For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh

13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13
 
We have been given liberty through Jesus Christ. But the liberty we have in Christ is not to be spent on selfish gain. It is to be used simply for serving and love one another. It is impossible to truly love without knowing Jesus Christ. It is only through the freedom that one has in Christ that it enables one to truly serve and love another.
 
Our salvation we have in Christ is a gift from Almighty God. May we be wise stewards of the gift we have been given. It is not earned, it is simply received. May we understand how precious the gift is that God has given us and the price that Jesus truly paid so that we could be free. Because when we use the freedom we have in Christ to pursue the selfish desires within us we simply make a mockery of all that Jesus has accomplished.
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For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 NKJV

The plans and purposes that God has for us are far greater than we know.  Often times when we find ourselves in a difficult season in life it can feel as if God has forgotten us or given up on us.  But He is always working in our lives to accomplish His plans and His purposes.  But the key is in seeking the Lord daily.  Because as we seek Him we shall find Him.  He will bring all things to pass by His mighty power and His grace.  One of the things we learn as we grow in Christ is to rest in the Lord and in His timing.  When we do things according to God’s timing things always run very smoothly because it is the Lord alone accomplishing His plans and purposes. May we seek Him daily and keep our eyes fixed upon Him.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love

romans 838-39

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39

There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.  The apostle Paul as he writes these words truly communicates that nothing can separate us from God’s love.  Many today have a false perception of the love of God because for most of their lives they have been hurt by people they thought were suppose to love and support them.

Many believe that God’s love is based upon our performance or our behavior.  But God’s love is eternal and unconditional.  He desires to lavish His love upon us and when we rightly understand God’s love we will grow in intimacy with Jesus.  The reason many struggle in their relationship with God is because they have a wrong understanding of God’s love.

Some because of legalism believe that God’s love has to be earned and that somehow God’s love changes based upon our obedience.  But if God’s love changed based upon our behavior it wouldn’t be love.  If our love was based upon our behavior then we would constantly live in fear of God believing that somehow He would take His love from us.

But the truth is that He has chosen to love us.  He understands our every weakness and He still chooses to love us.  He loves us because He is love.  Love is His very nature and when we have a right understanding of His love we will draw near daily, growing in His love.

As we grow in His love, we are filled with His love.  As we are filled with His love we will naturally desire to lavish His love upon others.  The world is filled with broken and lost people and the Lord is simply looking for those who will be vessels of His love.  The only way to be filled with His love is to draw near to Him and spend time alone with Him in His presence.  Day by day we are transformed into His nature and character by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Perfect love expels all fear

1 John 418

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

1 John 4:18 NLT

Perfect love is only found in Jesus Christ.  When we understand the love that God has for us we will not walk in fear.  God’s love is unconditional and eternal.  It is not based on performance nor based upon behavior.  Our Father in Heaven will discipline us when we do things and get involved in things that we shouldn’t.  But His love for us does not change.

One of the reason people walk in fear is because they are afraid of punishment.  There is a true judgement and punishment that awaits those who have rejected Jesus Christ.  Those who have rejected Jesus Christ will spend an eternity separated from God in the lake of fire in torment.  When we examine all that Jesus went through to save us we understand the full measure that awaits those who die apart from seek forgiveness from the Lord.

For us to fully experience God’s love in our lives it requires that we abide in Christ daily and draw near to Him.  He is the vine and we are the branches.  It is through Him that true life is found.  Every day we have the opportunity to draw near to the Lord.  The level at which we seek the Lord is the level at which we will understand His love for us.

Commit your way to the Lord

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.  Psalm 37:5-6

There is great blessing in committing our way to the Lord.  Committing our way to the Lord means that we willingly surrender our lives to the will of Almighty God.  There is great peace in simply trusting the Lord.  Too many times we try to control everything, but God is simply calling us to let go and trust Him in all things.

The Lord will always have His way in our lives.  Many times when we have been wronged in life we sometimes think that God has forgotten us and abandoned us.  But He has an exact time when He will move.  But trusting the Lord can be hard because it requires that we live by faith and not by sight.

