with it.

Romans chapter 6 talks about freedom, responsibility, and being unified with Christ…

Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 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. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! 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. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is THE ultimate freedom, THE ultimate independence, THE ultimate responsibility.

Are you living a life foundationally grounded in the freedom found in Christ alone? Are you unified with Christ so well that you understand the great responsibility it comes with? Or are you a slave to sin and have lost that freedom?

Ultimately, it is your choice… but I say CHOOSE CHRIST! There is no better way to live your life, no better freedom, no better responsibility, no better unification, than in an intimate, growing relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ! I pray that if you haven’t already, today you will choose Christ, and ultimately choose an eternal freedom found only in HIM.

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

 

photo courtesy of christbiz.com

 

 

God’s Timing

Okay, I admit it.  I hate to wait.  When I have a task, I need to get it done;  when I have an appointment, I’m there ten minutes early;  when I order a book from the library, I check my account obsessively to see if it’s come in(and then, of course, I run right over to get it).  And those are just the little things in life.  The Bible tells us over and over that we need to wait for God.  His timing is perfect, and usually when we are willing to wait, God blesses us in unexpected ways.

Here’s a small example.  My husband and I were at the AFLC annual conference in Minnesota last week, along with about 500 other folks.  My prayer partner (who belongs to another AFLC congregation) was not going, but she told me to look for her good friend, Patty.  So I did.  I peered surreptitiously at just about every name tag I saw.  I asked people I did see if they had met anyone from Patty’s church.  I considered going to the microphone and announcing “would Patty from Ruthfred please meet Joan at the back of the room” (I was actually too shy to do more than think about this option).  By the last day of the conference, I had given up.  I was just going to have to go back and tell my friend I had failed.  On our way to lunch, my husband and I stopped to chat with someone and were late getting to the cafeteria–the room was filled.  We wandered around and finally found what appeared to be the last two seats together at any table, and we took them.  Guess who I ended up sitting next to?  No other than Patty!  This is what some of my Christian friends like to call a “Godcidence.”  Patty and I were able to send my friend,GayLynn a selfie of the two of us lunching together!

My point?  Try not to stress.  God really is in control, and He’s working everything out for our good.  If I can learn to trust Him in even the small stuff, like meeting up with a friend’s friend ….then I can surely trust Him with the big stuff.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”  Romans 5:6

What Turns You On?

Eric Liddell,  the famous Olympic runner portrayed in the movie “Chariots of Fire” once said, “God made me fast and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”  If, like Kate, you are wondering how to spend your time, look toward your God-given talents and gifts, and look for your passion.  When do you get the feeling, “this is what I was meant to do?”

A couple of my blogging sisters call me “the blogoholic”.  They say I am obsessed with our blog.  I don’t think that’s really true, but right now it is my passion.  It doesn’t feel like work to write a post practically every day.  I get a charge out of every comment and like.  I get an even bigger charge when I find a new writer to join us,  learn something new about technology, or when someone else shares a post.  Writing is a talent, and encouragement is one of my spiritual gifts–being the chief blogger combines both and I love it.

My dear friend, Nancy is a teacher.  She once told me that teaching is not just a job for her–if she couldn’t get paid for it, she would teach anyway.   She would teach Sunday School, or Bible Study, or join the Literacy Council and teach reading.  Teaching is her passion.

Beth Ann, one of the lady bloggers, is a musician.  The best times of her life have been spent making music.  She sings in the choir, she plays guitar for Via de Cristo weekends and serves on the Via de Cristo Board as the head musician.  Music touches her in a special way.  It’s her passion.

Michele, another Lutheran Lady, loves people and loves to witness.  She proclaims her Christian faith “loud and proud.”  It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you’ve done, Michele wants to be your friend and introduce you to her best friend, Jesus.  It’s her passion.

So think about your life.  What are the things that make you feel fulfilled?  When do you get that “click” that means, I was created for this?  If you became independently wealthy and didn’t need to work, how would you spend your time and money?  What energizes you?  What turns you on?  I want to hear from our readers and bloggers!

“Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.”  Romans 12:11

 

 

Scriptures to Remember

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A New Suit of Clothes

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away;  behold the new has come.” 1 Corinthians 5:17

According to Saint Paul, belief in Christ changes us. In a number of places, the Bible speaks of this change in terms of how we are clothed.  Before Christ’s atonement, even our righteous deeds are described by the prophet Isaiah as “a polluted garment”(Isaiah 64:6).  However, in Christ we are, “… clothed … with the garments of salvation;  … covered … with the robe of righteousness.”(Isaiah 61:10).  We actually “put on Christ”(Romans 13:14)  and stand before God in His suit, not ours.

In addition, our faith in Christ protects us with “the armor of God” which enables us to stand firm in the face of temptation.  You can read about it in Ephesians Chapter 6 verses 14-17.

“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish the flaming darts of the evil one;  and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God …”

It’s been said that clothes make the man (or woman).  God has changed you by giving you a whole new wardrobe.  You’re saved;  you’re justified; you’re protected. People will see you in a new way.. Wear that suit as if it makes a difference.

 

What’s Your Story #2

Years ago I worked with a younger woman named Vanessa.  We became friends, although we didn’t see each much outside of work.  We talked quite a bit, especially about our husbands and children.  I probably talked about church a lot.  One day Vanessa told me that she and her husband came from very different faith traditions–neither one felt completely comfortable in the other’s family church.  One was quite formal, the other very informal.  As a consequence, they weren’t attending church at all.  Out of my mouth came words that really surprised me,  “why don’t you come to my church, I think it’s somewhere in the middle!”

I was immediately nervous, fearing Vanessa would now think I was going to try to “convert” her at every opportunity and our comfortable work friendship would become strained.  Well, that didn’t happen but we didn’t broach the subject again, and she didn’t show up at church the next Sunday.

Time passed, and our church had their yearly yard sale.  Vanessa and her family stopped by and spoke with me and some other members.  Then a few weeks later, her family did come to Sunday worship.  Eventually they became members.

My point?  Well God uses even our fumbling, reluctant witness to call people to Him.  The Holy Spirit works in us and through us even when we’re not paying much attention.

“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts, knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”  Romans 8:26-27

When have you felt the prompting of the Spirit and where and to whom has it led you?