Real Freedom

41 May your unfailing love come to me, Lord,
    your salvation, according to your promise;
42 then I can answer anyone who taunts me,
    for I trust in your word.
43 Never take your word of truth from my mouth,
    for I have put my hope in your laws.
44 I will always obey your law,
    for ever and ever.
45 I will walk about in freedom,
    for I have sought out your precepts.
46 I will speak of your statutes before kings
    and will not be put to shame,
47 for I delight in your commands
    because I love them.
48 I reach out for your commands, which I love,
    that I may meditate on your decrees.

– Psalm 119:41-48

Many people have the strange idea that God’s Law and man’s liberty are enemies. They say, “I want freedom. I want to do my own thing.” How wrong they are. God’s Law and your liberty go hand-in-hand, and verse 45 makes this clear. “And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.” Now, the world would write that verse like this: “And I will walk at liberty, for I reject and break Thy precepts. I’m going to do my own thing, my own way.”

Let’s get down to basics. What is freedom? Some may say freedom means the privilege of doing what you want to do. But that is not freedom. In fact, that’s the worst kind of slavery in the world–to be controlled only by your impulses and inclinations. Real freedom is a life controlled by God’s truth and motivated by His love.

This is true in every area of life. If we obey the traffic laws, we have the freedom to drive on the streets and highways. If we obey the laws of truth, we have the freedom to speak, and people will believe us. If we obey the laws of science, we won’t blow up the laboratory. If the airplane pilot obeys the laws of aerodynamics, he will be able to fly his plane. You see, we have the freedom to enjoy the power of the Law when we have yielded to the commandment of the Law. So when I submit myself to the will of God, I am taking my first step toward freedom. As Charles Wesley wrote, God “braks the power of canceled sin; He sets the prisoner free.” He says, “If you submit to me, together we will enjoy truth and love.”

* * *Are you enjoying real freedom in your Christian life? If not, you may have real freedom by submitting to the will of God. He gives us His Word so that we may know His will. Submit to Him and take your first step toward freedom.

– Warren Wiersbe
See more at: http://www.backtothebible.org/devotions/real-freedom#sthash.N2EAVoX5.dpuf

Like Eagles

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
    and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
    and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.

– Isaiah 40:27-31

“The trackless path of an eagle in high flight never fails to seize our attention. ‘The way of the eagle in the sky’ is one of those sights Solomon of old acclaimed as being ‘too wonderful for me.’ The soaring eagle represents healthy independence, un-intimidated courage, strong confidence, and an almost invincible determination to be different from the majority. Everyone admires those eagle-like qualities. God never planned for His people to become submerged in the slimy swamp of status quo existence. On the contrary, He is pleased to have us soar, living our lives far above the level of mediocrity. This does not mean that we shall always enjoy great success or be financially prosperous or continually healthy or free from the demands and difficulties of humanity. But it does mean that we can counteract the gravity pull of discouragement and defeat.”

Chuck Swindoll
Living Above the Level of Mediocrity

You are not in Control

 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – II Corinthians 12:6-10

You want to be in control, but you are not. Because of this, the heart-felt experience of faith will always entail a kind of personal deconstruction, rather than some kind of building up. The more you get to know the God who loves sinners, the more you will see your own need for Him.

Sometimes people ask God to build in them all the things that they think they need in order to face life successfully. He will do no such thing! Why would He turn you into a vessel that has no need for Him? Faith means trusting Him to be all the things you need Him to be, despite your own inadequacies, and, for that matter, in light of the fact that you don’t actually know what you need or what success actually looks like. He won’t give you strength; He will be your strength. God deconstructs. God intervenes. God prevents.

– John Zahl

Cleansing from Christ

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” – John 13:3-11

The Lord Jesus loves his people so much, that every day he is still doing for them much that is analogous to washing their soiled feet. Their poorest actions he accepts; their deepest sorrow he feels; their slenderest wish he hears, and their every transgression he forgives. He is still their servant as well as their Friend and Master. He not only performs majestic deeds for them, as wearing the mitre on his brow, and the precious jewels glittering on his breastplate, and standing up to plead for them, but humbly, patiently, he yet goes about among his people with the basin and the towel. He does this when he puts away from us day by day our constant infirmities and sins. Last night, when you bowed the knee, you mournfully confessed that much of your conduct was not worthy of your profession; and even tonight, you must mourn afresh that you have fallen again into the selfsame folly and sin from which special grace delivered you long ago; and yet Jesus will have great patience with you; he will hear your confession of sin; he will say, “I will, be thou clean”; he will again apply the blood of sprinkling, and speak peace to your conscience, and remove every spot. It is a great act of eternal love when Christ once for all absolves the sinner, and puts him into the family of God; but what condescending patience there is when the Saviour with much long-suffering bears the oft recurring follies of his wayward disciple; day by day, and hour by hour, washing away the multiplied transgressions of his erring but yet beloved child! To dry up a flood of rebellion is something marvellous, but to endure the constant dropping of repeated offences–to bear with a perpetual trying of patience, this is divine indeed! While we find comfort and peace in our Lord’s daily cleansing, its legitimate influence upon us will be to increase our watchfulness, and quicken our desire for holiness. Is it so?

– Charles Spurgeon
Morning and Evening

10 Lessons from an Atheist

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:16-20

When faced with the mocking rants of atheists and God-haters, our natural temptation is to dismiss them as ignorant bigots or to get angry. But that’s not Christ’s way. Christians who follow the Lamb’s example will find His Spirit shedding light in the most unexpected places.

Recently I was asked to watch a TV show that I would otherwise never have turned to. The show is hosted by two illusionists, Penn & Teller. Talented but very crude.

