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This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow. Isaiah 48:17

paths we choose“I told you so.”

Don’t you hate hearing those words? Perhaps they are the words of a friend or a parent or an employer. You thought you had a better idea. You were warned that your idea wouldn’t work. You went ahead anyway and did what you thought best.

If you had been right you’d be a hero right now. But you weren’t. In fact, your decision has made a huge mess for yourself as well as those around you. Now you have to suffer the consequences. Not only that, your decision is like a pebble dropped into a still pool. The ripple effect with affect your life and the life of others for a long time, maybe eternity. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.”

Whether your decision was personal (such as family, kids, lifestyle), or career oriented, there’s some good news for you. We human beings tend to make decisions that lean towards our own understanding and comfort level. Our finite minds aren’t always able to grasp the full impact of our decisions.

The good news is that there is redemption available to us. Redemption is defined as “the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.” The implication is that if you need redeeming it’s because of an action you are responsible for, or an action that is outside your control. In other words, whether the consequences are your fault or the fault of another you have hope.

Each of us have no doubt been told something by a parent or teacher and knowingly taken a different path because it looked better and easier to us. Even worse are those times when we knowingly go against what God has told us to do. We do so either intentionally, or in ignorance because we didn’t check with God before we acted.

We are redeemed. That’s the message God give us in Isaiah 48:17. The prophet reminds us that “This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.

Another way of stating this verse might be to say this. “I know what’s best for you. I’ll teach you all you need to know. But WHEN you stray from me and take the wrong path, I’ll redeem you. When you focus on your own comfort rather than my glory, I’ll redeem you. When your actions cause turmoil for yourself and those around you, I’ll redeem you.

What a blessed promise we have of redemption through Jesus Christ. He alone frees us from everything that seeks to imprison us.

PRAYER: Father God. There are so many times I see my own comfort. So many times I take the path I think best even though I know it’s the wrong path to take. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you that he alone is my redemption from myself and the evil others plan for me. Amen.


“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” Galatians 5:1

creativeI have a friend who’s been in and out of prison for what seems to be his whole life. He gets out of prison but it’s hard to stay ‘clean’ and soon he finds himself back behind bars. As he told me on one occasion, there seems to be a security behind bars that he can’t find anywhere else. It’s a security he can’t find in ‘freedom on the outside.’ So he serves his time, steps into freedom, tries to make a ‘go of it’ and fails, only to find himself in the familiar and ‘safe’ walls of prison.

Sound weird? It’s not. We do it all the time. Our human nature tends to steer us towards the things we are familiar with.

I see it on a far smaller scale when our family is on a road trip to some area we are unfamiliar with. When we look for a place to eat we tend to seek security in a place we are familiar with such as a name brand restaurant or fast food place. We do that because we have a pretty good idea of what to expect. They often have the same menu, the same table decorations, and predictable food quality.

One time we were traveling and decided that since we couldn’t find a familiar place to eat we’d choose a cute looking café on the side of the road. It was NOT a pleasant experience. The place was dirty but at least the food was bad!

Sometimes our churches are like that. Everything is the same wherever you go. Some of our churches follow tradition more closely than Scripture. They have the same worship format, sing the same songs, they even have the same decorations! You know exactly what to expect.

One of my favorite verses comes from Galatians 5:1. Paul says, “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.”

I think, if Paul were here today, he’d explain that verse something like this. “Listen! We serve a creative God. We serve a God who doesn’t change in who he is but does things differently often. Don’t use your freedom to be stuck in a rut and do things the way you’ve always done. Live a little! Don’t stray from God’s ways, but don’t get so sucked into the way you’ve always done things that you become like stagnant water. Mountain streams are always fresh because they are always moving, always changing.

Freedom in Christ, by nature, fosters change in a positive way. So live life in freedom! Allow God’s creativity to flow through your lifestyle and more importantly, through your worship of him! Don’t live behind the bars of security, sameness and ‘we’ve always done it this way.’

PRAYER: Father God, I see your sunsets. I see your sunrises. I see the beauty and creativity of nature and am in awe of you. Help me to live free, to live creatively, while at the same time living a life that is pleasing to you. Thank you for the freedom to be creative! Amen.


service“For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.” 1 Peter 2:16-17

There are some that say the Bible is full of contradictions. I don’t personally believe that and many of the ‘difficulties’ that people have pointed out can be explained by a more thorough study of the text.

Having said that, there are plenty of dichotomies in the Christian life as taught by Jesus. For example:

  • To be the greatest you must be the least;
  • To gain everything you must lose everything;
  • The poor are the powerful ones, not the rich;
  • A true leader is a servant;
  • The humble ones are the ones that will inherit the earth, not the controlling;

Maybe you can think of others as well. Statements made in scripture that go contrary to everything that is spoken of in society. God’s Kingdom is nothing compared to what we see around us. God’s Kingdom lifts up the downtrodden, encourages the discouraged, empowers the powerless and comforts the hurting.

Peter, one of Jesus’ followers tells us another dichotomy in regards to our freedom:

“For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.” 1 Peter 2:16-17

Normally, we think of being free and being a slave as being on opposite ends of the spectrum. A slave has no rights, no hope for a future and no identity. He goes where he’s told, he does what he’s told. He has no choices.

A free man, on the other hand has the opportunity to do and be whatever he chooses. His identity is secure in who he is and what he does.

