Isaiah 61:1-7

[ Announce Freedom to All Captives ] The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken,

Announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. God sent me to announce the year of his grace— a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies— and to comfort all who mourn, 

To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, Messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.

Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness” planted by God to display his glory. They’ll rebuild the old ruins, raise a new city out of the wreckage. They’ll start over on the ruined cities, take the rubble left behind and make it new.

You’ll hire outsiders to herd your flocks and foreigners to work your fields, But you’ll have the title “Priests of God,” honored as ministers of our God. You’ll feast on the bounty of nations, you’ll bask in their glory.

Because you got a double dose of trouble and more than your share of contempt, Your inheritance in the land will be doubled and your joy go on forever.

Today I am praying for those held captive – by actual captivity through human trafficking, abuse, circumstance, sickness, mental illness, addiction, and those with bondage they have not yet discovered. 

There are moments I am overwhelmed with the incredible need in this world, when I long to fix every broken heart. And yet, what if I stepped away from my paralysis long enough to ask for direction in where I personally am to extend myself to those who yearn for freedom. 

Before we can help others, however, we must find our own way to breaking the chains that bind us. One of the most effective ways to assist God in His transformation work on our hearts is to discover how to apply the bible to our own situations and daily lives.

“Breaking Free” by Beth Moore is my all-time favorite study so far – I have done it 3 times and discovered new areas of healing and transformation that needed to take place each time. 

Currently, I am working through “One in a Million” by Priscilla Shirer and am loving it so far. When we receive Jesus, our lives are set free from an eternal perspective, but there is still work we need to do in order to release ourselves from lifestyle choices, broken mental records, and blockages created by our own ignorance about what all Jesus has truly released us from in this life. A life in Christ is a process – but the reward is so great!

God is a god of miracles, but He is also a god of relationship and will more often than not, be patient in waiting for us to partner with Him in order to bring about the growth and change we so desperately long for. These are just two studies, but there are hundreds of good ones out there. Today, I would encourage you to jump online, or visit your nearest bookstore (or library!) and try one on for size. 

 

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free to grace – daily devotional

People like to throw around the word grace as an expectation of what others should extend to them. We want to be graced when we make mistakes, receive it when we fall short, expect it from some people more than others. And, for some of us, the challenge we face in the receiving is that we don’t always like to reciprocate.

Grace is defined by Merriam-Webster as  1 a : unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification. b : a virtue coming from God. c : a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance.

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines grace as The word “grace” in biblical parlance can, like forgiveness, repentance, regeneration, and salvation, mean something as broad as describing the whole of God’s activity toward man or as narrow as describing one segment of that activity. An accurate, common definition describes grace as the unmerited favor of God toward man.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like some people just don’t deserve grace. Some decisions, actions, or assaults, decry the right to such an extension of love. 

And, I know for a fact, I am unworthy of the grace that has been offered to me. 

Ephesians 2:8-9

For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation].

The truth is, we are each called to follow Jesus, to grow more each day in reflection of him. By no means are any of us worthy of redemption, and yet how much more are we created to extend what God has given us, to others. What are we communicating about the deep love of our God when we are unwilling to love His people right where they are at??

This morning I was in prayer, and for the first time ever, I believe, prayed for a release from the oppression of the unforgiveness. It is a heavy burden to carry the weight (the curse), of the judgment of another. Nearly as heavy as the burden of choosing to hold on to offense. 

Set yourself free today. Release another from their shortcomings. As Christ-followers, we will never know the true freedom of HIS grace until we walk in the fullness of our own. 

Be free. 

Shalom.

 

authored royalty

1 Peter 2:9-10

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. (The Message Bible)

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; (King James Version)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a[special] people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies [the wonderful deeds and virtues and perfections] of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (Amplified Bible)

In college my major was sociology, so in my junior and senior year especially, I found myself surrounded by others who shared my love of dialogue about societal and cultural norms. One night, a group of us was talking about heritage, and my friend David, who was adopted, shrugged when asked if he knew where he came from. He said it didn’t matter what his family of origin had shared with him; that who he was in Christ was what made him who he was.

