Tag Archive: peace


Christian Freedom Part 2

I saw this saying on a fellow blogger’s site, beautybeyondbones, and thought it summarized God’s grace and our freedom beautifully:

Living FOR acceptance and love is bondage.
Living FROM acceptance and love is freedom.

The reason there is a cross in Christian freedom is that we are radically insecure. We seek to justify our existence based on what we and others think of us. It never quite works, though, and we try to dull the pain with toys and distractions.

But if we realize this soul-sickness for what it is, we can put it behind us by turning to God for our justification. What greater statement of our worth could there be that the very Son of God would die to secure our forgiveness and to give us a real hope?

But there has to be a letting go of self: it’s not just enough to turn over a new leaf, to force ourselves into moral compliance. The illness is such that the only cure is for is to come to the end of ourselves and our self-justification.

Insecurity and self-centredness are two sides of the same coin. We constantly crave affirmation, to be told we’re all right. But the praise fades and like addicts, we need more.

It’s a big step to realize this, and a bigger step to be willing to let it go, to die to it, finding our justification – our reason to live – outside ourselves: God Himself loved us enough to die for us. But when we finally do let it go, what freedom! Worry and striving evaporate, and for the first time we can live deeply: not trying to drug ourselves with distractions and toys, but to live life down to the roots, secure in His acceptance and living for Him, not because we have to but because it is perfect joy to do so.

THAT is real freedom. That is what we were made for.

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Failure and Grace

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If Christ’s words command a radical trust, what shall we say when we find ourselves not trusting so radically, when we feel our own cold hearts, our sins or our fears?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit”. The sooner we realize we don’t have our act together, the sooner we make real progress. It’s the humble attitude that looks to Him for everything that’s getting somewhere. We’ll always feel inadequate, and in one sense that’s not a bad thing: not if it causes us to desperately seek His grace. We can actually rejoice in our weaknesses if it forces us to our knees.

Don’t let your own shortcomings preoccupy you – that’s just inverted pride. What’s more, we even need to repent of our good deeds if they are done to justify ourselves. Don’t set your heart on any sense of spiritual accomplishment. Instead, just look at Him; that’s where all your supply is anyways.

It’s such a relief to stop striving. When Jesus said his yoke was easy and His burden light, I think this is what He meant. As long as you are facing Him, He’ll do the rest.

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Life tests our trust in God. It’s one thing to agree with Christ’s teaching, but it’s entirely another to rest the weight of our lives on a real God who binds Himself with promises for our good. Christ’s words command a radical, personal trust. In fact, He implies that to not trust is to build our lives on shifting sand.

The work of the Christian is not primarily one of moral effort, but of trust. To rest in His promises, to enjoy life as those who have already been provided for. And it is work, because trusting like that doesn’t come naturally. We have to unlearn our suspicious, self-centred habits of the heart.

And if we so trust (and we are primarily trusting a Person, not a creed or doctrine) we will want to please Him: not to earn His approval but because we live in thankfulness and trust in what the Gospel tells us has already been done for us. We are getting to know Him, personally, intimately, and this is what changes us. It’s only out of a heart so remade that any good work or moral obedience can really come.

Thoughts From The Cancer Ward

A dear friend passed away recently. She faced her cancer with courage, grateful for the good in her life and trusting God even in the face of a fearful disease. She packed as much living as possible into her remaining time, and even though she knew she had mere weeks to live, she acted like someone who expected to live forever.

Palliative wards are solemn places, but there’s also a sort of emotional cleanness to them. All the facades are stripped away, and life in its most elemental form is laid bare; no niceties or airs, but pure, raw existence. It’s one of the most honest places I can think of: the big questions can’t be put off any more. It’s okay to cry.

And… those facing death can view the gospel with unusual clarity. They know, better than any, death as the ultimate humiliation, the running down and undoing of all we are. It declares the cessation of dreams and all we cherish; it is the end of meaning and music, song and beauty. The dying and bereaved can’t put off death’s brutal reality with amusements and distractions; it’s right there in their faces.

And yet, so much hope.

Hope – all hope, if your really think about it – is ultimately connected to freedom from the fear of death. This is why the Resurrection matters. It’s not just a nice story; it is a historical fact declaring that by Christ’s death sin is beaten, and death broken. That our end is not one of futility, but of the triumph of life and all that goes with it: existence has meaning, beauty is real, and we have a reason to live.

And we WILL live. The anticipation of an eternal, physical existence with Christ lies at the very centre of Christian hope. He rose; and because He did, so shall we.

As far as this present life goes, we’re all terminal anyways; it’s just a question of when. They say there’s no atheists in foxholes, but I don’t think the dying are grasping at straws. There’s too much historical evidence for the gospel, too much commonality of experience to dismiss it out of hand. This hope is a very real issue to the dying, and its reality often shines through their last days: perhaps as beacons to those of us who will tarry a few more years.

Satisfaction

I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. (‭Psalm‬ ‭63‬:‭5‬ NIV)

In mid-life we encounter a crisis of satisfaction. The dreams of youth have faded, relationships come and go; and we start to see friends die. We’ve peaked in our careers or even started down the other side through layoffs and downsizing and wonder what’s left.

