My Independence Day

Today we celebrate America’s Independence Day with picnics, food, time with family, and fireworks. A multitude of people celebrate without recognizing the great sacrifices that were made in order to gain autonomy from Great Britain. We need to remember the lives that were given, the homes that were burned, and the families that were forever changed when America made her bid for independence.

Photo by Weston MacKinnon on Unsplash

While I love July 4th, today I want to talk about my own personal Independence Day. It is a day I still remember vividly even though it was many years ago. I came from a good home, but not a home where we learned about Jesus and made faith a foundation. My life changed when a neighbor volunteered to send me to church camp. I had absolutely no idea what church camp was, nor did I understand why I was chosen to be sent since there were six of us children in my family. But God had a plan for my life and he used MacGomery Christian Camp to set me on my path to independence.

I think somehow God wires our DNA with this hole in our hearts that can only be filled with him. So many people spend their whole lives searching for that one thing that makes them whole, while God is waiting and longing for them to let him be the one true way to peace and fulfillment. Deep inside of me was this longing for God. As I heard the Bible taught, as I listened to the prayers being lifted to the heavens, and as I experienced watching people living out their faith during my week at church camp, I recognized that God could fill that hole in my heart.

I don’t remember the exact words of the challenge to give my life to Christ, but I do remember the nudge of the Holy Spirit to take the plunge (literally and figuratively) that would make Jesus my Lord forever and give me my Independence Day. All of the sins I had committed, all of the shame and sorrow from being sexually abused, all of the past was let go the minute I confessed his name as Lord and Savior and was buried in baptism. That was my Independence Day.

I often look at Galatians 5:1 where Paul says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free (meaning free from sin and free from the Jewish law). Stand fast, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” I actually like the way The Message puts it: “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” It does my heart good to know the sacrifices that Christ made for my freedom. He left the glory of heaven when he came to earth and walked among man. Despite his miracles, signs and wonders, people still doubted him and mocked him. He freely gave his life on the cross, and took on all of our sins (that is a lot of sin and depravity) and shed his blood as the final sacrifice for us. The cost of our freedom was high so that I could have an Independence Day that set me free.

While I hope you have an awareness and appreciation for our United States Independence Day, I think the Independence Day given to us when we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is a true independence that will last forever. So what about you? Have you found your freedom in Christ? I hope so because I think the glories of heaven will far eclipse the awesomeness of fireworks here on earth.

I Love You More

When I was growing up my parents were not good at saying “I love you” or giving out hugs. It really wasn’t until my early 30s that I started hearing those words when I would come home for a visit. Do not misunderstand me—I knew my parents loved me, they proved it over and over by their actions. But they did not say it until I was older. I am not sure why it changed, but I remember being surprised the first time my mom actually said “I love you” when she hugged me goodbye. Those were words I treasured because I did not hear them very often.

When I was in high school, I remember going to my friend’s house and she would say to her mom, “I love you” and her mom would always reply, “I love you more.” I would longingly think how nice it would be to hear those words. They really were not a contest about who could love the most, but an affirmation that their love was deep and abiding.

I have been thinking about the phrase ”I love you more lately and decided to look it up on the internet. It was interesting to see the different contexts in which it was used. “I love you more than the stars in the sky.” “I love you more than coffee.” (Now that might be up for debate with some of my friends!) “I love you more today than yesterday.” “I love you more than chocolate.” I am sure by now you get the gist of all the comparisons of loving you more.

When I was thinking of “I love you more,” I thought about what it means to love someone more. I love my children more than I ever thought possible, and certainly hope I could lay my life down for them if necessary. But then I thought about how much I love God. I would like to say that I always love him more than anything in my life, but sometimes it is not reflected in my lifestyle and the things that are important to me.

Looking at Romans 5:6-11 and we get a good snapshot of the “I love you more” of Christ. Through his death on the cross where he took on our sins, he truly showed us how much more he loves us.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by this blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life. Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Romans 5:6-11 (NIV)

We were lost in sin, but God loves us more than anything or anyone. Because he sent Christ, his only son, as a sacrifice by the shedding of the blood on the cross, we can walk in a new life. When I think about the fact that Christ shed his blood for all sinners and took our sins upon his sinless self, I recognize what a great burden that was. All sin: gluttony, pride, lying, cheating, sexual sins, murder, and the list goes on.

I believe when I tell Jesus “I love you” and he tells me back “I love you more” he truly does.

Who do you love the most? It is good to love our family and friends, but it is best if we can say of all of those things, “I love you more” to Jesus.