I didn’t get it.

Years later, I met my first husband, who was from Hawai’i, and his family shared  great diversity. There was often conversation between his sister and I about the tension she sometimes felt between honoring her native cultural tradition(s), and her Christian faith. I share this deep love of heritage, and my first two children were named to reflect the value we placed on where they came from. 

Culture was paramount.

Fast forward to today, and I am very clear on where my identity comes from – but more so, my value. Where we come from gives us depth, traditions, common ground, heritage, culture. Who we come from defines our potential, our passions, our value.

Our destiny.

As Christ-followers, it is paramount that our identity be found in Him first. 

2 Corinthians 5:17 states – “Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].”

Our earthly identities can bring with them expectations, limitations, and identity issues, which can hinder us from pursuing all that God has for us. While we can still value and appreciate that which we hold dear, we must be willing to let go of those things which might keep us from identifying with Christ. 

Jesus himself admonished the disciples (Luke 9:3-5) and two believers longing to follow him in his ministry (Luke 9:59-62), to let go of cultural expectations and go with him, regardless of how those around them may judge their choice to do so. 

Breaking tradition (social/familial norms) will always bring division.

Is there anything you hesitate to do because of the expectations of others? Do you feel limited in your capacity or vision for your personal ministry when filtered through lenses that remind you of who you used to be, or where you come from? Does it feel scary to do something differently than how it’s “always been done?”

Could it be that you were made for more than this?? 

I would encourage you to spend a little time this week, asking God to reveal where He might be wanting to renew your mind; to open it to a fresh perspective. Allow Him to reveal potential roadblocks that you perhaps aren’t aware of. Seek out and be intentional about spending more of your time with fellow believers, if you don’t already.

If you follow Jesus as your Savior, you are now in the bloodline of Christ. Drop anything that might bring hesitation in following passionately after His calling. No matter where we come from, God has already authored where we are headed. 

 

 

 

 

 

who can be against you

Romans 8:31

What then shall we say to these things?

If God is for us, who can be against us?

I think it’s very easy to read this and think of all the people “against” us. You are thinking of one now… But this is a simple truth – God is for them as well.

Relationships can be challenging, to be certain; whether they be personal, professional, friendly or familial. Sometimes it can feel as though others are against us, and in a country so richly blessed with freedom and opportunity, it can be hard to remember that this was written when their lives were literally in peril because of their beliefs. 

Sometimes the person most “against us” is… us.

The goal in those days was to share the good news of Jesus. They were passionately spreading the gospel, and yet even then God was not just for the believers – He was for the non-believers as well.

God is not on your team. And, He is.

Always remember that the ultimate goal in God’s eyes is for all of His creation to return to Him. 2 Peter 3:9 states that it is His will that all would come to Him; not just you and the people you like, but that grumpy neighbor and that awful politician and the addict on the corner… He sees things from an eternal perspective while we focus on this tiny little season we are in today.

Sometimes when I am feeling offended or mistreated, I can take this scripture and use it to encourage myself, but I also need to remember that whatever I am walking and learning through, those around me are also on their own journey – sometimes, like I-405 on a busy morning, we can just get in each other’s way.

Go back to that person. Got ’em? Ok. Now, pray for them. Pray your best prayer of favor and blessing and peace. God is for you both, and when He is for you, who can be against you??

 

 

simple saturday

One of my very favorite worship teams comes from Bethel Church in Redding, CA. This is an hour long video, so feel free to tune in and come back later. For me today, this is right where I want to be – in the Word and marinating in the sounds of worship…

what a child

Matthew 18: 1-3

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, “Verily I say unto you, unless ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Some people really struggle with the concepts of this scripture, and I am not certain it’s looked at as deeply as it truly needs to be. The Word of God is a road map to healthy and blessed living. Isaiah 55:11 says that God’s Word will not return void, so it would seem that whatever is said, especially by Jesus himself, might be relatively (extraordinarily!) valuable.

