Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Retreat to Freedom

24 Nov

I declared Friday a personal retreat. My husband was out of town, the temperature dropped below Karo, and amazingly, I had nothing on my calendar. Posole simmered in the crockpot beside a bowl of homemade Chex Mix and percolating cider. A light dusting of snow on icy streets created a perfect homebound day.

Of course, there’s always a dose of reality in any idyllic scene. I brought our old birddog, Jax, out of the 21o
air, because his twisted arthritic feet don’t do well in the cold. He’s a big outside dog; I had no idea he could produce so much poop. (Sigh) Ah, well. His comfort was worth cleaning the sunroom floor.

My goal for the day was to stay with whatever God showed me in my daily reading until I really got it. Lately, as I read Scripture, I’d write the teaching I believe the Holy Spirit had for me, pray, and then jump into my day without meditating. I hadn’t taken time to follow that teaching to its logical and practical conclusion so I wasn’t seeing the change I desired.

Here’s what God showed me: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV).

I realized I wanted to do the retreat “right” and not waste the rare day I had to spend entirely with God. A very strong impression quickly tumbled over that thought; God wanted me to celebrate and enjoy the day. Today wasn’t about getting it right; it was about freedom. Instant tears of gratitude and praise blurred my vision. My tears pointed me to a tender place not totally healed. I really want to live in freedom, but one might suppose I prefer guilt.

I immediately thought of Romans, which probably contains more theology per line than most books in the Bible. I spent at least an hour in the already underlined fifth through eighth chapters, proof that I didn’t quite get it the first ___ (how many?) times.

Wow. So much there, but one verse really jumped out at me, “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:6 ESV).

Life seems easier when I can check off a list—and there’s nothing wrong with a list. There’s nothing wrong with the Law. It’s knowing what I should do that creates the desire within me to do the opposite. (See Romans 7:7ff.) My flesh wars against my mind. Like Paul, there are times when I cry out, “Wretched [person] that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24 NRSV).

I’m extremely grateful that Paul didn’t stop there. I don’t think anything could have kept him from speaking those next words. Once again, I want to shout with Paul, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. . . There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 7:25a; 8:1 NRSV).

With God’s help, I will live in obedience to Him and not to self-imposed bondage. I’m usually a joyful person, but sometimes I just put on that old yoke to see if it still fits. I need to remember another bit of wisdom from Paul.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 ESV)

I had a freedom-filled day celebrating God’s word, good food, texting, and cuddling with Sunshine. I even finished my mystery. I felt refreshed and deeply satisfied. My prayer is that you carve out some time, so you too can retreat to freedom.

Curb Walking

29 Jun

I didn’t want to do it. I’d used the cooler morning to work in my vegetable garden and by 9:00, it was already 80 degrees. However, I’d met one of my writing deadlines; it was now time to start taking care of my temple.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20 NIV).

It helps if I talk to myself. 
“This is the first day of the rest of my life. Get started. You can do it.”
Did I mention I didn’t want to do it?

I know routine helps me do the hard things. Apply sunscreen. Assemble hat, water, cell phone (includes music and timer). Stretch.
“It’s getting hotter and I really don’t want to do this.”

The strangest thing happened. I opened the door and started down the block. I had to stop and adjust my music. An instrumental version of “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” made me smile. About two blocks from home, the Maranatha Singers serenaded me with a favorite Scripture from the King James Bible. “As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee” (Psalm 42:1 NIV).

I wasn’t panting yet.

It was time to renew my habit of curb walking. You may not have seen it done. I never have. Perhaps it’s time to share my secret of turning a walk into a workout without putting stress on joints. You’ll need a certain amount of “who cares what I look like” confidence, a neighborhood with curbs, and not too much traffic.

I walk close to the curb and take two steps on the street. Then I step up and take two steps on the sidewalk. Back to the street for two steps, then two steps on the sidewalk, and so on I go. Once you get the hang of it, you can move quickly.

One gentleman on a recumbent bike stopped me last spring. He had watched me cross the street to step up with my left foot for a block, then cross back to the other side and step up with my right foot for a block. I knew he was watching and I was a little embarrassed. But I didn’t stop.

“What is it you’re doing,” he asked as I approached.
“I’m curb walking. It’s my version of walking and step aerobics. That’s why I continue crossing back and forth across the street.”
“I’ve never seen it done, but it’s a good idea. You should be proud.”
“Thank you. I know it looks silly, but it’s a good workout.”
“Don’t worry about how it looks. Just keep it up.” He rode off on his bike, his big dog leased by his side. That conversation did a lot for me. Thank you, God, for using other people to encourage us.