Satisfaction is all about perspective. I spent most of my career at a single employer before downsizing terminated my job in 2010; being well into my middle years, I don’t have the same shelf life as younger prospective employees and employment has been an on-and-off again prospect. At 59 years of age, I’m usually the junior employee and the first to be laid off when there’s a slowdown.

It’s easy to get discouraged.

God’s reality has to be foremost in my thought. I read of a God who binds Himself with an oath to care for His children; whose “loving kindness is better than life” who cares about justice and help for the lost and hurting. Of a God who incarnated, actually lived as a man in history, died, and rose again, promising resurrection and eternal life to any who would choose to put their hearts in His hand. Of a God who promises to use ALL things for my benefit, calling me to a wonderful destiny and remaking my heart.

I need to fill my head and heart with these things (this is where regular reading, thinking on scripture and being in community with other Christians comes in), and when I do, my perspective returns. All will be very well.

And when our satisfaction comes from God rather than security, job status, or what others think of us, we can relax. We’re freed up to explore how we can make the world a bit better.

I wish I could say I do all this perfectly. I still struggle; but I know which way to run when the emotional storms come, and I find refuge.

Peace and Disappointment

Last Friday I waas laid off from a job I’d only been at 2 months. It wasn’t, I was told, because of my attitude or professional competence; they had just over-hired, and my services were no longer needed. Just like that. I was floored.

Yet (mingled with my sense of angst) there’s the sense that God is in control. “All things work together for good” (Romans 8:28) is not some sort of blessing box verse to rub on my wounded pride. It does not tell me that I have to feel good about it or convince myself that what happened to me was a good thing.

What it does say is that a sovereign God will use it to make my life better in the totality. In a world where relationships are possible, free will must be a real thing, and that includes the poor choices that employers may make. God can, and will use even that to my ultimate good.

The trick is to preach this to my heart. Do I react, or do I choose to trust God and bless even those who have hurt me? Will I give thanks in everything? To do so is a statement of allegiance; I can bless and forgive and pray because I believe He’s ultimately in charge.

Besides, what’s the alternative? To allow bitterness is to cave into despair and deny God’s reality in the situation.

I’m still mad, but I’ll get over it. God is bigger than my disappointment, and I don’t have to be a victim. I can have peace just resting in His Bigness, and I can give thanks even when life goes sideways.

Dealing With Worry

Worry is, when you think of it, simply care about whether our own wishes will be met.

If we believe God is sovereign, and we are totally committed to following Him and trusting in His love for us, how can we worry? We’re told in Romans 8 that this sovereign God who has chosen us will use ALL things for our good, and that nothing can separate us from His love.

Yet we worry. It is, I think, a habit of the heart that we have to unlearn every day. There are several practical things we can do to put our hearts at rest; and I should add that I struggle with worry as much as anyone. Here’s a few things I’ve found that help.

First, we have to make a conscious decision to put God first in all. He must become our ultimate good, the one goal we will always put first.

We must immerse ourselves in scripture and meditate in it. Get it into your bones. A regular devotional time every day is vital, and memorizing scripture helps a lot.

Reading the testimonies of modern people’s faith journeys helps too. Personally, I’ve found a ton of encouragement reading about George Muller of Bristol, England (google him and you’ll see why).

Take time to think about where you’ve been and thank God for all that’s happened in your life. Be grateful.

Recognize your emotions are just… well, emotions. They are the natural reaction to things that happen in your life. The man or woman of God need not be directed by their gut reactions; disciples are proactive, deliberately submitting their lives to God and taking care of their own souls as stewards.

And perhaps that’s the last point. Realize you’re not your own. Your Lord is Jesus, and He takes care of His own. The condition of your soul is more important than your comfort, and if you give all to Him, He will use all the ups and downs of life to remake you in practical fact.

It occurs to me that if we went through life honestly wanting to help others before ourselves there’d be a lot less worry and pain in our lives. Concern about the impression we’re making accounts for a large part of what makes us unhappy.

Two natures

When we become Christians, we have two natures; our old, reactive, natural selves, and our new natures, the part of us that was “born again”: the heart that desires to please God and which we are told to nourish and promote in our lives.

One of the real advantages of realizing your dual nature is that when your feathers are ruffled, you don’t have to take yourself that seriously. You can realize it’s just your old nature getting hot and bothered and let it go. It’s not the real you any more, and the peace in your life is in proportion to how much you live in that fact.

It’s all a matter of perspective. I find realizing this helps me a lot when I’m feeling insecure, marginalized or snubbed.

Hope

When we’re young and we have our whole lives in front if us, we feel like we’ll live forever. We dream, plan, and have hopes for marriage, career, and where we’ll live, and thoughts of our own mortality hardly enter our thinking. But that’s an illusion: dreams fade, our bodies age, life happens and friends change, move away and start to die. If our hopes start and end with this life, we start to feel a sense of despair.

We need a better hope.

God enters time. He incarnates into a historical Person who teaches, lives, dies, and then – incredibly – lives again. Now either this is a religious legend or something that really happened. And if it really happened, EVERYTHING changes. We have a real hope.

The raw historical fact of the resurrection means there really is a God who has provided for our guilt; that HE came for US, so that we could have a real future that will outlast this life.

Your character is a function of your hope. Despairing people are cynical and unhappy; but if Jesus really lives, we have a better hope. We don’t dodge the sorrow and hassle of this life, but we are better equipped to deal with it: we can live with integrity and joy whether we’re suffering or happy.