Facing Our Giants

TissSlng (Small) Out of my distress I called on the LORD;

the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place.

With the LORD on my side I do not fear.
What can mortals do to me?

The LORD is on my side to help me;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to put confidence in mortals.

It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to put confidence in princes.

Psalm 118

Continue reading “Facing Our Giants”

What are you doing with your freedom?

freeinchrist.gifFor freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:1, 13)

When I think of the word “freedom” I find that my mind has a very American, rather than a biblical understanding, of that word.

To me, freedom means throwing off anything that constrains and doing whatever pleases me! Free to read a book, free to not cook tonight, free to let the grass grow longer, free to ignore anything that I do not feel like doing!

Likewise it means free to pick and choose the efforts that I will pusue to win the approval of others. In short, freedom is a word that translates in my mind to being all about me!

This Galatians passage presses me to think new thoughts about freedom. What kind of freedom did Christ have in mind when He freed me?

    • freedom from thinking I could save myself through self effort
    • freedom to risk all on Christ rather than being self-protective
    • free to rest in the gift of grace
    • freedom from senseless pursuits that have no lasting benefit
    • freedom from fear of failure
    • freedom to love God with all my heart
    • freedom from believing that my sin defines me
    • free to see my identification in Christ
    • freedom from people pleasing
    • free to pursue whatever pleases God
    • free to make commitments that last into eternity
    • freedom from wasting the gift of time
    • free to serve — especially those whom God has brought near
    • freedom to repent of rather than cover up sin• freedom from living in intimidation or insecurity

Galatians teaches me that a life of faith that does not increasingly free me in all these areas and more is a false faith.

Even more, it teaches me that what we do with our freedom is a clue to whether we have been set free or not!

If I use my freedom to pursue myself I have not been set free I am bound by my flesh.

If by God’s grace, I understand that my rebellion was interrupted that I might fulfill my destiny–that is made free to serve–I am free indeed!

Listen to the words of our Lord in John 13 after he stooped to wash the disciples feet:

For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

John 13:15-16

Will you be free today? If so, I wonder who you will be serving?

Living Hope

Yesterday, I heard a sermon from 1 Peter entitled “A Living Hope”.  Last night, I talked with a friend who shared her excitement that she may be able to adopt a little 1 year old boy after the first of the year.


She knew that was the hook I needed to keep me on the phone when the Survivor China finale was on!

She and her husband have two other adopted children and they have been praying for a few months about this particular little boy and how all the finances and other considerations might be worked out.

Well, the “God story” piece of this call was that the little boy has an inheritance!  His college education will be paid for as well as all the adoption costs!  When my friend protested that this was not necessary…the response she got was, “You don’t understand, you cannot say ‘no’, it is an inheritance!’

That conversation must have been meant to seal the sermon on 1 Peter deeper in my heart because I have pondered it all morning.

This letter written to exiles whose lives were anything but hope filled was built around the idea of the sure hope that one can have in an inheritance.

Peter’s heart was as full as my friend’s when he spoke the truth to suffering saints as deep encouragement and powerful help to persevere.

He wanted them to see with the eyes of faith to the other side of the persecution and alienation that they were enduring.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:3-9

I was struck by the interweaving of hope and faith in Peter’s words.

Hope has come to us as part of the new birth–we do not have to work it up–it is a grace gift!

  • it rests not on a vague feeling or wishful positive thoughts–it rests on the sure evidence that death was not the last word for Jesus–He was resurrected victoriously over death!
  • since He lives eternally–we have a living hope–one that knows no end.
  • since the inheritance is being guarded by the power of omnipotent and eternal God, we need not fear loss or that we will come to the end of our days and face bankruptcy.
  • he describes the inheritance as imperishable, unspoiled, and gloriously and permanently brilliant — life eternal.
  • Peter assures the readers that their hope is as secure as an inheritance–and gives them perspective on the present by reminding them that an inheritance is something you wait to receive.

However: The life he was promising as an inheritance contrasted with the reality they were living in the moment–their eyes saw people perishing, beauty and goodness spoiled by evil and light fading into suffocating darkness.

  • Faith is introduced as the instrument that would give these suffering saints the “eyes” to  “see” a greater reality than the one before their physical eyes.
  • Faith would be the instrument through which they would receive God’s sustaining grace as they suffered and anticipated their secure inheritance that was being shielded and protected by the power of God.

Why?  Peter’s answer is that what we cannot see is more precious to God than what we can!

  • We don’t have eyes to see the dross of unbelief mixed in with faith–God does–faith is precious to Him so He refines it with the fires of suffering.
  • We don’t have eyes to see the praiseworthiness of the Living One–Jesus —God does and He uses persevering faith through suffering to gain praise and glory for His precious Son!

How grateful I am for my friend’s phone call!

God used her words to reorient my vision…there was a real Survivor finale that took place over 2000 years ago and His victory–having survived death– secured my inheritance—I have a Living Hope!

Though I have not seen Him — I love Him and the unbeckoned joy that wells up and generates inexpressible delight as I ponder Peter’s words is evidence that I am receiving in the present an installment on my future inheritance.

I can’t say “No” it is an inheritance!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

New Kind of Co-Dependence

ac-emera "Imagine flying in an airplane, look out one side of the plane and see the left wing–it reads "dependence".  On the right side is the wing of "discipline."  We need both to "fly" in the Christian life.  Discipline refers to those activities designed to train a person in a particular skill.  Dependence refers to the trust we have in God to work through us.  We mistakenly assert that the believer’s job is to trust, while God does the work."

 "God’s work does not make our efforts unnecessary but rather makes them effective." 

Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace.

While I agree with Jerry Bridge’s above conclusion, I wonder if he does not express more confidence in our "efforts" than we rightly deserve?  As I understand Scripture, both our "dependence" and our "discipline" are gifts from God ( Philippians 4:13. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)  I find believers need no more encouragement to strive or exert more effort.  In fact, we need all the help the Spirit is willing to give to trust in the God who boldly affirms, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." 

I am strengthened by the truth that I can worry less about "my part" in the mystery of union with Christ and rest more in His work accomplished and being accomplished in me! 

A Heart Like His

“Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.  Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play.  Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” 

1 Samuel 16:14;23

jealous_rage.jpgWhen the Spirit of equipping power left Saul he was left with such a moral vacuum that it scared him to death!  Into that vacuum rushed every scarey thought that can take a sane person captive. 

Fear of failure – of defeat; of loss of influence; of being disregarded by those who used to value you; fear of being alone.  His torment was  so evident that his servants took notice and tried to help the King find relief. Can you imagine? 

The mighty king, so paralyzed by the spirit of fear that he needed to rely on the wisdom of his servants to find a path of relief.  Into the discord and disharmony that fear created comes the harp playing, anointed David.  He, with the Spirit’s presence, brought harmony and refreshment to Saul’s troubled heart. 

How powerfully this reveals the call of God to Spirit indwelt believers!  We enter into service to the fear-filled, tormented world playing a harmonious melody that refreshes and relieves panic in others.  That harmony is created not by our efforts but by the very presence of God’s Spirit within us!  We are vessels of grace to a scared world.

Lord, today please use me to bring harmony out of discord.  Spirit, move me out of self imposed solitary pursuits and into the world seeking to relieve and assist others to feel better!  Show me who I might serve today Lord.  Give me a song of relief for your people! Amen