Surprisingly, I had a great time worshiping God and taking care of myself at the same time. It was only 25 minutes, but I’ll eventually get back to that hour I was doing five days a week last year. And to think I didn’t really want to do it.

New Mind, New Me

25 May

I’ve kept a journal for many years. I sometimes read a page and ask myself, “Did I write that? Wow. That’s good stuff. God was really speaking to me that day.” But more often than I care to admit, I found repeated confessions for the same mistakes, and the same longing to be like Christ. In earlier journals, such longing resulted in new resolve and determined effort to “live the Christian life.” Yet I predictably reverted to my previous behavior.

Two verses helped me understand why resolving to change usually ends in failure.
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. . .” (Matthew 15:19 NASB).
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 NASB).

Simply put, we can’t experience true transformation by just trying harder. In order to change our behavior, we must first ask God to change our heart. (See post It’s Time for Some Good News, May 18, 2013). I refer to the biblical view of heart—our spirit and our will. The heart is the center of our being, the part of us that’s under our control. God first loves us, forgives us, and gives us new life. Then we must do our part. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. God’s Spirit offers love, life, and power. We decide what to believe, think, and obey.

On the most basic level, that requires belief in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. When we trust Christ to forgive our sins and give us new life, we receive the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live like Christ. From that moment, we become collaborators with the Spirit, working together to mold us into Christ’s true disciple. In deciding what to believe, it’s our responsibility to learn God’s perspective on any situation.

Let’s take Ephesians 4:31–32 as an example. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (NIV).

Trying to get rid of anger by dogged determination results in short term success at best and failure at worst. Yet Scripture holds that out as the Christian way of life. What then is our strategy? First, we desire change and believe it’s possible. Next, we choose to renew our mind (Romans 12:2) and cooperate with God’s indwelling Spirit. That means finding ways to place ourselves in God’s presence and allow Him to change us. That involves prayer, asking God to reveal what’s inside us that produces anger. Must I be in control or be appreciated? Do I allow others to take advantage of me? Do I need help with an abusive situation? Am I simply exhausted and need sleep? Perhaps, I need more alone time with God or Bible study.

The Holy Spirit answers our questions through Scripture, wise Christian counsel, His still small voice within, and common sense. Then we choose to obey or disobey. Obedience leads to growth and intimacy with Christ; disobedience leads to distance and spiritual immaturity. We repeat this cycle repeatedly in many different situations. Over time, we’re transformed into the likeness of Christ. Our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions flow naturally from His Spirit. At that point, we become unaware of Christ speaking or behaving through us, because such attitudes and actions come from our identity in Him.

I love how 2 Corinthians 5:17 in the New King James Bible describes this radical change.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

A new mind, a new me—-His gracious gift offered to every believer.

We Need Supernatural Help

19 Apr

Most of us have felt alone and hopeless at some point in our lives, but that lie can lead to disastrous life-changing consequences. Jesus never intended His followers to live without supernatural help, that’s why His last words on earth were “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b). I find that extremely encouraging and I pray you do too.

Even though Jesus isn’t with us in bodily form, His Spirit lives within all believers just as He promised in John 14:16–17. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper,* that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (*Helper can also be translated Counselor, Advocate, and Comforter.)

Please consider several biblical truths that demonstrate how God loves us and offers His help, counsel, support, and comfort.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV).

There is no sin or situation beyond God’s love. The Bible records God’s forgiveness for every type of sin: murder, adultery, theft, gossip, prostitution, lying and more. The problem is no longer sin, because Christ died for all sin.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5: 8 NASB).

The question becomes “Will you accept God’s love and forgiveness available in Jesus Christ?”
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 ESV).

God doesn’t wait for us to get ourselves straightened out or cleaned up. He accepts us where we are. Jesus takes our sin and replaces it with His love and power. Even in pain and trouble, He gives us hope.
“. . . hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5 ESV).

1 John 4:8b tells us that “God is love.” Although 1 Corinthians 13 describes how we are to love to one another, it seems reasonable to assume God perfectly demonstrates all these loving characteristics. Try personalizing these verses. In other words, God is patient and kind with me.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7 NIV).

And finally…
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38–39).

Perhaps you feel hopeless and need to renew your mind with the truth of God’s love and forgiveness. Or perhaps you can share how you overcame feelings of hopeless. Let us hear from you.