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Slavery FTW?

"And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." - Romans 6:18

If I called you a slave, would you be offended? Many would. Slavery is a thing of the past in our modern capitalist culture. We are healthy, wealthy and wise. For the most part our needs are met, and we are free to come and go as we please. Yet I fear that this mindset is misleading many Christians today.

What does it mean to be a slave of righteousness? That we have to abide by rules or we will not make it to heaven? Not at all! God wants us to be healthy, wealthy and wise as long as it brings Him glory. Yet we constantly make righteous living a chore. Isn't righteousness the best way to live even if it means that we give up our freedom to live lives of chaos - lives without discipline - in which we are tossed about by our whims and selfish desires?

Our culture tells us that freedom means I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, that I can be whoever I want to be and that I can make my own decisions. But even in our culture there are limits, there are laws, there are rules and we must abide by them or pay the price. It is similar in the Kingdom. The price is different and the reasons are different, yet the principle remains. We all know that our freedom in the U.S. was bought with a price. Yet how much more did Jesus pay the price on the cross for all of our sins that we may be spiritually free, that our spiritual debts would be paid? Righteousness is the fruit of that freedom. Righteousness does not denote rules and laws. It means that we are in right standing with the Lord, and thus we can live in relation to Him. I think we can agree that His way is the best way and the law of life is always better than the law of sin and death.

To be a slave to righteousness is to have a hunger and desire to know God and to live in communion with Him. As we abide in Him, He abides is us and we no longer begrudgingly live according to His law. We ache for it. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." I want to be a slave to righteousness, do you?

Other verses to consider: Proverbs 12:28, Matthew 5:6; 7:21, Romans 6:1-2, 18-23; 8:2, 1 Corinthians 7:23

"Lord, I thank you for the freedom that you bought for me on the cross. Thank you for your presence in my life. Help me to abide in you each day so that I may walk in right standing with you and live a holy life. Instill in me a renewed hunger and passion for you. To you be the glory. Amen."

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Words of Wisdom from Bilbo Baggins

"It’s a dangerous business going out of your door. You step into the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to." - Bilbo Baggins, in The Lord of the Rings

I recently read a blog by my good friend Michael Rivera called "God's Invitation to Know Him" (from June 2 on Pastor Jer's Blog). He wrote that the knowledge of God starts in the Word of God. This got me thinking, and I wonder if God will only allow you to go so deep in the Spirit if you don't have a firm foundation in the word. The word is how we test what we hear and see. 1 John 4:1 states, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." Paul writes in Galatians 1:8, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed." Without a firm foundation, we will surely lose our feet.

God relates to us like a father, who will keep information from a child because the child may not be ready for it. He knows how we will handle certain peices of information. If He were to show us the whole picture we would be overwhelmed, or we would miss out on what we would gain on the journey. In the same way, the word is the foundation that releases us to go deeper. If we aren't founded in the word, we may be led astray by the simplest deception of the enemy. The word is the starting point in the journey, and without it we cannot venture out into new places. Do you want to go deeper in the Spirit? Then you must be firmly grounded in the word of God. It must be written on the tablet of your heart.

Other verses to consider: Acts 17:11, Romans 16:17, 2 Corinthians 11:14

"Father, I thank you for your word today and I believe that it is truth. As I study your word, I pray that it will be written on my heart. I pray for wisdom and discernment as I venture deeper in you. I long to go deeper and I pray for your guidance in the process. Give me a hunger and passion for your word today. Amen."

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Ouch!

We hate pain…

We run from pain…

We take drugs to alleviate pain…

We have this idea that pain is always bad. If we see someone going through something, we immediately associate that with negative thoughts. What did they do to deserve that? They must be having problems at home. They must be struggling with some habit or sin pattern.

But the truth is that pain is a natural part of life. I was listening to Joyce Meyer on the radio today and she made this one statement that really hit home. She said that brokenness in scripture can mean many things, but one of those has to do with birthing pains.

Sometimes God wants you to feel pain because he is doing a work in you. He is birthing something new in you and the only way for it to come out is through a painful process. This doesn't have to be a negative thing. It can actually be seen as a positive when we truly trust the Lord and worship him in our troubles.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. - Philippians 1:6

So when you start to feel broken - in your spirit or by the circumstances around you - don't be so quick to reach for the Motrin. And when you see your brothers and sisters going through trials, don't be so quick to judge. Ask the Lord if he is doing a work in you or others, and pray that He would provide the strength to see it through.

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Words with Friends

"Life and death are in the power of the tongue."  - Proverbs 18:21

Words are everywhere. We see and hear them constantly. We use them to communicate. It’s estimated that the average woman speaks between 10,000 and 20,000 words a day. It is also estimated that the average person sees between 500 and 2,000 advertisements in a day. Think about what you are doing right now. You are reading a blog on your device of choice, written with words.

