It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. -GALATIANS 5:1
Now that we’ve talked about how we fall for lies, it’s time to take a look at what it takes to root those lies out of our lives and replace them with the truth. On the surface, it sounds easy – after all, it’s just 3 things. But these 3 things require a lot of time, prayer, and commitment to see them through. Let’s dig in:
STEP 1: IDENTIFY YOUR BONDAGE
The first step in experiencing change to identify what needs to be changed. If you’re not sure what yours is, start by asking God to show you areas in your life where you are not experiencing freedom. If you know the areas already, then it’s important to take some time to identify what the specific sins are that are keeping you in bondage.
It’s also helpful to point out that there are two types of sin. The first is a sin of commission. These are the things we are not supposed to do that we do. For example: lying, stealing, or misusing God’s name. The second is a sin of omission. These are the things that we ought to do but don’t. For example: tithing, evangelizing, or praying.
Once we recognize the sin that’s prevailing in our lives, we can then trace it to the root in our hearts:
STEP 2: IDENTIFY THE LIE AT THE ROOT OF YOUR BONDAGe
Did you know that if you say “green beans” very slowly it sounds like “gullible?”
Okay, so that’s not exactly true, even though it can be a little funny if someone falls for it. To some people it’s obviously false, but others just have to try to it to know for themselves. If they do, they quickly realize the trick and, though perhaps feeling a bit foolish, laugh along with no real harm done. If only deception in life were so easily detected and easily overcome.
A few days ago my husband and I were running errands and I played a podcast to help pass the time. Normally it’s a light-hearted and fun show to listen to, but occasionally they get into some deeper topics, and this was one of those times. During the course of the conversation about struggling with your relationship with God, one of the hosts made an interesting comment. The gist of it was this: “It’s crazy how things can be going just fine and all of a sudden you wake up and realize you’re far from God.”
“All of a sudden… far from God.”
Is that really possible? Is it really that simple? Is it really that… sudden? I’d dare say it’s not.
In fact, I’d say quite the opposite.
It’s crazy how one little step turns into another, which turns into another, and yet another, until suddenly you realize you are a hundred steps away from God. The only thing sudden about finding ourselves far from God is the actual moment of revelation that we’re not as good as we think we are. The process itself is not so sudden; in fact, it’s a slow, gradual process that contains not giant leaps or huge falls, but little compromises here and there.
The thought that runs through our heads when we’re finally alone. When the project is finally finished. When we’re finally off work. When we’re finally on vacation. When we’re finally able to do what we want. For different people, different circumstances cause us to breathe out that sigh of relief.
Each of us has our own ideas about freedom. If you’re anything like me, in spite of the short-term instances of relief you occasionally experience, freedom is an elusive dream that you’re always chasing.
If I can just get through one more week, I’ll be free.
If I could just find a different job, then I’d be at peace.
If I could just break this one habit, I’d be okay.
If I could just have this relationship squared away, then I’d feel better.
If I can somehow find a way to make more money, I’ll be set.
But the week comes and goes, and I still feel restless, the new job has its own set of problems, the habit just won’t go away, the relationship is never perfect, and the money is never enough.
LIFE TO THE FULL
JOHN 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
The imagery Jesus uses when He speaks these words is vivid – “life to the full.” Abundant life. Life that has richness. He’s not speaking about life in a biological term – He’s speaking of a quality of life that is higher than we are able to experience on our own because it comes only from Him.
Many of us would use words like frazzled, frustrated, overwhelmed, stuck, defeated, fearful, insecure, lonely, confused, burned-out, or discouraged to describe our lives. I know I’ve used those words many times, even in the last few months. In contrast, Jesus offers us abundant life. Life that could be described as peaceful, contented, gracious, loving, joyful, and free.
As you consider your current season of life, which list most resonates with you? Are you experiencing the abundant life and freedom that Jesus came to offer? Or is it possible that, like me, you’ve been attaching your peace and freedom to the wrong things and as a result, are experiencing discouragement over joy, frustration over peace, and bondage over freedom?
