Dec

3

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Categories: Encouragement, Faith, Grace

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Freedom at Last! But Are You Really Free?

If you walk around and take a survey of how many people claim to be Christians in our society today,  you will get the majority of people claiming that they are Christians. 76% of American adults claim to be Christians today. That is down from 87% who made that claim back in 1990. The decline of people who are involved in organized religions is increasing every year, not just Christianity, but in any kind of organized religion. Times are changing in the world, both economically and in our views about God. When you hit people in the pocket-book, that definitely will get their attention.

After all, the only reason we ever stay in anything is to attain a certain level of change, when or if, that change never happens, we are looking for the first exit we can find. Patience and long-suffering are not character traits that you see very often anymore today.

Many people get involved with God or a church for a specific reason. They are going through a tough time in their lives, a loved one has died, or they are just experiencing some type of loss that they want an answer for and relief from.

All of us view God, and who we think He is, from the influences we had as a kid. Our parents, economic situation, and total environment, all shaped what we think of God today.

I have talked with many atheists and people from other religious back grounds, and the one common thread that flows through them all is their desire for the truth. Nobody wants to be mislead or bamboozled…we want the truth. If that is you, then what I’m about to say is for you.

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

This promise was given to those who believed in Jesus. Jesus said to these believers and followers, that if they abide, or continue with him, that would mean that they are truly His disciples. If they are truly the disciples of Christ and they continue on with Him, they will discover what truth is all about, and this discovery will set them free. You want to know truth, then you might want to check out who Jesus Christ is?

Further down Jesus said in John 8:32, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Freedom at last! But are you really free? Many of us find freedom from addictions, a nagging spouse, a job that is dragging us down, but real freedom comes when you know the truth.

For the Christian, Romans chapters, six, seven, and eight, are the hinges of the door that opens to what the gospel and salvation really mean.

Chapter six, we are free from the penalty of sin.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Romans chapter eight, we are free from the presence of sin. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

But in Romans chapter seven we find a battle going on inside of every single one of us. Paul expressed this battle that wages in us, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:22-24

Ever experience something like that in your Christian life?  “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. ” Romans 7:15-20

Sound familiar? If you are a child of God, by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, then you definitely can relate to what Paul is talking about here. This is the battle of truth that goes on daily in our lives. It’s a constant power struggle over who we are going to believe and follow. Do we follow the sin that has so easily dominated most of our lives, or are we going to yield to the promptings of the Holy Spirit of God, that lives inside us, and follow the new person He is creating in us?

What if you had a terrible boss, that no one liked. He was rude and critical and always was yelling at you and ordering you around like you were some incompetent child? He was your boss and you had to do what he said.

Sin has no more authority over you anymore than that old boss you used to have.

One day he gets fired. The office is totally relieved to know that never again will you have to take his orders or do anything that he ever has to say. He’s finished controlling you.

Say you and your spouse are out for a nice dinner. You are really enjoying this nice quiet evening, when in walks your old boss. Just seeing him again makes the hairs on your back stand up. You cower in hopes that he doesn’t see you, but here he comes and he’s walking right over to you.

He walks over to you and he tells you to go over and get him a cup of coffee, and automatically you get up and run to the coffee machine…but wait a minute…he’s not your boss anymore and you don’t have to do anything that he says, remember? He has no more authority or control over you. You can tell him…No! I’m not doing what you tell me to do!

That’s the way it is with sin in our lives. We are the battle ground and Satan and the Holy Spirit are vying for our allegiance. We play a part in all this. Who are you going to go after?

We have been set free, but there is an old master that is not going away. He wants to constantly influence you and me to continue to live life the way we always have, by obeying our sinful cravings and desires.

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:24

That will be coming in the next article.

 

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May

23

By admin

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Categories: Encouragement, Integrity, Spreading The Good News

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The Miracle That Lasts Throughout Eternity – The Miracle of a Changed Heart

The Miracle of a Changed Heart

We read so much today about physical healing and miracles that deal with the physical nature, and those are all well and good, but we will all eventually succumb to old age and the body will give out and the door of death is something that we will all have to walk through one day. To me, the greatest miracle of all is the miracle that lasts throughout eternity, the miracle of a changed Heart.

About four years ago my mother-in-law’s life was taken over by pancreatic cancer. It is a horrible cancer, as all cancers are. To just watch as a person’s life ebbs away and all you can do is try to make them as comfortable as possible.It’s a very emotional and trying time for everyone. I say this not for pity or sadness on my part, but for my wife Lori.

Lori and I met about eighteen years ago when life was throwing me a curve. Lori gave me hope and the spark that was so buried deep inside me.  Oh, I tried to fight it and stay in my self-pity, but she did not give up. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.  We got married and I will save the rest of that story for another blog, but what I really want to concentrate on is her current situation.

After Lori’s mom passed, her best friend was diagnosed with cancer also. She also passed from this world and went on to the next. To take two hits like that is hard enough for anyone, but there was more to come.

Lori also suffers from degenerative back decease. She walks around most of the time in pain, physical pain. There is also an emotional pain that she walks around with too. That pain is called her Father.

