Abba, I Belong to You; My Chains Are Gone!

“Abba, I belong to You.” This new-to-me song spoke to my heart, and those words kept going through my mind as I drove home after church today. Words from a second song, which I know, blended with those precious other words. “Break every chain; break every chain.” I sang those two phrases together several times as I drove by myself.

Then the Light came on, and I saw the relationship. And that’s the crux of the whole thing! Relationship! If we’re a child of God, we belong to our heavenly Father, which Abba means. Then Jesus has already broken all those chains off us! He did that at the cross long ago. All we need do is to step out of them.

Maybe we don’t see ourselves in chains. But do you have issues that keep the overflowing peace and joy of the Lord from showing in your life? They may be family relationship, financial, illness, job. Whatever they are, Jesus death on the cross broke those chains off you. So just step out of them.

Now I know that’s far easier said than done. I struggle with the doing myself. But I’m beginning to see myself without certain chains I’ve carried, and that’s a large part of getting rid of them. When we see ourselves as Father sees us, then our hope is built; our confidence in his Word grows until we walk out of those chains. We say we believe the Bible is true, and we do, but often we lack confidence in it. We don’t know that we know that we know!

Good relationships don’t form just because the mind says that would benefit me. Good relationships come from the heart. And we must get God’s promises into our heart and mind so that we know without doubting that they’re true. When we do that, then we begin seeing chains breaking because we know Father’s love does not leave us bound in any kind of bondage. Father’s love, when we really grasp it, sets us free. We’re free but we must recognize it and stand in it. When our enemy tries to make us think otherwise, we must fight for our victory and stand firm that whatever chain has been broken will stay broken. God’s kids aren’t meant to be slaves.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand first against him and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. (1 Peter 5:7-9 New Living Translation.)

No one escapes trouble in this life, even if we’re believers in Jesus Christ as our Savior. Just look at all the people in the New Testament. But sometimes our chains may come about through generational issues that come down the family line, and Christ sets us free from these. He also frees us from addictions of any kind. In an early blog post, I wrote how I was addicted to soap operas because of moving much and not having good friends. That was 40 years ago when TV wasn’t nearly as explicit as it is now, but I didn’t want my children to see what I watched. The Holy Spirit filled my heart and took away the loneliness that drove me to those shows, and I’ve never been interested in them since.

Often we limit God by not anticipating Him being able to do all He says He can. Then we will not find release from our chains. Hebrews 11:6 states, It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. Matthew 19:26, Mark 9:23, 10:27, and 14:36 all tell us that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE WITH GOD. We must believe that to see miracles.

If we’re seeking answers from our loving Father, then we must believe that He will answer us. Otherwise, we might as well not ask. Go to your Father in faith and receive what He very much wants to give you. Tell Him, “Abba, I belong to You.” Then acknowledge that your chains were broken and step out of them!

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Our Daddy-God Is Faithful!

 Old Faithful Geyser at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

 Old Faithful Geyser continually erupts every day and night, all year round, never missing a time. Eruptions occur about every 70-90 minutes with park rangers giving an estimate, but only that. A tall gusher reaches close to 200 feet but often follows a shorter one.

My husband and I have watched this fascinating sight many times with a couple of thousand people in late June or have seen it a few times by ourselves in December, always special to behold. The first winter I saw it, while mentally knowing Old Faithful blew all year, surprised me when I realized this great display happened with no one watching. Of course, I knew the Park didn’t turn it on for visitors, but a sudden realization hit me that it doesn’t depend on what people do.

In the same way, I think we often think God’s faithfulness depends on how “good” we are. We’ve read the Bible that says He remains with us at all seasons. During crisis times, however, we might feel like the harsh reality of winter hit and wonder if our loving Father knows our situation, just as I realized afresh that Old Faithful operates with no spectators as well as thousands. These times call for us to draw closer to our Daddy-God so we do realize He’s present. Often we tend to pull away in unbelief, but that hinders our remaining steady during the crisis.

Reviewing God’s Word helps me hold onto my faith in difficult circumstances, and these verses promise our Father’s faithfulness to us forever. All Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible.

Deuteronomy 32:3-4: For I proclaim the name of the Lord; Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.

Psalm 36:5: Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

John 14:16-18: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.

Hebrews 13:5-6: He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?” [Their emphasis.]

You might wonder why I call the Father of Christ-followers “Daddy-God.” In the New Testament, Jesus used this very term of intimacy when He prayed before the crucifixion. Since we are God’s children, He desires us to have this same intimacy with Him. “Abba” translates to our word “Daddy.”

