As we prepare for Sunday’s celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection, I invite you to join us for at time of devotion and reflection on our Freedom in Christ. This year, we have invited 5 individuals to share their thoughts of this freedom. We hope that you will enjoy this devotions and use them to direct your own thoughts on your freedom in Christ. Jesus has set us free! Let us rejoice!
Monday, April 6, 2020 Freedom by Jodi Burks (Minister of Shannondale Presbyterian Church, Friend of Susan Neese) Deuteronomy 16:16b No one is to appear before the Lord empty-handed. (HCSB) It is, too often, human nature to dwell upon our limitations and boundaries in which we must function. Remember Genesis? The serpent knew if he focused on what Adam and Eve couldn’t eat, they would tend to forget about the freedom they had to partake of all the rest of the trees in that splendid garden. We seem to think freedom is being able to do anything we want. After all, doesn’t the word freedom imply – no boundaries? This is a rather selfish, worldly view. In God’s economy and God’s will there is always at least one boundary: God’s love. Because He is love and loves us, His restrictions always are there for our good and/or protection. As we study God’s Word and we read His commands it would behoove us to search for the boundaries of God’s love and then we will more easily recognize the freedom in which He allows us to live. Looking at Deuteronomy 16:16b – at first reading I immediately saw the limitation, and I read it that I couldn’t come before the Lord unless I had something to offer Him. Without boring you with my thought by thought process, which included some pretty selfish thinking and two days of pondering, I reached the conclusion I should “switch gears” and think about what I could bring to the Lord. He is certainly worthy of my praise and worship. He deserves my thanksgiving. How many times do I come to Him with praise, worship and thanksgiving? I know He is not keeping score, but I suddenly realized I more often come to Him with cries of “help”! I come with a list of needs and plain old wants. I pray for others at time, and in our current situation I am praying more globally. I seem to do my fair share of grumbling and complaining…Ouch! I sound like the Israelites. Wait a minute! This verse says don’t appear empty-handed. I suddenly realized I haven’t… I have come with my hands so full of the “messes” of my life, the tears, the joys, the everyday “stuff”. What freedom!! I am free to take anything and everything to the Lord. Finally, I have to still understand the boundary. Empty-handed? What does that mean to the Lord? Let me suggest some things to ponder. Have you ever been in a situation where you are expected to pray with others perhaps? So, you dutifully bow your head and think about a million other things, or even worse you think about how your prayer posture appears to the others around you. Maybe you have a “prayer time” set apart each day and you are determined to sit there for your designated time, while all the while your mind is wandering. You get my drift. I think this is empty-handed. Don’t come before Him for the sake of appearances, expectations or any other empty-handed reason. The Lord loves us so much that when we get together with Him, He wants us to sincerely share our lives with Him. He invites us to come in the freedom of bringing Him all the good, the bad and yes, even the ugly!! I don’t know about you, but that thought certainly “frees” me up!! The best thing we can do is take the Lord at His Word and live in the freedom He give us, knowing we are hemmed in by Him. Deuteronomy 16:16b No one is to appear before the Lord empty-handed. (HCSB)
Tuesday, April 7, 2020 What does it mean to have freedom in Christ? by Susan Neese
What exactly does freedom mean? And, more importantly, what does it mean to have freedom in Christ? Our culture seems to value freedom in every level of our lives. Freedom to say anything we want. Freedom to go anyplace we want. Freedom to spout off in social media. Freedom to disregard patriotic symbols. Freedom to ___________. You fill in the blank.
Many of us desire freedom with little responsibility. We don’t want social responsibility or personal responsibility. We just want to go along doing what we want to do with little regard for anyone else. Ok. Maybe I am being a little harsh. You may be thinking that’s not me. I am very careful not to say things that hurt others and I always stand for the national anthem. I appreciate the freedom that our great country provides for us.
Humm. Good for you! But what about the freedom our Savior, Jesus Christ, provides for us? Do you know someone who is living in spiritual slavery without realizing it. Do you know someone who is chasing a false god? Could it be me? Could it be you? Do we value money, success, jobs, vacations, personal comfort, more than we value Jesus? My first reaction was, “of course not”, but then I began to think about the way I have spent my time these last few days of “corona quarantine”. I realized that I spent much more time doing things I wanted to do for pleasure than doing things that would build up my relationship with Jesus. Our sinful natures focus on the values that the world says are important.
We continue, then, to feel an emptiness that can’t be filled by any of those material things. We are not free! We think we are free because our constitution says we deserve to be, but only Jesus can give us the true freedom that we all desire. Scripture tells us that Jesus grants us freedom by taking our sins and freeing us from what we deserve. We all have sinned and “the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). But Easter is here and with that beautiful and painful season comes the promise that “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). Thank you, Jesus! The end of Romans 6:23b reminds us that “the free gift from God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” Thank you, Jesus, for giving us true freedom. Thank you for taking the punishment that we all deserve, and instead giving us eternal life. We are guaranteed that “If the Son sets US free, WE will be free indeed.” John 8:36. (Emphasis by me.) Thank you, Jesus!