Can it really be that life and death are in the power of the tongue?

I remember going on a hiking trip a few years ago on the Appalachian Trail. It seemed like everytime we got to the top of a mountain, it was only to see the next mountain we had to climb. It got harder and harder each time, but it was such a blessing to have strong encouraging people on the team. Their encouraging words helped us over each peak, even when we thought we could go no further.

In his book, Awaken the Giant Within, Anthony Robbins writes, "Throughout human history, our greatest leaders and thinkers have used the power of words to transform our emotions, to enlist us in their causes, and to shape the course of destiny."

James 3:4-6 states: "Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity."

Do you understand the power we are talking about here? The tongue has the power to inspire men and women to greatness, and it also has the power to bring them to their knees. It can speak positivity or negativity, success or failure, good or evil, life or death into our lives and the lives of those around us.

When we learn to control our words, we are better able to control our thoughts, feelings and actions. And when we align our words with God's words, we see amazing results. We see positive attitudes and encouragement in times of trouble. We pray prayers of faith to move mountains, and we get to see the promises of God come to fruition.

This is the power of the tongue.

So think about your words today. Are you speaking life or death into the lives of those around you? What about your own life?

Other verses to consider: Matthew 12:33-37, Ephesians 4:29, James 3:1-12

"Lord, I thank you today for the words that you speak about me. I thank you that you work all things for good for those who love you. I thank you that I can cast my cares on you because you care for me. Empower me today to take control of my words. Help me to align my words with your words and to pray prayers of faith. I trust you and your promises, and I will honor you with my tongue today. Amen."

(This blog was written as part of the #Wisdumb series at Rockford First and posted on Pastor Jer's Blog. You can check out all 31 days of Proverbs posts there too!)

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Out of this World!

"The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered."  - Proverbs 11:25

So many times in the bible we see God turning the tables on how we are to live. We've all heard the phrase, "The last shall be first, and the first shall be last." But this principle is still shocking to us because it is so counterintuitive to our human nature. We are naturally inclined to hang onto what we have, especially if we have bills, credit card balances and a weak economy.

While reading this passage, I was reminded of a teaching by Erin Campbell back when I was in RMC. She said something along the lines of, "You can't outgive God, but it sure is fun to try!" I love this because it really is how I believe God wants us to live, and it all comes down to having a heavenly mindset.

Jesus states in Luke 6:38, "Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure - pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." Is your standard of measure a heavenly one or an earthly one?

And this is not only about money. When you give, serve and love beyond yourself, Christ fills the gap. He says, "My strength is made perfect in weakness." It's so amazing when you come to the place where you have nothing left to give and you truly see God working through you. I believe this is what Paul meant when he wrote, "For it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20)." When we allow Christ to increase in us, we are able to live according to a heavenly mindset and give according to a standard of measure that is out of this world!

Other verses to consider: Malachi 3:10, Matthew 20:16, 2 Corinthians 12:9

"Lord, I thank you for all that you've given me and for providing for my family. I pray for a heavenly mindset today so that I can give according to your standard of measure. Give me the strength to give, serve and love more than I have today, and I trust you to fill me up again. To you be the glory. Amen."

(This blog was written as part of the #Wisdumb series at Rockford First and posted on Pastor Jer's Blog. You can check out all 31 days of Proverbs posts there too!)

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The Audacity of Rest

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." - Proverbs 3:5-6

A few years ago, I had the privilege of riding a boat out on the Sea of Galilee in Israel. The captain told us how the weather out there can take an unexpected turn for the worst in a matter of minutes. We talked about how Jesus and His disciples found themselves in a tight spot out on this same body of water and how Jesus woke up and calmed the storm (Mark 4:35). I love this story because, while the disciples are being tossed around by the waves, Jesus is sleeping! And after calming the storm, Jesus even scorned the disciples for their lack of faith. How many times do we do this exact same thing? Just like Peter in Matthew 14, we step out of the boat and fear the waves instead of trusting in the Lord.

Jesus' reaction to the storm is a beautiful picture of what true faith and trust looks like. He was resting in the midst of a storm because He knew that the storm had no power over Him. This Audacious Rest comes from true faith, because it is a way to worship the Lord in the midst of our circumstances. As we lift Him up, He gets bigger and our understanding gets smaller. But what's amazing about this is that it produces even more faith.

