Step 3, Bible Studies

Freedom for Prisoners: You Can be Set Free from Abuse

I'd like to start by introducing myself. My name is Sheri, I am currently 42 and have been a Christian since the age of 13. I am a survivor of more than 20 years of sexual abuse and rape. I have been abused by both men and women, but the one woman scarred me more than all the men together. However, I am NOT a victim, but a survivor. I am not being abused anymore. I may have the occasional flashback or other issue that arises when you have been abused, but it is just the memory of the abuse, not the actual abuse itself. I am a SURVIVOR, not a victim. I am not fully healed, but am steadily working on my recovery and healing with the help of Jesus Christ and good counselors. I know what it is to be in bondage and I know what it is to be free. It is my prayer that you learn the way to freedom through this message.

I have had this message rolling around in my head and my heart for quite some time now. Just down the road about 30 minutes, maybe less, is a Federal Maximum Security Prison that holds only 3 types of offenders: rapists, murderers and armed robbers. For the longest time now, every time I go past that prison, I have a longing and a desire to go in and tell the prisoners that are there that there is hope for them and forgiveness of their sins. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. That though they may never receive the forgiveness of those they hurt, they CAN receive God's forgiveness. There is another way to live that holds hope, peace, joy and truth. But after speaking to my pastor, who is very wise, he suggested something I have never thought of. Perhaps I am being called to minister to those in prison, but not necessarily those in a prison building. Perhaps I am to write this message so that those who are imprisoned in their past, pain, misery, sorrow or other such prisons and chains. This message is for you.

Is Obeying God Simply Resulting in Hardship for You?

"Does Job fear God for no reason?"
Job 1:9 ESV

This was the wicked question of Satan concerning that upright man of old, Job. But there are many today who might be asked the same question with justice, for they love God (after a fashion) because he prospers them; but if things went badly for them, they would give up their boastful faith in God. If they can clearly see that since their supposed conversion, everything has gone well for them, then they will love God in their poor carnal way; but if they endure adversity, they rebel against the Lord. Their love is the love of the table, not of the host; a love to the cupboard, not to the master of the house.

Being Victorious Over Your Enemies

Deuteronomy 28:7
"The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you; they shall come out against you one way, and flee before you seven ways."

Every believer has enemies. In fact, every believer has three enemies: Satan and his hoards, sin, and our own mortal flesh. Notice that I didn't mention other people... precisely because our warfare isn't against other people (for whom Christ also died), but against principalities, powers, and spiritual wickedness (Ephesians 6:12). But we do have enemies and we should be doing battle everyday against those enemies. The wonderful thing is that those enemies are already defeated. In fact, they don't simply skulk away from the direction they came. The Lord routes them in seven different directions! They fly pell mell, unable to even chart a course, due to their fear of the Lord's armies.

New Year's Resolutions

written January 1st but applicable to any new beginning

Today is traditionally a day of resolutions: I will eat more healthy. I will exercise more. I will spend more time with my family. To be honest, I’m just horrible with resolutions. Even if I make just one, I can do that one thing regularly... for a while... and then life comes crashing in and I find that my resolution (and all my good intentions) go right out the window. I just can’t handle looking at life over a long period of time. Too many things happen that make demands upon me... demands on my time, on my emotions, on my energy, on my focus.

Have you ever said "no" to God?

After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; and he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off. Genesis 22:1-4 NRSV

Have you ever said "no" to God?

As many of you know, my husband and I are in the process of moving into a beautiful house given to us by the Lord. Moving in and unpacking a container we packed up two years ago, discovering things we’d forgotten that we had. It’s like meeting old friends again, finding the things we’d lived with for a long time and then suddenly didn’t have for two years. In many ways, a warm reunion, finding a place to put each thing.

Feel too far Gone to Claim His Promises?

Do as thou hast said. 2 Samuel 7:25

God's promises were never meant to be thrown aside as waste paper; he intended that they be used. God's gold is not miser's money, but is minted to be traded with. Nothing pleases our Lord better than to see his promises put in circulation; he loves to see his children bring them up to him, and say, "Lord, do as you have said. We glorify God when we plead his promises.

Do you think that God will be any poorer for giving you the riches he has promised? Do you dream that he will be any less holy for giving holiness to you? Do you imagine he will be any less pure for washing you from your sins? He has said

"Come now, and let us reason together,
saith the Lord:
though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they be red like crimson,
they shall be as wool."

Faith lays hold upon the promise of pardon, and it does not delay, saying, "This is a precious promise, I wonder if it is true?" but it goes straight to the throne with it, and pleads, "Lord, here is the promise, 'Do as you have said.'"

Our Lord replies, "Be it done to you as you desire."

When a Christian grasps a promise, if he does not take it to God, he dishonours him; but when he hastens to the throne of grace, and cries, "Lord, I have nothing to recommend me but this, 'Thou hast said it;'" then his desire shall be granted.

Making Choices

Romans 6:16-18 NRSV
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

The Lord has been talking to me a lot lately about how I make decisions. There has been instilled within me a strong Puritan work ethic: God only helps those who help themselves. And while I do believe that Christians are commanded to work and to work hard (and often), I think that my own worldview has been corrupted with the idea of American self-determination.

Romans is an interesting book. Of all the books, this is the one that is the least personal. All of Paul's other epistles are letters written to churches with whom he had personal relationships, but the letter to the church at Rome was written to people he had never met. Thus, Paul takes the time to outline the doctrines of Christianity. In essence, this--even more than the other epistles--is a book of the Bible written to us for this time, a church which Paul never meets and a church which desperately needs the anchor of correct Christian thought and practice.

What Should My Response to Suffering Be?

2 Thessalonians 1:3-8 NRSV
We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering. For it is indeed just of God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to the afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t address the persecutions of the Thessalonians in the same way that we often address persecutions. If you think about it, most pastors tell us that our faith is exemplified when we take authority over Satan and believe that our trials will disappear based on God’s love. But Paul, rather than preaching that, says that faith is based on persevering through afflictions.

We need to ask ourselves what we believe.

Rebuilding Your Old Ruins in Christ Jesus

And they shall rebuild the old ruins,
They shall raise up the former desolations,
And they shall repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.
Isaiah 61:4, NKJV

This Scripture really spoke to me this morning as I thought of how so many of us come from places of brokenness, of loss, of deep wounding. We can sometimes wonder if wholeness is a real possibility for us again, or is it just a pipe dream?

I do not believe Jesus is the Author of pipe dreams. Nor is He the author of confusion and the chaos that comes from our addictions and sin and life-controlling problems. But He is the Author of Life, the Author of the rich, eternal, abundant Life that flows forth from within His Spirit and up into our hearts and spirits as He pours His Love and Hope into our hearts:

Life is Messy, Sloppy, Sometimes Miserable

Isaiah 43:10-13
"But you are my witnesses, O Israel!" says the Lord. "And you are my servant. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God; there never has been and never will be. I am the Lord, and there is no other Savior. First I predicted your deliverance; I declared what I would do, and then I did it -- I saved you. No foreign god has ever done this before. You are witnesses that I am the only God," says the Lord. "From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can oppose what I do. No one can reverse my actions" (NLT).

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