Mark 14:36: And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”

Romans 8:15-16: For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,

Galatians 4:6-7: Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

Yes, circumstances may go from bad to worse, but consider what our loving Father did: He gave his own beloved Son to die for us so we could be his children. Certainly then, He remains faithful to us throughout our lives. Situations make no difference. Our Daddy-God loves us!

 

Understanding the Spiritual Armor

When I first put on the spiritual armor, I had trouble remembering the order, so I learned the pieces from head down and used that way for a while. Then one day I wondered why it was listed in such a seemingly disconnected way. That’s when my Father whispered in my mind that He has a reason for that process. As I thought about this, I began to understand that reasoning and have put it on correctly ever since.

God led Paul to write about the spiritual armor in Ephesians 6:10-18 after telling these believers in Jesus Christ how to live a life pleasing to Him. Paul, being a prisoner in Rome, knew he’d never see them again and so wanted to help them as much as possible. Most likely, Paul intended this letter to circulate to all the churches in the area. This and Philippians are my favorite letters of all those Paul wrote. Ephesians tells us in chapter one where our spiritual standing lives and how blessed we are. Stuffed full of golden nuggets, we do well to study this book repeatedly. Chapter six gives us final instructions for living a genuine Christian life and at the end tells us how to fight all Satan throws against us.

Ephesians 6:10-12 (New Living Translation* – NLT)  Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might.  11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of this darkness, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

 Here Paul tells us that our troubles aren’t caused by people but by the spirits and powers ruling those people. When one becomes a Christ-follower, Satan realizes that person is a threat to him and his kingdom, so he starts to attack that one in various ways. That doesn’t mean non-believers don’t have problems also because Satan’s whole aim is to “steal, kill and destroy.” Jesus calls our enemy the thief in John 10:10 and uses these words to describe him. But Jesus goes on to say that He came to give us a satisfying and rich life [not necessarily rich in money or material possessions, though some Christ-followers are] (NLT). That’s what makes following Jesus such a wonderful blessing. Next Paul describes the spiritual armor that protects us from the assaults of Satan. Then, we’re to stand strong even through the assaults. Christians become stronger through the warfare we endure, but our aim centers on standing for Jesus, no matter what. Without this armor, we cannot stand.

 Ephesians 6:13-17 (NLT):   Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:13-17 (The Message Bible** – MSG):   Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. 14 Truth, righteousness, 15 peace, 16 faith, 17 and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. I really like this version because it’s so succinct, telling us exactly what’s what.

How do we wear the spiritual armor?

We’re to wrap ourselves in the truth of God’s word, which is the first piece of armor we must wear. Why? Because if we don’t know the truth, the other pieces can’t help us. When the Holy Spirit breaks through to our spirit that Jesus really is the Son of God and that His blood shed so long ago will forgive our sins, then we confess them and turn away from them and start on the path as a child of God. (Please note, salvation only begins with this first step; our full salvation continues as we grow closer to the Lord in this life and finds fulfillment when we arrive in heaven.)

The breastplate of righteousness comes in and gives us that right standing before God, so we can enter His presence and talk with Him. This piece goes over our heart and gives us encouragement to live a godly life daily.

We need these and the other pieces of spiritual armor all the way through our lives because the devil will always try to turn us from the truth of God’s Word. That’s not meant at all to be discouraging but simply states the fact that we do have an enemy who doesn’t want us to follow our Lord.

Next we put on the shoes of the peace that comes from knowing and acting on the Word of God. When we become a believer in Jesus Christ, we receive peace from God because all our sins are forgiven. Afterwards, we’ll find that peace disappears if we stray from God’s way, so we must go back and confess that wrong against God and others; then we’ll regain that peace. This peace also helps us be at peace with other people because once we learn of our Father’s great forgiveness towards us, then we’re enabled to forgive others. For more on God’s peace, please read Philippians 4:6-8 below. I think describing this peace with shoes is important because it indicates that this special inward peace goes with us, no matter what circumstances we face. Paul was in prison when he wrote about this wonderful peace and contentment from God that remains always with us (see also Philippians 4:11, 13 and 19.)

Philippians 4:6-8 (NLT):  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Graham Cooke, a godly author and speaker, calls negative thinking “the worship language of the devil” because that’s what he wants us to do. Negative thinking gets us depressed and almost giving up on God. That’s why Paul tells us to keep on thinking about all the goodness of our heavenly Father. Not that we deny earthly problems, but  we realize our circumstances are governed by a God who loves us so much that He gave His own Son to die for us. Unless they were fighting in a war for our country, I seriously doubt I’d ever let one of my sons sacrifice his life for someone who didn’t even like us; yet, that’s exactly what God did! Romans 5:8 (NLT):  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

We take up the shield of faith, which grows larger the more we involve ourselves in Bible study and prayer. Our faith is only enough to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior when we first become a Christian but as we follow our Lord, it grows. We’ll never not need that faith because Satan will always try to discourage it, as the Word says, by throwing those flaming darts of doubt, confusion and lies. That shield is stronger than he is, though, so we can stand faithful as long as we remember that fact. 1 John 4:4 reminds us that the Holy Spirit who lives within us is greater than the devil who rules the world. The Bible goes on to tell us that without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Faith starts at the beginning of our Christian life and goes through till the end. In Luke 18:8 Jesus asks when He returns, will He find faith on the earth?