Perhaps you have a big decision ahead and you're worried about the outcome. Maybe your job isn't going well, your bills are too large, or you're in an impossible situation and you feel that there is no way out. So often, we become blinded by the storms raging around us, but we must learn to trust in the Lord and not allow our feelings and desires to overcome our faith. If we learn to acknowledge the Lord first in our circumstances, then we are better able to lay aside our own understanding and to put our faith and trust in Him. This is where peace that passes understanding is found, and this is where we find Audacious Rest in the Lord.

Other verses to consider: Hebrews 12:2, Philippians 4:6-8, 1 Peter 5:7, 2 Corinthians 12:9.

"Lord, I cast my cares upon you today because I know that you care for me. I lift you up over my current struggles, fears and doubts, and I ask for your grace and strength to trust in you with my whole heart even when I don't understand. No matter what I am feeling I will rest in you today because I believe that you are in control. I pray that peace that passes understanding will guard my heart and mind today in Christ Jesus. Amen."

(This blog was written as part of the #Wisdumb series at Rockford First and posted on Pastor Jer's Blog. You can check out all 31 days of Proverbs posts there too!)

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Take it to Jesus

"And Jesus said to her, “neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”  - John 8:11

How many times do we make mistakes and try to suppress them as though they did not happen? We want a sin habit to just go away, so we do everything we can to put it aside. Yet by doing this we are running away from the very thing we need. We must learn to admit sin when it surfaces and then take it to Jesus.

The woman caught in adultery came to the place where her sin was able to surface, and it was this very place where Jesus met her with redemption. This is the place where dependency upon Jesus is found. Sin will never simply go away. We must realize that we live in a carnal world and that we desperately need Jesus, the only true cleanser of our sins.

(This devo was published in MORE: A Compilation of Revelations, by Michael Rivera, Liz Reed, Ben Striker and myself)

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The 3 "In's"

"This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."  - Psalm 118:24

Every day the Lord has a purpose and a plan for our lives. It doesn't matter how we feel, or what side of the bed we wake up on, it is His day and in that we can rejoice. We must learn to come alongside that purpose so we may live up to what God has for us. It's not always easy, but there are a few things that can help. First, Intentionality. Read Romans 6:13. It is our responsibility to take control of our thoughts and actions. If we are intentional then we will be able to line up with God's purposes. Second, Intensity. Read Hebrews 12:1-4. If we are intense about the things that we do, and give everything we have, regardless of feelings, we will be able to find strength in God to accomplish what He desires of us. Last, Intimacy with God. Read Matthew 7:21-23. It doesn't matter if we do countless great things. If there is no knowledge of God in what we do, then we have missed the mark. If we live our lives to know God, then we will know where He is leading us and how He wants us to expend our energy.

We must have intentionality to do the right things, intensity to do the right things with passion and drive, and intimacy with God to do His things with His passion to His glory.

(This devo was published in MORE: A Compilation of Revelations, by Michael Rivera, Liz Reed, Ben Striker and myself)

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The Big Picture

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us."  - Romans 8:18

Life is full of happenings: this happens, that happens…we are tossed to and fro through every circumstance. Sometimes things aren't so bad, just a little bit of discomfort. Other times, it seems as though the bottom has fallen out: God seems so distant and we can neither see nor hear through the fog. When we come to this place, the one thing we must do is to set our eyes upon the truth that we know: God is still God.

God promises to work all things out for good for those who love Him. Paul considers no suffering even worth comparing to the future glory of eternity in heaven. In life or death there is a bigger picture, and the One in whom we can place all of our trust is the One who sees it. To find the strength to persevere, in every circumstance, we must set our minds on the big picture. The big picture is that though presently I cannot see, the fog will rise and God will still be there.

(This devo was published in MORE: A Compilation of Revelations, by Michael Rivera, Liz Reed, Ben Striker and myself)

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Searching for Understanding

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."  - Romans 8:28

There are times in our lives that the Lord must work something out behind the scenes because He knows that if we knew about it, we would mess it up. Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things out for good for those who love Him. Yet when something is a little confusing or doesn't go the way we thought it would, we tend to spend so much time trying to figure things out, searching for understanding. This habit must be broken or we may miss what God has for us now. Too many times we rely solely upon what we think or know. If this is always the case, then we will never see the truth. We must have the mindset that allows us to let go of our own understanding and to fall back on faith. Faith allows us to rely fully upon the Holy Spirit who will give us understanding in due time.

"Oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unreachable are His judgments and His ways past finding out" (Romans 11:33). It is okay for us to lack understanding at certain times in our lives. We are too easily discouraged when something comes our way that we do not understand. Don't be discouraged. Put your trust in God and be encouraged that it's in His hands and not yours.

(This devo was published in MORE: A Compilation of Revelations, by Michael Rivera, Liz Reed, Ben Striker and myself)

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