As we trust the Lord we develop deep intimacy with Him.  We come to know Him in a much deeper way and He begins to transform our lives from the inside out.  He has given us His word and He has given us the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  May we fix our hearts and minds upon Jesus this day and be obedient to all that the Lord leads us to do.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

1 John 4:11-12 NIV

John writes that since God first loved us we should love one another.  The true mark of a disciple of Jesus Christ is someone who is filled with His love, grace, and mercy.  Simply carrying the title Christian means nothing.  Christianity requires action and everything we do should be from a place of God’s love.

When the love of God is manifested in our lives one for another the character and nature of God is on display.  Many will reject the existence of God and the truth of the bible, but what they can’t deny is a life that is transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  God simply desires to use our lives to glorify His name so that others will be drawn to Him for salvation.

His desire is that none should perish, but all come to everlasting life.  In this hour in which we find ourselves upon the earth we know that our time is very short and His soon return is very soon.  There is coming a day when the judgement and wrath of Almighty God is poured out upon the earth.  Until that time may we be diligent students of God’s word and faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

May our hearts be consumed with His love and His grace.  Every opportunity we have may we lavish the love that God has lavished upon us on others.  There are so many who are broken and lost that surround us daily.  May we see the fields are ripe for harvest and be the generation of sons and daughters that God has called us to be.

That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do

That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.[b]

10 I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. 11 Onesimus[c] hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. 12 I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.

13 I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf. 14 But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced. 15 It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever. 16 He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!

20 Yes, my brother, please do me this favor[d] for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.

21 I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!22 One more thing—please prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me return to you soon.  Philemon 8-22

Paul writes in his letter that he could demand that Philemon do this in Christ because it is only right to forgive a brother or sister in the Lord.  But Paul appeals to the love that is within us because of Christ Jesus.  For everything we do should be motivated by the love of Christ.  People will know that we are disciples by the love that is within us and it is this very love that Paul is appealing Philemon to act on.

Paul refers to Onesimus as his own child in the faith because it is under the ministry of Paul while he was in prison that Onesimus came to saving faith in Christ Jesus.  When Onesimus ran away from Philemon he was not yet a believer.  But now the apostle Paul appeals to Philemon to receive Onesimus because he is a child of God and a fellow brother in the Lord.  When Paul states that he is his very heart it shows the love, Paul has for Onesimus.  It is truly amazing how the Lord transforms the life of a person by transforming their heart.  When we examine who Paul was before he came to know Christ and we read these words as Paul is now an old man and close to leaving this earth, it is truly a picture of the grace and power of God.

Paul’s desire was to have Onesimus stay with him and aide him in his ministry.  But Paul knew the right thing to do would be to send Onesimus back to Philemon.  Paul’s appeal is for Philemon to forgive Onesimus and not receive him as a runaway slave, but to receive him as a brother in the Lord.  This is a true picture of God’s grace for us.  For all of us are born into sin and don’t deserve the mercy and grace of God.  But God in His love, compassion, grace, and mercy receives us into His kingdom and His family.  May we always be willing to forgive those who wrong us and always to lavish on others the grace and love that Christ Jesus has for us.

Paul appeals to the fact that Paul is the one who led Philemon to the Lord.  This is why Paul says that he owes him his very soul.  Paul also states that whatever Onesimus may owe that it can be charged to the apostle Paul.  Our lives should be lived according to God and His ways and whenever we have the opportunity to demonstrate the love, mercy, and grace of God we should do so.  The measure at which we pour it out to others is the measure it will be returned back to us.

Paul’s hope is that Philemon would heed the request of Paul.  He is also hoping that Philemon would prepare a guest room for Paul so that when Paul got done in prison that He would have a place to stay.  Christian charity is so vital to the spread and advancement of God’s kingdom.  When the apostle Paul would travel from area to area preaching and ministering he often relied on the charity of others to give him a place to stay.  It was all established by the Lord.  We must remember that nothing we have on this earth belongs to us.  We are simply called to be stewards of that which God has entrusted us with.  Paul’s appeal to Philemon was for Philemon to forgive and receive Onesimus.  When we understand what Christ has done for us we will never have an issue for forgiving those who have wronged us or injured us.

