{re}fresh

Month: July, 2013

Free To Love

by Julie

“Jesus says that the law was fulfilled in two things. : ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31

We all know that loving God and loving others is important but more than that, it’s foundational in our faith. Jesus loved this way. He was so in love with the Father, He knew who He was as a Son and He loved every person He met.

We are to love God with everything we are. We love God not just with everything, but in everything. In every circumstance, every high and every low, we just love Him. We seek to spend time with Him. We desire to worship Him every chance we get. We talk to Him and tell Him about our lives. We trust Him and keep our thoughts around Him. We are to love our neighbor modeling Jesus and the way He loved. We serve the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and give to the needy. We are just simply lovers of people and change the world around us.

More often than not we feel like we have this down. We are can say that we love God and that we love people. Unfortunately there is something that we often miss. You know, that part about loving ourselves. It’s in the book so we can’t ignore it. If we have are hard time loving ourselves, the love that our neighbor will receive from us may be a bit weak.

When I was a teenager my loving mother used to have me stand in front of the mirror, look into my own eyes and say out loud that I loved myself. I was so upset when she made me do that but she did it for a good reason. She saw my value and my worth. She loved me with an unconditional love that she wanted me to see and experience. Jesus came to give us abundant life. He has come so we may have true relationship with God and to set us free from all of our sin and shame. By His great love and sacrifice He has set us free to be children of God. This is what God desires for us. His desire is that we would see beyond our imperfections, our sin, our past, and see the treasure that He created. He wants us to experience His love.

When we love God we begin to receive love from Him. When we know how loved we are we have the freedom to partner with God and begin to love ourselves. As this happens God will show us more of His heart and love for God and love for our neighbor will begin to overflow.

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A God Who Loves Enough

by ivyjonah

So if the Son liberates you [makes you free men], then you are really and unquestionably free…”

John 8:36 AMP

One day it dawned on me, the story of the prodigal son found in Luke 15,  is everyone’s story. But sometimes it has differing results.

The father chose to “let his son go.” He did not restrain him even though he suspected that his son would travel destructive roads. His Love never shackled his son or held him prisoner in his own home. He surrendered his son and allowed him the freedom of choice. It’s like that between us and God, isn’t it?

I use to think that my surrendering meant I’d be trapped in some kind of robotic life. I didn’t like my life, but God’s invitation to surrender my life scared me. But what I discovered was that the more I surrendered the freer I became.  God has truly given us free will to reject or accept the true freedom that He has wrought for us on the cross through his son Jesus. We will not have to fear that we will be turned into robots, controlled by some outside force. Rather than losing freedom, it is the very thing we obtain.

Freedom in Christ is no longer bound by the Law. It is then, that we have true freedom to “let go” of the sin that holds us captive and enter the freedom God offers. It is then, that we discover who God created us to be; truly free.

God is all-powerful, yet He uses restraint.
He waits.
He looks.
He hopes.

And upon our return, he runs to us, embraces us, welcomes us HOME and dresses us in his finest robes. Our past is just that – past. He celebrates our home-coming and that’s all that matters to a Father such as this.

Lord, in each case, whether we have never accepted you as Lord and Savior or if we have been with you a long time, you clearly give us a choice for freedom. “I put before you, LIFE and DEATH…Choose LIFE!” This day I choose life.

Our God of Liberty

by Mike McKinniss

1280639In a letter to his wife Abigail dated July 3, 1776, John Adams penned an exulting paragraph:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha in the History of America.  I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.  It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfire and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

Why was Adams so celebratory?  Because the day before the Continental Congress had resolved to declare a final break from British sovereignty.  Adams and his colleagues from all thirteen colonies had voted for independence from England.

The day after Adams wrote this letter to his wife, the Congress adopted Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, which includes this one remarkable and memorable sentence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It was no accident that these two founding fathers used the language they did.  From the very first days of English expeditions into the Americas, the pursuit of a fresh start free from the persecutions of the Old World with an opportunity at a better life – these were at the very heart of the colonist’s soul even as early as the 1620’s.

So Adams, reflecting on the decision to secede from Britain, likened the event to Israel’s great Exodus from Egypt.  A “Day of Deliverance” he called it.  Although we may not call the early Americans slaves of England, freedom was the sensation Adams and his compatriots felt in those early days of July, 1776.

Liberty of any size and scope is worth celebrating.  It is at the center of God’s heart.

That’s right: The God of the Bible is a God who embraces liberty.

Consider: When Adam is placed in the garden, he is free to eat of any tree, even while he is warned against taking the fruit of one in particular (Gen. 2:16-17).

Consider: The nation of Israel is formed into a people on the basis of their freedom from slavery.  Liberty is literally the preamble of their formative document, their covenant with the Lord (Exo. 20:2).