September 29, 2018 was the beginning of a brand new adventure as I became the wife of Cameron Harris. We were married in a small ceremony surrounded by close family and friends, and we couldn't have asked for a better day.
It was a beautiful day in every sense of the word. Everything went so smoothly, in large part thanks to all of our family and friends who went above and beyond. And when my brand new necklace broke, my makeup artist ran home to get one of her own for me to borrow. How amazing is she? The weather was gorgeous, the flowers perfect, the food delicious, the cake to die for, and though everyone warned us we'd not remember much, we actually remember quite a bit, and I'm thankful. There were so many special touches and meaningful moments - I could talk about them forever. But for the sake of time and space, I'll simply share with you our vows and some of our favorite photos:
Mary sets a subtle yet striking example in her devotion to prayer. As a matter of fact, her prayers are the bookends of her story: in Luke 1, she pours out a prayer of thanksgiving for God choosing her and sending Jesus to be her Messiah, and in Acts 1, she joins the other believers in praying for the Holy Spirit to come, and ultimately, for revival to come.
Prayer is so easy to talk about - but often hard to actually do. I think most of us would say we believe that God answers prayer, but how many of us actually pray like we believe it? I love this quote by E. M. Bounds: "What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use -- men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men, men of prayer."
Our families need our prayers. Our churches need our prayers. Our neighborhoods need our prayers. Our country needs our prayers. Let's be determined to be the ones who cry out to God to intervene, to send His Holy Spirit, and to bring revival - and let's ask Him to start with us.
Faithfulness is a lost art in our culture of instant gratification. The same desires that make us impatient to get what we want when we want it cause us to give up on people when we find ourselves facing friction, conflict, and an inevitable struggle.
But what would happen if we, like Mary, determined to be faithful, to be devoted, through thick and thin, through good and bad? Much like the vows we make when we enter into a marriage covenant, God calls us to a deep and committed to relationship with Him. And while His faithfulness is never-ending, ours is fickle. That is why we must make great effort to be devoted to Christ not just when life is good and following Him is easy, but when life is overwhelming and giving up is easy.
"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him." -James 1:12
We live in a culture that is all about making a name for yourself. We're constantly bombarded with messages from both secular and Christian sources that tell us to be all that we can be, to leave our mark on the world, and to stand out. I, myself, struggle with the desire for recognition and the temptation to not do something if I don't think it'll be appreciated or noticed. But the truth is that Scripture actually calls us to live quiet, humble lives that draw attention not to us, but to Christ.
Mary was a humble woman, content to live her life behind the scenes and make much of Christ. Instead of making a name for ourselves, let's be determined to make Christ's name known - and in the process we'll earn eternal rewards instead of the temporary ones that recognition in this world offers.
Anyone here struggle with control? I know I do! Another amazing thing about Mary is that she was a trusting woman. She trusted God not only to work in her own life, but also in the lives of those around her. Even after Joseph decided to divorce her, Mary trusted God and waited for Him to intervene rather than taking matters into her own hands, becoming manipulative, obsessive, or controlling. Rather than trying to force those around us to believe God, we must each surrender and trust God to work. If God said it, He will do it! His way, in His timing. Let's have the faith to wait.
In Luke 2, verses 19 and 51, we see that in the midst of the many responsibilities of being a wife and mother, Mary took time to contemplate what was happening in her life and to meditate on what God had done.
Being reflective is one of the hardest thing for a woman in the 21st century for one simple reason: it takes time. Life is crazy, and there are demands on us all of the time. When we finally do have a few minutes to ourselves, our default is to play a game on our phones, watch a TV show, or do some other mindless activity just to "de-stress."
But when we don't take the time to reflect on our lives, on what God is doing and how He is working in our lives we can miss out on so much! When we reflect on God's goodness through the blessings in our lives, we find joy. When we meditate on His sovereignty through the stresses of the day (or week, or month), we find peace and comfort. When we remember the ways He's answered our prayers, we find hope and encouragement. And through all of it, we grow.
God is always at work around us. Let's make sure we don't miss it - let's take the time to reflect on what's going on around so that we can be encouraged and strengthened and grow closer to God through the process.