Counting the Cost

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:25-27. (NIV)

These are the words of Jesus to the crowd that was following him. It was not long before this that Jesus had fed loaves and fishes to the crowds. Most them following still anticipated watching him heal someone or waited to be fed. They listened to his words and parables, without fully understanding what he was saying. But when Jesus spoke his words they probably were wondering if he really meant what he said. He did.

Although there is much debate as to whether Jesus meant this literally or figuratively, the fact of the matter is that he wants us to follow and we need to weigh the cost. Sometimes I wonder if I really have what it takes to follow him no matter what is happening in the world around me. Would I still follow Jesus if my rights were taken away, if my property was forfeit, if my family disowned me and if it meant my very life? I would like to think, yes, I can. I hope and pray that I love Jesus enough to turn my back on everything I know to serve him.

I would give credit for artwork but have been unable to find the original source.

I look at people through the ages who have counted the cost and paid it willingly, even with their very lives. I think of all the disciples who were killed, with only John dying a natural death. Stephen (in the book of Acts) is considered to be the very first Christian martyr for Christ. I think of the many martyrs through the ages who gave their lives doing what God called them to do (sometimes even opposing the organized church), From the apostles to William Tyndale in the Reformation era to the relatively recent death of Jim Elliot, individuals have given their lives for the sake of the gospel. Even today in many communist nations to become a Christian is to risk death. In Muslim countries to even entertain the thought of converting to Christianity can result in death.

I think the majority of American Christians have become complacent about counting the cost for serving Christ. Although I think there is a time coming that being a Christian in America will be risky, we are not there yet. While I think this passage is really about loving Christ above everything else, even your own life, sometimes I struggle with it. I find myself thinking if I am not brave enough to share the gospel with my neighbor, how am I ever going to be brave enough to die for Christ if the occasion warranted it? Counting the cost. That is really what every Christian needs to seriously consider when they accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Can you pay the price if God asks it of you? Can I?

How Far Is Too Far

Our church has been going through a sermon series entitled “Rescued.” Each week as I  hear the stories of people whom God has delivered from a life without Him, I am humbled by these individuals who are willing to be vulnerable and share their stories.

I know someone who was in a witness protection program when he turned state’s witness on a mob. His past was full of violent, unspeakable actions–things that would chill you to the bone if you knew what they were. When he met Jesus, he became a new man. He now works with inner city young men who are at high risk of becoming the same way he was before He met Christ.

Sometimes we forget that no matter where we are, no matter what we have done, no matter how dark of a place we go, no matter how much we have turned our backs on God, he is there waiting for us. When we turn all of the darkness, all of the heartache, all of the rage and bitterness, all of the hurts and deep scars to God, he will meet us in a place of healing and forgiveness. How far is too far for God to forgive us? Nowhere. That hole in our life that never seems filled? It is waiting for God.

Please listen to Natasha’s rescue story and hear how God rescued her. I love when she said, “I had a Father and I had a home and for the first time in my life I had peace.” You have never gone too far for God to rescue you.

Video by 2Rivers Church, O’Fallon MO

©Linda Delay Wallace 2020.

 

God Is Faithful

I have been in the process of refreshing a couple of my rooms, including painting, changing out curtains, throw pillows and accessories. And of course, I have gone through every dresser drawer to make sure I am not holding on to things I no longer use. Today, I found a journal that I started several years ago.

Not long after my husband passed away, I went through a pretty rough period. I was not working when he died, and it took me almost three years to find a full-time job. During that time things were difficult– emotionally and financially. I wrote the following entry after a particularly hard day.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

“Can I be honest here, God? Of course, I can because you already know. I am really grasping for answers right now. After all this time I am getting angry and bewildered about being in such an untenable situation. I just need to remember that you have not brought me this far in my faith walk to dump me now. Help me remember that! You are God and you have always wanted me to walk in faith and trust you. Help me, Lord, to walk in faith, putting my hand in yours and walking step-by-step with you.

When I falter, lift me up

When I weaken, give me strength

When I cry out, wipe my tears

When I doubt, show me faith

When I despair, fill me with hope

When I am lonely, be my friend

When I am prideful, make me humble

When I am harsh, make me gentle

When I am broken, make me whole.”

While walking through this journey was painful, looking back I see every time that God was faithful. I see every need He met. I see every person He used to support me, encourage me, and minister to me.