Consider: The ultimate expression of God’s heart for liberty is Jesus himself.  Jesus stated liberation as the major plank in his platform, the hallmark of his calling (Luke 4:18-19, quoting Isa. 61:1-2).  Moreover, the gospel writers consistently set Jesus in the context of bringing Israel through a second (and greater) exodus.  Mark 1, for example, is littered with exodus themes (a quotation of Exodus 23:20; Jesus passes through a river into a promised land; Jesus wanders in the wilderness for 40 days).

The God of the Bible consistently embraces liberty, and so it ought to be celebrated on any level it might be found.  Whether it’s freedom from a financial burden, freedom from a destructive pattern of behavior, political freedom to speak or act, or freedom from the weight of your past; liberty is always worth an exultant shout.

Freedom In Three Little Words

by Dawn Aldrich

woman-dancing-outside-green-dress

I forgive you. 

Three little words hardly spoken, hold great power. They tear down walls, mend broken relationships, and free the heart. Yet we trade freedom for pride, swallowed hard behind tight lips, clenched fists, and bleeding hearts.  We hang onto blame with pain rather than releasing forgiveness. 

We suffer long and hard in quiet desperation or spewing anger wondering when the pain will dull just a little–when will we ‘get over it’ once and for all? No matter how hard we try, the pain continues, rears its ugly head at all the wrong moments and we hit the wall.

 In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us the importance of forgiveness (Matthew 6:5-15 NIV) :

“Forgive us our debts (trespasses or sins), as we also have forgiven our debtors (those who trespassed or sinned against us).

Jesus takes it one step further in verses 14-15:

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” 

Does this mean God’s forgiveness is conditional? Not at all. If we seek God’s mercy for ourselves, we must willingly offer mercy and forgiveness to one another. God sent Jesus into the world not only to reconcile us to himself but also to one another. If we call ourselves followers of Jesus, then we must embrace all of him–including forgiveness. But how do we do that when there’s so much to forgive?

Ask for God’s eyes

God only sees us redeemed-in perfect form-how He created us. We need to look at the one who wronged us through His eyes and offer mercy. God did not create the sin, the ugly, or the pain. But, He did promise to make all things good and it starts with 3 hard words: I forgive you. 

Offering forgiveness does not right the wrong but forgiveness frees up our hearts from bitterness and allows us to move forward either toward reconciliation or away from the pain. 

Is there someone whom God is asking you to forgive? If so, ask God to show you how to forgive. If the person is living, and the situation is safe, offer forgiveness face-to-face. If the individual has passed or the situation is unsafe, release the pain and speak forgiveness aloud, as though they were right there with you. Our minds remember and our hearts respond to audible words. 

“Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.” 2 Corinthians 2: 7-8 

The Brilliance of Christ

by Rob Dunne

diamondsTherefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. Galatians 3:24

My heart pounded. Dodging locals and tourists, I wove my way down busy sidewalks towards my destination. Concerned that I might run into Jack Dawkins, I gripped the envelope tightly while keeping my hand deep inside my pants pocket. Twinkling lights distracted me as I crossed over into the diamond district. Moments later, Gabriel squeezed my hand like a vice grip and smiled. I was about to trade the envelope in my pocket for the treasure locked in one of the jeweler’s fortified drawers.

For months, I educated myself on the Four Cs of diamond buying (color, cut, clarity and carats). Utilizing intense magnification, I looked at dozens of diamonds. Even under the most ideal circumstances, the jewelers explained that no diamond is literally perfect because of the human element involved in cutting the gem. There is no way to make the table, crown and girdle perfectly symmetrical. Though impossible to see with the naked eye or even under magnification, there is sure to be some flaw in the diamond.

In the same way, it is impossible for human beings to live a perfect life according to Gods’ laws. Following the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish people out of Egypt, God gave them laws to live by. The purpose of the Law was to establish God’s  community with guidelines to maintain order and justice. Most importantly, the Law was a teacher to help lead them and us to Christ.

Jesus was fully God and fully man. He was the only person capable of fulfilling every aspect of the law. Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life. As a result, He set us free from the law of sin that ultimately results in death. Yes, everyone must die a physical death. However, a spiritual death occurs when our failure to fulfill all aspects of the law separates us from God. Thanks to His perfect fulfillment of the law, His death on the cross and ultimate victory over death, Jesus provides us with the justification that we need to spend eternity with Him in heaven.

None of us is perfect. Thank God we don’t have to be. Faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ sets us free from our sins. Take a moment today to gaze upon the perfect face of your Savior. He will dazzle you more than the most brilliant diamond ever could!

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