Sharpen Your Sword (week of 11/30/08)

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Ok, let me be perfectly honest here. 

I was going to write about James 1:13-14 today.  In fact, I had it written and was just adding a few supplemental verses at the end. 

But, I came across something that stumped me, and realized I may not have it exactly right, yet.  So, I’m going to pass over that one for now and go on to one of my favorite verses.

John 8:32   And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.

Are you in bondage?  Are you a slave to someone or something?  Work, drugs, sex, alcohol, money, anything?  Are you a slave to sin?  Are you a slave to religion?

Did you know that you have a Redeemer who has come “to set the captives free?”  It’s true!  And, it’s amazing!

Ask anyone who has been rescued from a life or death situation, and they will tell you of the immense relief they felt.  No, relief is too light a word.  Honestly, I’m not sure how to describe that feeling.  And, yes, I have been on the receiving end of such a rescue. 

About 4-1/2 years ago I was in a position where I thought I was “hooked up.”  I mean, I believed in Jesus…that’s all it took right?

Wrong.

**NOTE:  Reading further is probably going to anger some.  That is not my intention.  My intention is to reveal the Truth of Christ’s love for the church through the example of some of my own experiences.

I thought that as long as I didn’t commit the “Big 3” sins, I was ok – you know, murder, theft, and adultery.  I was told that going to church and confessing to a priest was necessary for forgiveness.  I was encouraged to pray to saints and to the virgin Mary.  (No, I am not knocking Catholics here….but, this was my experience and this is what I learned from it.)  And, there was more, but I won’t get into the rest.

I did go into that cubicle and confess to the priest.  He told me to go have a good weekend.  WHAaa???  Needless to say, I was confused.  Wasn’t there more to it than that?  Didn’t I need to say some Hail Marys, or something? 

Well, God is so gracious.  He sent me someone I had never met (and still haven’t met in person!  Hint hint!) to point out to me the error of my ways.  I learned that I was right to question the need to confess to a priest once a year, or, at all.  In fact, I learned the truth that the only One I needed to confess to – the only One in fact, who could absolve me of my sin anyway – was Jesus!  I learned I was right to question praying to the dead – ie, saints, Mary, etc.  

It was not until this revelation that I began my life anew as a true, repentant believer in the Son of God, Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  And, the truth of being set free creates a euphoria that cannot be explained and never fades.  I was saved….and my chains were gone.  The ransom – PAID.

Slavery comes in many forms, and I was very close to accepting the chains offered to me that would have placed me in bondage (and kept me in bondage to previous unconfessed {to God} sin).  I am so grateful to God that He chose to intervene.  My rescue from God came via email!  At least the first installment.  It’s kind of like I was hanging from the edge of a rocky cliff, and was held onto long enough (the email) to allow someone to tie a rope (the Bible) around my waist.  The rope pulled me to safety, and prevented me from getting close to the edge again.  

Now, I am not saying that the Catholic church is a rocky cliff to jump (or be pushed) off.  But my experience was that the legalities kept me from experiencing true Christianity.  Religion, yes.  Christianity, no.  There is a difference.  Religion = legalities/rules/regulations = BONDAGE.  Christianity = FREEDOM IN CHRIST.

And it was the Word – the TRUTH of God that set me free. 

Jesus came to set the captives free, and wants nothing more than to draw you to Him, and rescue you from the edge of whatever cliff you are desperately hanging onto today.  Grab hold of His hand, and let Him pull you to safety.  Let Him pull you close and keep you from the edge.  He wants to rescue you – after all, you are His creation – His child. 

Other than the sin we are in bondage to before we are born again as believers, there are various ways Satan chooses to keep us in chains:

Drugs

Alcohol

Sex/pornography/homosexuality (there are TONS of things in this category…but I’m sure you understand)

Money – wealth/debt – Material things

Work

Marriage/Children/Family (If we place these relationships ABOVE our relationship with Jesus in our priority, then we are, indeed, in bondage to them.)

Success/fame/personal glory

Gluttony

Vanity

Lies/deceit

Hate/anger

Religious legalities

Abuse – emotional/physical/sexual

Impure thoughts

And the list goes on….

I encourage you to find a fellow believer if you are in bondage today – ask them to pray with you that your chains will be lifted and that you will be freed by the Truth that is Jesus.  Even now, before you accept that new-found freedom, read your Bible everyday.  There is so much truth in it, that you can’t help to remain free with God’s grace!

May all God’s children experience true Christian freedom.

Psalm 51:10,

Toni

Iron sharpeneth iron…

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Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.  Proverbs 27:17

On our trip to Houston this past weekend, we were blessed to be able to stay at the home of some dear friends of ours.  (You know who you are!)  I cannot begin to count the ways the Lord has blessed us through them.  With loving kindness, they have brought a message from God to us on many different subjects.  And to top it off, they surprised us with another great blessing – another dear couple from our old church joined us for dinner!  It was a joyful reunion, and a gift and blessing that means so much to me.  Friends have always been very important in my life, and these two sweet couples simply define friends.  I have learned much from both, and look forward to spending eternity with such as these. 

This verse from Proverbs proves that we can learn from our friends and that having friends can definitely improve our attitude.  God uses our friends to show His grace, His comfort, His mercy, and His heart – sometimes.  No man is an island, is the saying.  A man with no friends is a very lonely man, indeed.

But be warned:  But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.  Then all the disciples forsook Him, and fled.  Matthew 26:56. 

Friends are wonderful gifts from Jehovah, but we must be sure to keep our friendships in their right place.  They are a gift FROM God, not an idol to be placed on a pedestal.  Our friends are human, and therefore, completely fallible.  They will fail us on occasion.  There will be times when we call, and they will not be there.  There will be times when they don’t listen and grieve or mourn with us.  They will not always take our side in a battle, and we will have disagreements. 

But, there is hope!  There is One Friend we can always count on…One Friend who will never leave us nor forsake us. 

Isaiah 54:10  For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.

John 14:18  I will not leave you comfortless:  I will come to you.

Hebrews 13:5  Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have:  for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

No matter what the circumstance…no matter if everyone else around us has fled the scene, Jesus remains.  When it seems no one is listening, He is.  And, it is my contention that sometimes He causes our human friends to forsake us so that we have to turn to Him.  He longs for us to run to Him first, every time.  He is waiting, with open arms, for the chance to comfort, to teach, to grieve, or to praise with you! 

I can honestly say that my best friend on earth is my husband.  I love him more than I can express with words (and I can talk – a lot!).  But, there are times when he can’t give me what I need.  Only Jesus can help at those times.  It is not a cause to be angry at or blame my husband for a shortcoming, because in doing so I am condemning the entire human race. 

We can’t be everything to ANYONE.  There is a void that only Christ can fill, and there is a limited time to ask Him to do so. 

So, I implore you this day, right now, if you have not asked the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ to be your Best Friend – to save you from your sins and the wrath to come, do it now, while there is still time.

Standing on the Rock of Ages,

Toni