He made cancer seem like a walk in the park. No man that I have ever met can compare with the selfish, angry, hateful heart that this man possessed. This heart did not come from the emotional pain that he endured from the death of his wife. Her passing from this life to the next was an entrance, from the fifty five years of hell that this man, put her through, to a place of peace and rest, where there is no more crying…. She is finally free from all of that.

This all goes back to when he lost his sister, who was just seven years old at the time, to cancer also. Those pressures and emotional scares were deep and Bob carried them throughout his lifetime. It was the only way he knew how to live with his very hurting and troubled heart.

Now the incarceration of my wife begins. Bob was trying to do the same things to my wife, his daughter, that he did to his wife. The verbal abuse, the constant harassment of phone calls, and demands for her time were never ending.

The story went on, and Lori and I both continued to pray for Bob. We prayed that God would keep us strong. To help us see what is really going on inside him. What is making him act the way he does. He is hurting. He is so very angry. And God, what is our part in all this? Sometimes I wanted to wring his neck, and other times I felt sorry for him.

He was the one who was really in prison. He was the one that  kept himself locked in, so afraid to come out, so afraid to face himself. But that is the only way he would ever be free. That is the only way any of us will ever be free. When we look in the mirror and see who we really are.

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

Well that prison door was about to be opened. It all started when Bob joined our men’s bible study.

I want to talk now about the miracle God performed in Bob, my father-in-law’s life.

He joined the men’s bible study that I facilitated. He really loved getting out of the house and being one of the guys, ever since his wife died. We would talk about our sports teams and we always had something to say about our beloved, Detroit Lions. We would do our best to tell of how we would right the ship, if only we were the Head Coach of the Lions. Once we got all that out of our system, we really did open our bibles and get into a study of God’s word. We would drink our coffee, and eat our little munchies and share life with each other. It was a good time.

Bob would come over to my house and we would ride together to the church where the bible study was held. Sometimes he would get there two hours early. Since I only lived three minutes from the church, it left a lot of time for us to talk.

Sometimes we would go out to dinner or just sit in the kitchen and talk before it was time to go to the study. Bob was lonely, and all he wanted was someone to talk too. I know that I would complain sometimes, because he would come over so early, and I had things to do, but you know, I kind of didn’t mind. We would have some good talks, and looking back, God was letting me see inside into Bob’s heart, and I was seeing something start to happen. Bob was reading his bible every day. Even his next door neighbor said she saw him sitting on their back deck reading his bible.

God was doing something in Bob’s heart. He was changing this man from the inside. He didn’t seem so uptight about things like he used too. He was actually starting to be nice to people. People were starting to notice this as well as us.

The real proof came on Christmas. We had all of the family over our house for our yearly Christmas celebration. Food was out, and everyone was mingling and talking and just sharing the joy of the season. Normally Bob would sit at the table and not talk to anyone, unless he was spoken too. But this year was different. He was reaching out to the kids and talking to them, and saying hello to everyone. He even sat with his daughter-in-law and talked to her for about an hour. He gave her a hug and a kiss when she left to go home. Now this was something that everyone stood up and took notice of, because everyone knew that Bob did not like Debbie. In the past he would never have spoken with her, let alone give her a hug and a kiss good bye. Everyone saw this and took notice that this was not the Bob they all new.

When everyone left, Bob stayed. He stayed for about three hours. I could tell that he just wanted to talk to someone. So we sat down at the kitchen table… and we talked.

He told us about a time when his mother had come to live with them. This was way back when my wife was still living at home. He proceeded to tell us how his wife treated his mother,” like she was an angel,” he said. “She treated her like a queen”, he continued. But the most shocking thing came next. With watery eyes, and a difficult time getting the words out, he admittedly said,” but I treated her like a jerk. I was an idiot.”

It was a very emotional moment, but this man, maybe for the first time in his life, was admitting that he was wrong. He admitted that he was not the man that he portrayed himself to be, and he had definitely not lived the kind of life that God required of him. He told me; “I just want to get to heaven and be with my Vergie.” That was his nick name for his wife. She had died of pancreatic cancer about twenty months before all this. They had been together for fifty five years.

Through the prayers, love and friendship of so many people, and most of all, the intervening of God’s word in Bob’s life, this man was changing right before our eyes. You have heard of the miracles of people being cured of physical ailments. I think the greatest miracle of all is when God gives a person a new heart. One that can see and feel the world from the way God sees everything.

On January 12, 2009, Robert McMaster died of a massive heart attack. They said that he was dead before he hit the ground.

I believe with my whole heart, and not a doubt in my mind, that Bob has finally reached the place that he always wanted to be.  He is in heaven, and he is with his Vergie.

If there was ever a person whom I thought was totally unreachable with the gospel of Jesus Christ, Bob would have been that person. I would have said that there was no way God could change Bob McMasters heart. I was so wrong.

God taught me that nothing is impossible with Him at the controls. Not only is Bob a great example of this, but my life as well.

The night that we went over to Bob’s house, after we got the call of his death, we found Bob’s bible opened to this verse.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14: 2-3

Right now Bob and Vergie are in the place that God had been preparing for them. How about you? Have you examined your heart lately? Better yet, why not let God take a look at it. After all… He’s the one who wired it up. No one knows better how to fix it than He does. Just ask Him. He will do it.

“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jer. 29:13

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your  thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  Isaiah 55: 8-11

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

 

 

 

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