Upon reflection, I would suggest that being young at heart is to maintain a childlike innocence in the appreciation and celebration of the little things; a capacity to be unmoved or hardened by the realities of life, and living by a generosity that chooses to see and relate to others, on a heart level. Conversely, to be childish would be to nurture a desire to control, deflect personal responsibility, and require other people to adjust their behavior in order to pacify self.

How childlike do you find yourself to be? Do you have a trusting, fearless relationship with God, or are you still fighting to have your way; battling His principles and maintaining that only parts of His law is relevant to you or your personal situation?

He is faithful to reveal our potential pitfalls and is clear in how to avoid them – the rest is up to you.

forgivingly restored

Galatians 6:1

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.

I love how this begins…”live creatively.” Imagine – being CREATIVE in how we love on and relate to one another!

It is so easy to point fingers – at friends, peers, strangers, politicians, anyone in the public eye – but not so easy to have authentic relationship with those who might need love, correction, a new road map… but, to be creative with one another…now THAT is inspiring!

Forgivingly restore…I remember having a conversation once with a woman who shared a story about their small group. A young couple had started coming to the church and were living together. Not a single person said a thing to them about it, even though the church was extremely conservative and it was a much older congregation overall. She shared that after several months of just loving one another, enjoying fellowship and studying the Word of God, this young couple came to she and her husband and said, “Wow, we are learning so much about Jesus and really want to honor him with our lives. We read in the bible that we should be married so we want to take that step. Would you help us?”

When we just love people where they are at, love God, and meet people without judgment, they are free to find their own way. And in the process, we free up our own plates from taking on the monumental task of trying to operate in the place of the Holy Spirit.

If there is someone you need to release today, please do so. So many of us make choices based on old habits, familiarity, ease, tradition, culture, brokenness… wouldn’t it be lovely to have someone come alongside and just walk with us for a bit with no expectation other than we be ourselves.

Yeah. I thought so, too.

 

 

day 15 – full of it

Job 4 : 17-21

“‘How can mere mortals be more righteous than God?
    How can humans be purer than their Creator?
Why, God doesn’t even trust his own servants,
    doesn’t even cheer his angels,
So how much less these bodies composed of mud,
    fragile as moths?
These bodies of ours are here today and gone tomorrow,
    and no one even notices—gone without a trace.
When the tent stakes are ripped up, the tent collapses—
    we die and are never the wiser for having lived.’”

I have, as I am sure many of you do, multiple people in my who feel very strongly about their beliefs. To be honest, I definitely have some pretty strong opinions about certain topics as well, although I sometimes try more so to keep them to myself than not.

When it comes to life, many seem to feel pretty confident about what Jesus would or would not do. And, even more confident to tell others when they are getting it wrong.

The problem is, that we can often miss what He IS doing because we spend so much time putting our own twist on what we think we should, or want to, see.

We pretty much are all hypocrites to some degree. Throughout our lives, we will each end up contradicting ourselves at one time or another – it’s human nature. The most interesting piece for me is that when we pull our junk, we think we can justify it – none of us is as bad as, or as negatively motivated as, THAT guy. It’s all white noise, really, with each of us happily coiled up behind our own personal bents and opinions, prepared with a complete arsenal of proof that our ideologies are purposeful, meaningful, well thought out and correct.

The litmus test for believers needs to be the Word of God. Sure, there are different ways that His work can be done, in the end, however, we CAN all be in agreement with the WHAT, and with that fun little grace word, hopefully we can all agree to disagree with the HOW.

 

How much more would get done if each of us just went out and did our part?

How much more peace would there be if we let one another walk their own journey?

How much more loudly could the love of Jesus be heard if the din of our own ideologies was silenced by the activity of our hands?

I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more I learn, and the more I realize I need to learn. For who among us is truly wise??

Only one.