So my take away is this: God’s faithfulness is real. He is faithful through all the trials. He is faithful through all the tears. He is faithful through all the pain. He is faithful through the times of loss. He is faithful when you think you cannot take one more step forward.

You may be going through a really rough time in your life and you may think that nothing that is happening to you matters to God. Your life may look bleak and grim and this season in your life may feel hopeless. But it is not. Seek God, soak up his Word and trust in his promises. You may not see today where he is leading you, but God is faithful to those who are truly seeking him.

“Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth and it endures. Your laws endure to this day for all things serve you. If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.” Psalm 119:89-93 (NIV)

 

©Linda Delay Wallace 2020.

Tell Me Something Good

Yesterday I declared it to be “Tell Me Something Good” day on my Facebook feed.

I must confess. It has been a while since I have posted on my blog. Honestly, I, like many others, have been discouraged by everything that is going on in the world around me. Every time I open my computer I am bombarded with media. Real news, fake news, liberal views, right wing views, and hate filled posts from individuals I never anticipated. I have snoozed more Facebook friends (liberal and conservative) than I can count right now because of their prejudiced, ill-thought out, memes and comments. I have been dismayed by the posts of some individuals whom I thought were Bible believing, loving, kind Christians, after reading their hate filled rhetoric. I took a break from writing anything lest I become one of those ranting individuals.

Yesterday, I decided I was tired of hearing all the negativity Continue reading

God Loves the People You Hate

I was sitting in church when I glanced at the row behind me. I noticed a woman wearing a t-shirt that said “God loves the people you hate.” I have to confess, I was pretty distracted during the rest of the service thinking about the saying on that shirt. In reality it is hard to love the people we “hate” or “dislike” or “find irritating.” But if I have learned anything in studying Scripture, it is that Jesus wants us to love the unlovable. Continue reading

Facebook Politics and Fruit of the Spirit

I have started this post at least twenty different times this morning. On my Facebook feed I have read SO many political posts from friends on both the right and left side of politics. But this post is for my friends who are also my Christian family. My heart aches that I am seeing memes and comments that are extremely bitter against people who do not hold the same beliefs and values you do. My heart aches when I see Christians who hold Donald Trump up as America’s Savior.  We Christians have one Savior and one Lord–Jesus Christ. I frequently wonder why we are not promoting Jesus Christ and who he is, above politics.

I cannot help but think that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is saddened to see where many of his followers are today. Instead of being loving and kind, we are divisive and judgmental. Instead of praying for ALL of our leaders and elected officials, we are picking and choosing who we are praying for. Hate/love Nancy Pelosi? Pray for her daily. Hate/love Donald Trump? Pray for him daily. Love Jesus? Then act like it and develop fruit of the spirit in your life. Continue reading

Go Home, Beth Moore

Most Christians, especially women, are aware of the prolific Bible studies and speaking ministry of Beth Moore. I, along with thousands of other women (and men), have heard Beth speak on multiple occasions. She is a gifted speaker and has a passion for Jesus and God’s word that is evident in all of her studies. The first Bible study of hers I ever did was on the Tabernacle and I learned more about the tabernacle and how it pointed to Christ, than during any other tabernacle study I had done before (even in Bible college).  I am always challenged by her studies, not to emulate her, but to follow Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

Recently John MacArthur, a well-known Evangelical who has written multiple commentaries, literally skewered Beth Moore and went off on a tangent about female pastors, the “#Me Too” movement, liberalism, and the downfall of the church when it listens to culture. After hearing the actual tape and reading many of the comments following his diatribe I have to say, I am really disheartened that he felt not only free to make his comments, but seemed proud of himself for making them.

I did not have a problem with his stance of only male preachers, and although I hold a different opinion, he is entitled to his conviction on what he believes to be an accurate interpretation of Scripture. I am not even in disagreement that Scriptural interpretation should not be dictated by culture (although I think we have different views on what that means). I was, however, stunned by his blatant self-righteousness and petty spirit in making the comment that Beth should “go home,” and the laughter from his cronies following that comment.

So here are some of my thoughts on lessons we can learn from this encounter. Continue reading

Lunch Lessons

Today I stopped at a buffet restaurant for lunch. For some reason I noticed the gentleman behind me in line. He had a large blue bag with him, and waited patiently as we went through the line. He had snow white hair that flowed to his collar. He walked with a slow shuffle and had stooped and rounded shoulders. However, when he looked up his face was free of lines and wrinkles, and he appeared to be much younger than I initially thought. Like I frequently do with people, I found myself wondering what his story is. Continue reading