Sweet Jesus, I humbly put myself at the foot of your cross. I smile through my tears as I realize the priceless cost of my freedom. Your unmeasurable love has truly, and forever, broken the bind of slavery to sin for me and for all. Keep me mindful of the sacrifice you made so that I might make every effort to refocus my ambitions and desires to better walk with You. Thank you, Jesus, for Easter!
Wednesday, April 8, 2020 What it means to be free. by Lisa Vitaniemi Freedom – one of the many things we US citizens take for granted. My whole life I have been free to travel, free to go where I needed/wanted to go, etc. Today as I write this our freedom to do things has been extremely limited due to the corona virus or COVID-19. We are not allowed to go out to a restaurant and eat, we are not free to go to the theatre, to a concert, etc. But what is most troubling is we are not free to hold our church services. While I am a technology person and I enjoy time by myself, I desperately need church and church family. I appreciate the ability to live stream, but I look forward to the time to do life together to worship together, etc. It makes me realize how much we take the privilege of attending church for granted. Hebrews 10:25 says: ‘not giving up meeting together, as some are I the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’ You see we are still free. We don’t have to go to a building all together to meet together. We can still meet in small groups, we can communicate and study together through email, social media, and texts. We are still the church and we still need to worship, praise and draw nearer to God and to each other. It just looks a little different right now. Many people believe that Christians are not free and live restricted lives. But truly Christians are so free because Jesus has set us free, and in that freedom, we can live lives that glorify Christ in all that we say and do. Don’t think of this time as we prepare for Easter as a time where our freedoms are limited. Think of it as a time to be free to explore new ways and means to worship, to study and to serve God.
Thursday, April 9, 2020 FREE TO BE by Pat Bombei (Lisa Vitaniemi’s Mother)
Have you ever thought about the freedom we have?
We live in a free country We have freedom of speech We are free to worship wherever we choose We are free to pray to the one and only true God We are free to choose right from wrong and so much more.
But to have true freedom we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Freedom begins with having a loving, personal, obedient relationship with God. He created us and He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our even knows our thoughts.
True freedom come from obeying the Bible and standing for truth. We have freedom from sin and death, but it was not free it was bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus. But there was a condition, we have to believe that Jesus is who He said He is, and accept Him as our Lord and Savior.
We only have true freedom when we accept Jesus and devote ourselves to meeting with Jesus daily in prayer and reading the Bible. We are truly free when we allow the Holy Spirit to lead and direct our lives. Freedom in Jesus is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. How could we not accept this great gift?
Galatians 4:4-5 But when the right time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so He could adopt us as His very own children.
Ephesians 1:7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered His kindness on us along with all wisdom and understanding.
Easter Week Devotion Friday, April 10, 2020
Freedom isn’t Free by Steve Vitaniemi
I remember singing a song in Jr. High choir entitled “Freedom isn’t Free.” The lyrics I remember are, “Freedom isn’t free; you’ve got to pay the price; you’ve got to sacrifice for our liberty.” It is hard to believe that I still recall those words 40 years after I learned them. I do sing them each time I feel a little patriotic to remind me that my freedom was paid by someone else and I too will continue to pay freedom’s price for those to come after me. I think that is a good lesson to learn as a citizens of the United States of America. But today, I am not using those words to show a patriotism. I using them to show that I understand that my freedom in Christ came at a price paid by someone else – Jesus, my Savior.
Galatians 5:1 - It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
When I think about the freedom I have in Christ, I know the price that he paid for my sin’s redemption was a great one. My freedom cost God greatly. My freedom cost Jesus greatly, more than it will ever cost me…If I live to honor that freedom.
Paul wrote the letter to the church of Galatia to encourage and remind the brothers and sisters that a life set free from sin will be different. As this passage calls us not be become enslaved again in very chains from which we were set free. Since we are free, we need to live free from the bondage of sin.
I know that not one of us is perfect because sin is more powerful that we are, but….by God’s grace and with His help, we can overcome the bondage of sin – it’s shame, it’s guilt, it’s punishment and live a life worthy of Christ’s life given. Jesus’s sacrifice has paid our sin’s price. But, we are still called to live worthy of that price that was paid.
Romans 6:15 -18 - What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
Our freedom in Christ was not free, but we didn’t pay it – it was given to us freely! I can’t earn it or buy it – it was paid for me by Jesus. But, I know that because of that, I own Him a life lived in honor of the great price He paid. As Paul said, “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”
I have been set free from my past sins, freed from my present sufferings and freed from sin’s eternal punishment. I have been set free to become a slave for HIM. That is what freedom in Christ means to me: free to be HIS!
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