I am writing to Philemon, our beloved co-worker

This letter is from Paul, a prisoner for preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.

I am writing to Philemon, our beloved co-worker, and to our sister Apphia, and to our fellow soldier Archippus, and to the church that meets in your[a] house.

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.  Philemon 1-3

This letter written to Philemon was written by the apostle Paul from prison.  Paul was placed in prison for preaching about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul understood the depths of God’s grace because of the man he was before he came to know Christ Jesus.  He knew that he was simply saved by grace and not based on anything he had done to earn salvation.

The apostle Paul list some of those who would receive and read his letter in the church that met in the home of Philemon.  We must remember that when the church began there were many challenges that early believers faced and one of them was finding places to meet and fellowship.  Often times these fellowships would begin in the home of someone.  Paul also refers to one of the recipients as a fellow soldier.  Paul knew the many challenges that he had faced in advancing God’s kingdom and that follow Christ was no easy task.  Daily we find ourselves in a spiritual warzone and it is essential that we develop deep intimacy with the Lord.  The greatest investment we can make is time spent in prayer and the diligent study of God’s word.

Grace and peace are only found through Jesus Christ.  What distinguishing Christianity from all the other so-called religions of the world is Jesus Christ.  It is through His death and resurrection alone that we find salvation.  Through faith the grace of God is lavished upon our lives.  As we grow in Christ our lives are filled with God’s peace and His presence.  He enables and empowers us to accomplish His will.  A right understanding of His word and who we are in Him is essential for us to experience all that God has for us.

We thank you, O God!  We give thanks because you are near.  People everywhere tell of your wonderful deeds.

We thank you, O God!
    We give thanks because you are near.
    People everywhere tell of your wonderful deeds.

God says, “At the time I have planned,
    I will bring justice against the wicked.
When the earth quakes and its people live in turmoil,
    I am the one who keeps its foundations firm. Interlude

“I warned the proud, ‘Stop your boasting!’
    I told the wicked, ‘Don’t raise your fists!
Don’t raise your fists in defiance at the heavens
    or speak with such arrogance.’”
For no one on earth—from east or west,
    or even from the wilderness—
    should raise a defiant fist.[a]
It is God alone who judges;
    he decides who will rise and who will fall.
For the Lord holds a cup in his hand
    that is full of foaming wine mixed with spices.
He pours out the wine in judgment,
    and all the wicked must drink it,
    draining it to the dregs.

But as for me, I will always proclaim what God has done;
    I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
10 For God says, “I will break the strength of the wicked,
    but I will increase the power of the godly.”  Psalm 75

This Psalm begins with thanksgiving to the Lord.  The writer of the Psalm writes your wonderous works declare your name is near.  God is not far away.  He is closer than our every breath.  He walks with us in all things and often when we feel overwhelmed with the challenges we face on a daily basis we can lose sight of this.

The Lord has established all things by His power and His might.  He has an appointed time for all things and all will stand in judgement before the Lord.  We are accountable for the way we have lived our lives upon this earth.  Many today reject the truth of who God is and their lives are given over to the wickedness of this world.

The Lord seeks those who are humble and will elevate them in due time.  But to those who are arrogant and boastful the Lord will bring low.  Those who live in wickedness believe their lives to be untouchable.  But God has an appointed time when He will deal with all things.

The Lord at His appointed time will judge all things.  No one will escape the judgement of Almighty God.  He alone is the one who judges and He alone is the one who sits upon the throne of eternity.  His will is sovereign and His will is inescapable.  He offers salvation to all, but only those who submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ shall be saved.