The helmet of salvation operates best with all the rest of the armor. We cover our heads (indicating our minds, wills and emotions) guarding them against all doubts and lies Satan and the world in general try to throw at us, but we must know the truth to effectively protect ourselves or others when we’re talking with them. When we’re believers in Jesus Christ, we experience a relationship with Him. Being a good person, joining a church or following a certain religious doctrine doesn’t make us a believer. Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship with our Lord.

The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. This sword only works if we have an experiential knowledge of the Bible. That means we’ve walked with God and can put His Word into practice. We don’t simply read the Bible as we would another book. Jesus used the sword of the Spirit to defeat Satan when He was tempted in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:1-11) and we’re to do the same thing.

Why is the last piece of the spiritual armor the Word of God? Because everything we think, say or do must be checked by the Bible. It’s the controller of what is and isn’t good for us under God’s leadership. Yes, there are gray areas that aren’t mentioned, things that weren’t even possible during Bible times. For example, television and the internet supplies both spiritual food and spiritual death. Some things remain neutral. When we wear the rest of the armor, we can easily tell which is which. Does what we see build us up spiritually or tear us down? Does it meet the test of Philippians 4:8? If we want to discern the difference, we can. Jesus defeated Satan by using the Word of God and so can we.

James 4:7-10 (MSG):  So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. 8 Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. 9 Hit bottom and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. 10 Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.

The Final Act

 Ephesians 6:18-20 (NLT)  Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. 19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. 20 I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.

Why do we put on and keep on this armor? To protect us from all that the enemy of our souls throws at us. And even more than that, it prepares us to pray as the Holy Spirit leads us to pray not only for ourselves but for other believers – those we know and those around the world. We also pray for those who do not yet know our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

We must support ourselves and keep our hopes high in the Lord. Likewise, we must support each other because all of us experience days that discourage us and need a special word of encouragement at that time. Long ago, I learned that when someone’s name came to mind, to pray for that person. This happened several times with the same lady, so I started calling her then to see how things were going. Each time, she needed prayer about something. I learned then to always pray, no matter where I was, when I suddenly thought of someone, especially if they weren’t usually on my mind’s radar.

If we keep up with Christian news, we know many believers in numerous countries are persecuted, jailed or killed for being Christians and spreading the gospel.  It’s our responsibility as free people to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who miss this freedom. We pray for their safety but also their courage and strength to stand strong during persecution. We also pray for the persecutors because they don’t know Jesus as their Savior. We can pray that either by their captive’s witness, through dreams or other ways that they too will accept Christ. Jesus always cared for those who don’t know Him and still does.

Matthew 9:36-38 (NLT   He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

Thus, it’s our job as believers to protect ourselves from Satan’s attacks and to pray for other believers, whether we know them or not. As well, our duty and privilege call us to pray for those who don’t know Him that they will accept Christ as their Savior. One way Paul mentions he needs prayer is that he will be bold to say exactly what needs to be said. He doesn’t suggest they pray for his quick release, as I probably would, but I’m not sure I’d pray for boldness to witness when it would likely cost me more persecution. Responsibilities come with being a Christian – to others and especially to our Father who loves and gives us so very much. Will we continually wear our spiritual armor and pray for ourselves, for others and for those who don’t yet know our Savior and Lord?

____________

*   Holy Bible, New Living Translation ®, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.

**  THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. l rights reserved.

***  I use these modern Bible translations because they are easier to understand for people whose first language may not be English because this goes on my blog, with many readers whom I don’t know.

Almost Unbelievable Blessings – But Believe Them!

