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Today I Saw God

Set Free

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"Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you." Galatians 5:1

Several years ago, in the midst of a carpool drop-off, a friend said to me in passing, "Someday I want you to tell me why you always seem so content." If I recall correctly, I laughed and said that my kids and husband might disagree with her characterization but that I would love to have coffee and chat more about it. And I said, "The short answer to your question is my faith. My relationship with God is the source of what I think you are noticing in me."

That was several years ago now, but that conversation and our follow-up discussions popped into my mind when I was thinking about the word "freedom" and what Paul might have been talking about in the verse above. Any joy, peace or contentment that my life manifests is the gift of God's love, grace, mercy and presence in my life.

Simply put, although it sounds a bit sappy, God's love sets me free.

When I am plugged into the power of the Holy Spirit, God's love sets me free from:

  • comparison and envy
  • perfectionism and people pleasing
  • competition and the need to be right/better/smarter
  • a world with no boundaries to keep me safe
  • guilt and shame about the past
  • worry and fear about the future
  • the sense that everything is my responsibility/fault/job to fix
  • loneliness and isolation
  • addiction to self and my narcissistic idiosyncrasies

When I abide in him, God's love, grace and forgiveness sets me free to:

  • be brave, be me
  • create, imagine, explore, dream, risk, try new things
  • be vulnerable and authentic in my relationships
  • love and serve others well
  • find peace through obedience to the ways of Jesus
  • be confident and self-assured
  • extend grace to myself and others
  • forgive myself and others
  • make a difference in his kingdom by sharing my unique gifts

Do I always live in this freedom? No. Sometimes I forget that I am God's beloved child. Sometimes I get distracted. Sometimes I get insecure and petty and confused and scared.

But then I remember.

I remember that I am loved beyond all measure. My heavenly father delights in me.

I remember that I belong to God and that he will never, ever leave me alone to figure out life by myself. God has my back.

I remember that I have the mind and spirit of Christ within me at all times. If I listen, God makes me wise.

I remember what Jesus said about focusing on the most important thing: love God with all our heart, soul, mind and spirit and love others well. God loves people through me.

I remember that I am made in God's image. Therefore, when I am abiding in God's power, I am creative, loving, gifted, equipped and sent out by him. When I temporarily forget and act otherwise, through Jesus, I am forgiven and I can try again. And again. And again.

I remember that God wants to partner with me, and with you, in bringing his kingdom down to earth. We get to be on Team Jesus! We can fight for justice, feed the hungry, love the unloved and be light in the darkness. We have the power to change our little corner of the world by being brave and following Jesus to heal our broken world.

When we stay connected to God, we are free!

Originally published on www.kellyiveyjohnson.com.

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Sermon Response: View from 9-12

A Nation Remembers

I am a bit relieved to write "9-12" in my journal today, the day after. I am not sure what I was expecting on our Day of Remembrance. More attacks? National Sadness? Silence? I read moving accounts of people who were changed on that day, remembered loved ones, and commemorated acts of heroism. I recall words written ten years ago by my then 11 year old daughter, "On Monday, we rushed on to avoid the person on the street; on Tuesday, we crossed over and smiled to greet them."

We were different on Tuesday. We talked about how life would never be the same. We were living a time that would be recorded in history books, and now is. As a nation we were a people wanting to capture the moment and yet move on. To stay and go at the same time. It is the wisdom of recording our stories and the greater wisdom of looking back on them.

From them not only can we see how far we've come but in what direction we are headed. That's what the Remembering the Future sermon series has been about. How gracious of the Spirit (or how brilliant of Tom) to see how beautifully it would all dovetail.

Yesterday in worship we got a glimpse into Paul's prison cell as he wrote to his church in Ephesus.Could he have known this letter would circulate to faithful who would be staggering through a temple in ruins?Paul may have known his death was imminent, yet he pens praises to God and expressions of God's infinite love in a letter which will encourage the church. Paul refused to let his jail cell imprison him. He wouldn't despairbecausehe could see beyond his circumstances and theirs to the glorious riches in the throne room of God.

We call those people visionary who can look beyond, but often in crisis we don't know who they are – until we look back. Sometimes then we can seehow prophetic they were and, perhapshow blinded we have been.

You might enjoy this video link of JonStewartfrom the Daily Show that aired the day after the 9-11 attacks. A comedian and satirist turned serious, he reflects the mood and message in New York on September the 12th. Through tears he says, "The view from myapartmentwas the Twin Towers. It isn't any more." He pauses to gather himself and then says, "Now, my view is the Statue of Liberty."

You can destroy our buildings but you can't take away our freedom. And freedom in Christ lasts forever.

~ Wendy LeBolt

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Freedom and the Holy Spirit Dance

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What is this country coming to? It's easy to shake our heads and wonder.

Stars and Stripes

On July 4th our founding fathers are always lauded for their efforts in cobbling together a Declaration that was as daring as it was dangerous. They invoked the touch of the Creator in this great democratic experiment, making it sound like it was God's idea. When I read a bit more about Thomas Jefferson, who supposedly clipped from his Bible all the parts he disagreed with, I wonder whether God was really very much there with our founders.

But then I marvel that 56 men from 13 colonies could unanimously agree on anything and have to figure that Divine Inspiration and Guidance was in the room. (Sorry guys. It's a free country.)

Reverend Miner painted a beautiful picture from her trip to Cuba. (listen to sermon) In spite of hardship, mistrust and poverty, the Cuban faithful danced and praised and blasted Word and song into the streets. Barbara saw Freedom and the Holy Spirit dance and they told her "Pay attention…Greater things are yet to come and greater things are yet to be done in this city." She is certain this is true for Cuba.

But is it true here? Or in our proud self-sufficiency and patriotism, have we lost sight of God?

Our national debate is whether to change our National Anthem from the Star Spangled Banner to America the Beautiful, while (could it be true?) our newest citizens sworn in on this historic day hear Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" instead? We are surely a nation blessed by God, but shouldn't it then be Bless God, America?

It's one of the things I enjoy most about worship on the 4th of July weekend. We get to sing all the verses of our national songs. The 4th verse of America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee):

Our fathers' God, to thee,author of liberty, to thee we sing;

long may our land be bright with freedom's holy light;

protect us by thy might,Great God, our King.

The early days of our nationhood must have called out faith in more than our constitutional politicians, flawed then as we are now. Enough to sing and dance and praise. It bears repeating more than once a year.

I am reminded of this every time I see a penny on the ground, thanks to my youngest daughter. According to her if it's heads up, it's lucky so you pick it up. If it's "tails" then you turn it over so someone else can find it lucky. Why is heads up lucky? "Because, Mom," she tells me, "Abraham Lincoln is looking up to God."

Freedom in Christ certainly looks up. Happy Independence Day!

-Wendy LeBolt

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