In yet another irony, Jesus teaches us that no one is truly free. Either you serve man or God. Either you choose to follow the desires of the flesh or the standards of God. Being enslaved to God gives you the rights to be called his child. Being enslaved to God empowers you to live free of the futile desires of the flesh. Being enslaved to God allows you to live in peace in the midst of the storm. Being enslaved to God frees you from the guilt of past mistakes.

Peter encourages us by reminding us that because of Jesus Christ, we are free to serve God. Service to God means we are loyal to all the teachings of Jesus. We are free to love those who reject God’s ways. We are free to be ourselves while at the same time showing grace and mercy to those without Christ. We are free to be examples to the world, to be Jesus in skin.

Live free today! Be free to show others around you the love and grace and forgiveness of Jesus.

PRAYER: Father God, it is so easy at times to feel insignificant in a world where wealth, power and status are worshiped. Forgive me for the times I let the voices of society make me feel insignificant. Empower me by your Spirit to live in the freedom of service to you. Amen.


“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” Luke 4:18-19

lady liberyShe rises majestically above the waters of New York harbor. For over 100 years she has been the symbol of freedom to the world. Millions have passed by her by sea and air seeking freedo
m. Some sought political freedom. Some sought economic freedom. Others sought religious freedom. For many, these shores did not disappoint.

While we are far from a perfect nation, the Statue of Liberty is one of the symbols for what I believe to be the greatest nation on earth. A nation founded on the principles of justice, equality and hope.

In 1883, Emma Lazarus wrote a poem, a phrase of which is inscribed on the wall of the Statue of Liberty. While the poem itself is largely forgotten, this phrase is not. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” has welcomed millions over the last 100+ years to a new home of opportunity.

Another symbol of freedom stood alone on a hillside over 2000 years ago. While the statue of Liberty is a symbol of economic, religious and political freedom, the cross of Jesus Christ stands as a symbol of spiritual freedom.

Emma’s phrase sounds remarkably similar to one that was stated thousands of years ago by Jesus Christ. He quotes the prophet Isaiah, in Luke 4:18-19 by saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

Political freedom can be taken away by ravages of war or the passing of time. Economic freedom can be wiped out by recession, disaster or health.  Religious freedom can be weakened by the fickle norms of society.

Spiritual freedom can never be taken way. Jesus offers us hope in the midst of trials; encouragement when we are discouraged; courage when we are afraid; forgiveness when we sin; restoration when we’ve failed him.

To some, the cross symbolizes religion, rules, regulations, intolerance and judgmental attitudes. A personal relationship with Jesus shows us that the cross really is a symbol of God’s great desire to show you forgiveness, hope and a freedom no one can take away.

Today, take some time to thank God for the great nation he has given us. Take time to pray for those who have served and are currently serving to keep our freedom safe. Most of all, thank Jesus for the freedom he gives to those who have made him Lord and Savior of their lives.

PRAYER: Creator God. You have given us so many things we don’t deserve. Thank you for blessing us beyond measure with a freedom that transcends any power, seen and unseen. In Jesus name, Amen.


“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14

light in darknessHave you ever had one of those nights when you lay awake waiting for morning because daylight may be the only relief you get from the worry in your heart and soul? You breathed a sigh of relief of seeing the first glimmer of dawn because it signaled the dawn of a new day and hopefully respite from your pain?

Have you ever been under attack for your faith? Even though you had complete faith in what God’s word said, you watched as people you loved and respected seemed to turn away. The loneliness was harsh and your emotions ranged from pain (for what was being done to Jesus) to anger (because when attacked, anger is the easiest emotion).

Have you suffered through the loss of a loved one? Even though you knew they were in the arms of Jesus. Even though you knew they were without pain. Even though you knew that someday you would be reunited again and rejoice for eternity. Even though you knew all those things, the pain was still unbearable?

Have you ever watched the news with horror as sin was celebrated as normal and everything you knew pleased your Lord and Savior was being mocked, ridiculed and scorned? In the midst of it all, you felt completely helpless. Like Noah, you watched society fail and the raindrops begin to fall?

Here’s some good news. You were never called to conquer the world. Jesus will take care of that. You were never commissioned to be the one to turn the tide of events. That has already been planned out.

All we were called to do is shine. That’s it. Just shine. John writes in his first epistle that God is light. No darkness, just light (1 John 1:5). Jesus tells us that we are lights on a hill, like a city on a hill that is impossible to hide.

Remember this the next time the darkness seems to creep in around you. The deeper the darkness, the brighter even the smallest light will shine. No amount of darkness will ever be able to subdue, conquer or change the effectiveness of light.

I have a favorite campground in far northern Minnesota. A few years ago I was sitting on the shore late at night. The stars were amazing. In the distance I saw the small flicker of a campfire on an island on the other side of the lake. Just a small fire, yet it was clearly visible in the darkness.

Be a light for Jesus. Let God’s Spirit determine your effectiveness. Just shine. Shine because of the God within you, not because of the gods surrounding you. Your God is greater!

PRAYER: Father God. I confess that I worry rather than trust; that I doubt when I should have faith; that I am afraid when I should be confident and that I get discouraged when I could be encouraged by the fact you are in control. For today, let my light shine for you regardless of the darkness around me. Amen.

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