Let me introduce you to two amazing verses that probably most believers read over without paying proper attention to the real meaning of them; I know I did. These are Ephesians 1:3 and 2:6. Only more recently have I given them real thought, though I’ve read the Bible most of my life, and even wrote a simple study of this book long ago. This meditation covers the first verse and soon a second will cover Ephesians 2:6 because they contain too much material to discuss at one time. Continue reading

Hang on to God’s Love

My heart leaks. When I’m in the middle of worshipping God, it often overflows into and out of my eyes. Not the way I’d wish to show my heart, but that’s what happens, whether alone or with others. However, seeing my heart overflow in gratitude tells me that I’m learning to truly appreciate God’s tremendous love for me. That love resides so deep within me that it’s as real as knowing my name. Continue reading

A Watermelon or a Pecan

In the mid-70’s my husband and I bought a piece of land with many pecan trees on it about 70 miles from our home. That first fall, I picked pecans for several hours, delighted with the beautiful day and all the nuts. As I fell exhausted into bed that night and closed my eyes, I saw a huge pecan; it was the size of a large watermelon! I quickly opened them and then shut my eyes again, but the same thing happened. After the third time, I asked God what was going on. Continue reading

The River

At church this morning we sang, “Flow to You, flow to You; Let the river of my worship flow to You.” As we sang, I saw *the river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb to us who were worshiping God with all our hearts as our praise flowed up to the throne of God. The river of our praise and the one flowing from the throne of God came together and flowed into each other. Our hearts and Father God’s were in sync as we stood praising Him.  Beside this single river, from the two joining together, stood the tree of life on each side of the river, bearing fruit that healed all issues we had – whether relationship, financial, health, work. Whatever our need was, God used that tree to supply it. Continue reading

Enduring Trials

The church where I belong is in Dickinson, Texas and I drive mainly on a highway that goes through town going to it, but yesterday when I left from helping hand out supplies to Harvey victims, I went a different direction going home. While I’d seen sheet rock and household belongings out on the side of the road in some places previously, I’d not seen something like this from Harvey. These things piled high on both sides of almost the whole three or so miles I traveled down that street. Likewise, all the side streets looked the same way. It reminded me a lot of the way Galveston looked when my husband and I went there about three months after Hurricane Ike hit and overflowed the island from the Gulf and the Bay. The tremendousness of the loss hit me anew, even though I knew that my church alone had helped 331 different families the last week. Continue reading

That God-shaped Hole

Feeling kinda down and don’t know why? Your family life is going well, your job’s OK, finances are sufficient for your needs, health is adequate. Yes, you’re not overflowing in any of these areas but things are sufficient, so then why do you still feel like something is lacking? You’re somewhat depressed without being able to understand the reason.  Let me tell you my story. Continue reading

Salvation and Righteousness Flow!

Open up, O heavens, and pour out your righteousness. Let the earth open wide so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together. I, the LORD, created them. (Isaiah 45:8 New Living Translation)

Father, this is my prayer today: that the heavens would open wide and pour out your righteousness upon me, upon my family and friends, upon everyone. Turmoil abounds all over the world today; perhaps never was your justice and honesty needed more than now. Everywhere I look exists terror and fighting or the threat of it. Many governments seemly don’t care for their people but only their greed. Even nature groans with earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, drought, fires, blizzards and excess heat. Who can make sense of it all? Continue reading

The Nations Roar

My phone alarm jerked me awake with a flash flood warning. Since it was about 5:30 I got up. Within five minutes thunder roared, and the rain poured. Surprised since I wasn’t aware of any prediction of storms, I started reading my Bible. Bolts and flashes of lightning lit up the room as I instinctively put my hands over my ears when the noise far exceeded comfort level, realizing my reaction surprised me. With our 90-year-old home built on piers, one burst vibrated through the floors into my feet. Continue reading

God’s Promise for the Battle

He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me, For they are many who strive with me. (Psalm 55:18 NASU[1]).

What kind of battle is making your life hard today? Are you in the midst of financial troubles where you don’t know how you can pay the next bill? Are your children out of control and nothing you do seems to help? Do grown children pay no attention to you when you try to tell them the right way to live? Have you lost your job and can’t seem to find another one? Perhaps you face a spiritual battle in doing God’s will when your mind craves something else. What is your battle today? We all have them from time to time. Continue reading

God Is Love!

1 John 4:8 and 16 say, “God is love.” That is the first, and possibly the hardest, thing we need to learn about God. That He loves me. Yes, me, Sandra. Yes, you put your name there. Say it out loud, God loves me, ______. From early in life we’re told we’re wrong, too loud, too quiet, too short, too tall. When others don’t criticize us, we turn on ourselves. Continue reading

The Gray Thumb

I tell people I have a gray thumb because I can keep plants alive but not make them thrive like people who have a so-called green thumb. Rarely will a plant flower for me after its first bloom period. Some people can make them flower year after year. Why do I mention this? It reminds me of some believers in Jesus Christ. Continue reading

What Is Shalom?

The Jewish people treasure the word “Shalom,” greeting each other with it when they first meet and again on leaving. Shalom implies peace, as we commonly think of it, but very much more than that. Shalom suggests wholeness, completeness, health, security, prosperity, fulfillment, contentment, restoration, unbrokenness, joy,  peace between you and God as well as between you and other people – in other words, we might say it hints at heaven on earth. Continue reading