It’s hard to believe Christmas is almost here and we will be saying goodbye to 2009. I must admit Christmas is my favorite season of the year. As my time, money and mind are all pulled in many different directions during this magical month, I must also admit that I need to make a concerted effort to keep my focus on the only thing that really matters. Christmas is so much more than just a season of celebrating and gift giving. Christmas….Christ coming to earth…..changed EVERYTHING!
Why did He come? I know that question sounds pretty elementary to any of us that have grown up in the church. We feel we already know the answer to that question. It’s second nature to us. He came to die so that we might be saved. Hallelujah! I am forever grateful, humbled and overwhelmed by that fact. I would have no hope without Christ coming to earth, putting on flesh, taking my place on the cross and rising after 3 days conquering sin and death. That kind of love pushes me to my knees with gratitude. Wow! What He did for you and for me is almost more than I can comprehend.
At times I find myself tempted to stop right there when answering the question of “Why He Came?” It’s very easy to say that is the end of it. But God has been teaching me something as I’ve been going into churches of all denominations all across the country these last 8 years. If I stop there, I’m only partially answering that question.
Isaiah 61:1 says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” Isaiah is prophesying about Christ in this verse. Yes, Christ’s death and resurrection sets us free from sin and death, but that’s only part of the story. He came to set us free from the things that continue to bind us even after we have accepted His salvation!
If there is one thing I’ve been learning, it’s that Christians can be some of the most bound people walking the face of the earth. I know what I’m talking about. I, myself, lived a very bound life for many years and didn’t even know it. I can still remember the moment when I realized I was not living in the freedom God had for me. Christ NEVER meant for His children to live a bound life. He came so that we would have life and have it to the full and that doesn’t just mean after we leave this world. That promise is for us here and now!
Even though we are in the midst of decorating, buying gifts, receiving gifts, attending parties, working on Christmas church productions and mailing out Christmas cards declaring this “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” many of us are walking around bound. Oh sure, we’ll tell everyone we’re fine because that is what we as human beings do, especially around the holidays.
The truth is many of us are feeling deep loneliness, sadness and despair. Some are wondering how they’re going to pay for everything this year when they’ve lost their jobs, while others are wondering how they’ll make it through the holidays for the first time without precious loved ones who have already been called to Heaven. Still others are trying to figure out how they’ll be able to stand in the same room with a family member who hurt them deeply this past year.
This is a messy, painful world, but Christ came to bind up our broken hearts and to set us free! He came to show us how to forgive. He came to heal the wounds of our hearts. He came as a tangible way of proving that He can be trusted in ALL circumstances, even when we have no idea what is happening around us. He came to give us the power to turn away from addictions, fear, bitterness, worry, anxiety, pride, doubt and despair while we’re walking on this earth. This freedom is ours for the taking right now. We don’t have to wait for it. It’s our choice to either take advantage of that freedom or to continue to walk around being weighed down by heavy chains we were never meant to carry. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yolk of slavery.” We are not victims, we are victors through Christ and it all started by Him coming to earth as a baby!
My prayer for all of you this Christmas is that you will be able to focus on what really matters. If your heart is hurting, allow Christ to put His healing balm on your wounds. If you are struggling to forgive, allow Him to teach you, once again, how to forgive as He has forgiven each of us. If your mind is consumed with worry and doubt allow His peace to wash over you. Whatever your chains, release them and turn them over to that precious Baby in the manger who came to make ALL things new and to set the captives free!
Have you ever asked God to surprise you with a blessing? I read a passage from a devotional book last week that challenged me to do just that. I must admit the thought had never occurred to me, so I decided to try it. That particular morning I was really struggling with some different issues and unanswered questions. I began to feel doubt and fear creep into my heart and mind. Unfortunately I’m very familiar with both foes, but instead of dwelling on those things I decided to do what the devotional had suggested, so I started to pray for God to surprise me with a blessing. I didn’t ask for anything in greater detail than that. I asked Him to bless me in any way He wanted, but to make sure I was surprised by it. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I just tried to keep my eyes open to make sure I wouldn’t miss it. I didn’t know how long it would take or what it would look like, but I knew my God was capable of delivering and deliver He did.
That very night at an event where we were scheduled to sing I got my first surprise blessing. The second came on Sunday morning after a concert we did in Ohio. I was totally shocked both times. I had only asked for one and He gave two! Isn’t that just like our God?
I won’t go into detail about what the blessings were because the details aren’t important. Besides, blessings look different to different people. The important thing is that God knew what I needed and He knew what would bless me and sure enough when both events occurred I knew they were straight from Heaven. I will say this, I never saw them coming and was TOTALLY shocked on both occasions.
I want to challenge you to try the same thing. We are God’s children and He celebrates us. He wants to pour out His blessings on us. Ask Him sincerely from your heart to surprise you and see what happens!
Two weeks ago my 83 year-old grandmother accepted Christ as her Savior! I have to tell you that my family has been praying for this for years. She recently had a stroke and although she is continuing to improve, she still can’t walk. She’s currently going through rehab to regain her mobility. While she was in the nursing home receiving her rehabilitation, my mom had the privilege of leading her own mother to Christ right there in her room. I am still astonished. Wow! What a God we serve! No one is ever too old to start the most important relationship of their lives. I don’t know how long my grandmother will be living here on this earth, but it gives me great peace to know where she’ll be living for eternity.
Have you ever prayed for something for years? Have you ever thought about giving up? Don’t. Don’t ever give up. God is listening and He is working even when we can’t see it. Psalm 121 tells us He never slumbers or sleeps. He is always at work and I believe He takes great joy in surprising His children with answered prayers when they least expect it.
Hello and thanks for reading my first blog! As the months go by you’ll see that freedom will be a recurring theme for me, hence the title FINALLY FREE. I’ll talk about other things that I’m passionate about as well, (like worship, music, food and books!), but the topic of freedom will be one you’ll see again and again. God has changed my life and set me free from some things that kept me bound for way too long and now I believe He’s calling me to share my story with others in the hopes that they’ll also choose His freedom.
I’ll talk more about my own story in future blogs, but today I just want to remind you about a powerful truth from the Bible about freedom. In John 8:36 Christ says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” In my travels I’ve discovered there are a lot of bound people walking around the earth and that includes those that call themselves Christ followers. I can say that based on my own personal experience of bondage. God never intended for us to live that way. Christ came to set the captives free. The strange thing is that many of us don’t even know we’re bound. I got so comfortable with my own chains that I didn’t even realize how heavy they had become. The world sneaks up on us gradually and puts another chain around us and before we know it we have so many chains we can’t even take a step forward anymore.
There are so many things that can bind us. Worry, fear, anxiety, depression, bitterness, addiction, low self-esteem, pride, failure to forgive…..the list goes on and on. Christ came to heal and to give us the power to overcome. He came to make all things new, including us! I’m so thankful He wants to do that and He accomplishes it on a daily basis in many of our lives!
One of the things I love about traveling is getting to meet so many new people and getting to hear the stories of what God has done in their own lives. There are many out there that have powerful testimonies of how God has set them free, so while I will continue to share little pieces of my own freedom story through this blog I would love to hear about your story as well. How has God set you free? How has He changed you? What has He taught you? What is He doing in your life at this very moment? Maybe you’re in the process of breaking free right now, where are you in that process? There is great power in our stories and God uses them to help encourage others and give them hope. I’ll look forward to hearing the great things God is doing in your lives and sharing more of my own story and journey to freedom in the coming weeks!
Would you share your story with me in the comment section?