God will increase the power and strength of the godly.  While we are on this earth it seems as if the wicked prosper, but this only happens for a season.  A man reaps what he sows and those who sow to the things of wickedness and sin, in time will reap destruction.  May our eyes not be fixed upon this world and the circumstances we face.  But may our eyes be focused upon God and His word.  His word is true and He will fulfill His every plan and purpose upon the earth.

Remember that we are the people you chose long ago,     the tribe you redeemed as your own special possession!     And remember Jerusalem, your home here on earth.

O God, why have you rejected us so long?
    Why is your anger so intense against the sheep of your own pasture?
Remember that we are the people you chose long ago,
    the tribe you redeemed as your own special possession!
    And remember Jerusalem,[b] your home here on earth.
Walk through the awful ruins of the city;
    see how the enemy has destroyed your sanctuary.

There your enemies shouted their victorious battle cries;
    there they set up their battle standards.
They swung their axes
    like woodcutters in a forest.
With axes and picks,
    they smashed the carved paneling.
They burned your sanctuary to the ground.
    They defiled the place that bears your name.
Then they thought, “Let’s destroy everything!”
    So they burned down all the places where God was worshiped.

We no longer see your miraculous signs.
    All the prophets are gone,
    and no one can tell us when it will end.
10 How long, O God, will you allow our enemies to insult you?
    Will you let them dishonor your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your strong right hand?
    Unleash your powerful fist and destroy them.

12 You, O God, are my king from ages past,
    bringing salvation to the earth.
13 You split the sea by your strength
    and smashed the heads of the sea monsters.
14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan[c]
    and let the desert animals eat him.
15 You caused the springs and streams to gush forth,
    and you dried up rivers that never run dry.
16 Both day and night belong to you;
    you made the starlight[d] and the sun.
17 You set the boundaries of the earth,
    and you made both summer and winter.

18 See how these enemies insult you, Lord.
    A foolish nation has dishonored your name.
19 Don’t let these wild beasts destroy your turtledoves.
    Don’t forget your suffering people forever.

20 Remember your covenant promises,
    for the land is full of darkness and violence!
21 Don’t let the downtrodden be humiliated again.
    Instead, let the poor and needy praise your name.

22 Arise, O God, and defend your cause.
    Remember how these fools insult you all day long.
23 Don’t overlook what your enemies have said
    or their growing uproar.  Psalm 74

The writer of Psalm 74 appeals to the Lord that He would move in their midst.  He reminds the Lord of the covenant that God established with Israel and is asking the Lord to move mightily in their midst.  To bring healing and restoration.  God has given us the opportunity to seek His face and we should never treat it lightly.  He not only hears the prayers of His people but He moves greatly when His people pray.

The writer speaks of the enemy’s battle cry and smashing the sanctuary of the Lord.  The writer is pointing to what the enemy has done is asking the Lord to move because of the wickedness of the enemy.  We today can still pray for the justice and righteousness of God.  But the enemy we face is not flesh and blood.  The enemy we face is a spiritual enemy who is already defeated.  We must remember to fix our eyes upon Jesus in all and every circumstance.

The writer speaks of God’s miraculous power being absent from Israel and the absence of the prophets.  He is asking the Lord to move mightily with His strong right hand.  Many times when we are waiting upon the Lord it can be very difficult.  But God will move in His perfect time and in the waiting He is doing a deep work in our hearts.

The writer many of the great things God has done and God has accomplished.  Because of this he knows that his request of the Lord to move mightily on behalf of Israel is not only possible but something the Lord can easily accomplish.  Where he is struggling is why the Lord is not moving right away.  Why does it seem that God is distant and absent?  He is not distant and absent, He is merely preparing the way for His will.  That work begins in our hearts.

The writer continually reminds the Lord of His covenant with Israel.  He asks that the Lord would not forget the poor and the down trodden.  There are times when it seems that the wicked prosper and that the Lord is absent.  But God’s will and His timing are sovereign.  Many times they are outside our understanding and therefore we must simply trust the Lord by faith.  He will move and He has simply called us to seek Him.  His will will be accomplished.