I reluctantly viewed two episodes poking fun at creationists and the Bible. My goal was to pull out their specific arguments and prepare responses that I could use in my worldview talks at churches and conferences.

Afterward I wanted nothing more to do with this program or these men. Their blatant disrespect for the Bible and my Savior angered me. To be honest, I was hardhearted toward them and said in my mind, “If I were ever to see them, I would walk right by and not say a word.” I felt justified in this attitude because the Bible tells us in Matthew 7:6, “Do not . . . cast your pearls before swine.”

“These guys are just big pigs!” I thought. How wrong I was! Shortly after evaluating this program I saw another short video where Penn (full name, Penn Jillette) shares about his encounter with a Christian man who gave him a gift after one of his shows.

Following are excerpts and some valuable lessons about how to share our faith with an atheist.

Lesson 1

“At the end of the show . . . we talk to folks, . . . sign the occasional autograph, shake hands, and so on. And there was one guy waiting over to the side . . . . He walked over to me and he said, ‘I was here last night at the show . . . and I liked it.’”

He was there the night before and came back. How many times have we passed up an opportunity to share the gospel with someone? Remember this, we can usually go back.

Lesson 2

“He was very complimentary about my use of language and complimentary about—you know—honesty and stuff. He said nice stuff.”

The Christian complimented the atheist’s gifts instead of attacking his weaknesses.

Lesson 3

“And then he said, ‘I brought this for you.’ And he handed me a Gideon pocket edition. I thought it said from the New Testament, but I also thought it . . . Psalms is from the New Testament, right?”

I can see you chuckling now, but don’t mock. Anyone could easily misspeak. Even if your listener doesn’t know that Psalms isn’t in the New Testament, he deserves patience and respect.

Lesson 4

“He said, ‘I wrote in the front of it. And I wanted you to have this. I’m kind of proselytizing.’”

This Christian man wasn’t intimidated. He opened his mouth and shared his faith, knowing how Penn felt about Christians and the Bible. Oh, how we need such boldness!

Lesson 5

“And then he said, ‘I’m a businessman. I’m sane. I’m not crazy.’ And he looked me right in the eye and did all of this.”

It’s so important that we take the time to look people in the eye, be sincere, and speak the truth in love. If you’re like me, you’re thinking, “He handed him a Bible? Penn’s going to tear this guy apart.”

Read how Penn responded:

“And it was really wonderful.”

Wow! I’m so embarrassed. I wouldn’t have spoken with this foul-mouthed atheist, much less given him a Bible. Penn was encouraged by this man’s boldness.

Lesson 6, 7, 8

“But he was not defensive, and he looked me right in the eyes. And he was truly complimentary. He wasn’t in any way—it didn’t seem like empty flattery. He was really kind and nice and sane and looked me in the eyes, and talked to me and then gave me this Bible.”

He wasn’t defensive or attacking.

Did you notice the phrase “he looked me in the eyes” repeated three times? This is so important.

He talked “to” him, not “at” him. Yes, there is a major difference.

Lesson 9

“This guy was a really good guy. He was polite and honest and sane, and he cared enough about me to proselytize and give me a Bible, [and he] had written in it a little note to me.”

Check your motivations! This man cared, and it came through clearly. If the Christian’s motivation had been to show the atheist how wrong he was or to just win an argument, those motives would have been just as clear.

Lesson 10

“I know there’s no God. And one polite person living his life right doesn’t change that.”

How about two, three, maybe four people living right? What if every Christian exuded this type of concern? Even though Penn didn’t “convert,” that’s not our concern. Our job is not to convict or convert. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. Our job is to converse (Mark 16:15). Christians must become more visible in the culture. We’ve been hiding our light under a basket far too long.

“IF YOU BELIEVE THAT THERE’S A HEAVEN AND HELL . . . HOW MUCH DO YOU HAVE TO HATE SOMEBODY TO BELIEVE THAT EVERLASTING LIFE IS POSSIBLE AND NOT TELL THEM THAT?”

Please read and reread Penn’s last quote carefully.

“If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell—or not getting eternal life or whatever—and you think that, well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward. . . . How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

As part of my talks all across America, I now show footage from this interview with Penn. This message needs to be preached in pulpits everywhere. If we say we love Jesus with our mouths, our actions should also reflect that love. To quote a friend, “Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose who should hear the gospel” (Romans 10:14–15).

Be bold!

– Carl Kerby
Answers in Genesis

The Wisdom of Right Relationships

19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:19-25

The subject of positive relationships is near to my heart because God has provided me with such good friends. These are the people who challenge me to do more for the Lord. My friends love me, but they certainly aren’t content to let me stay as I am! If they spot a sin in my life or see something I could do better, they say so.

Paul gave relationships a high priority too. The apostle surrounded himself with people who could help him achieve two things: fulfillment of his God-given mission and conformity to Christlikeness. While Paul was pouring himself into the lives of others, he was being built up and strengthened by his fellow believers. That, in brief, is the Lord’s plan for every one of His children.

What about you? Do you have certain relationships that motivate you to pursue God more fervently? It does matter whom we allow to influence our lives. The Father equips your brothers and sisters to invest in you—to encourage you, to pray for you, and to prod you toward a more complete faith—so that you are prepared to devote yourself to serving others. Good relationships with people who build each other up can help believers fulfill God’s plan for their lives.

The finest relationships are between people who want to see each other succeed in faith and therefore “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24, niv). In other words, our best friends are those who love us as we are but never cease to challenge us to be better for the Lord.

– Charles Stanley
In Touch

Made in the Image of God

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

– Genesis 1:26-31