Free

Image result for pictures free

“It is idle to say that men are of equal value. If value is taken in a worldly sense—if we mean that all men are equally useful or beautiful or good or entertaining—then it is nonsense. If it means that all are of equal value as immortal souls, then I think it conceals a dangerous error. The infinite value of each human soul is not a Christian doctrine. God did not die for man because of some value He perceived in him. The value of each human soul considered simply in itself, out of relation to God, is zero. As St. Paul writes, to have died for valuable men would have been not divine but merely heroic; but God died for sinners. He loved us not because we were lovable, but because He is Love. It may be that He loves all equally—He certainly loved all to the death—and I am not certain what the expression means. If there is equality, it is in His love, not in us.   

—from “Membership” (The Weight of Glory) by C.S Lewis
What holds you captive?  Strange question, perhaps, but a reasonable one. Looking at the people around me I can see a lot of things that they could be captive to:  work, Facebook status, approval of others, even their own dreams.  If we look at the world in relation to something and make our choices based on that thing then really we have become captive to it.
I have been contemplating how some people base who they are on their relationships (or lack thereof in the single world) and I think this is a dangerous thing.  Relationships change, they wax and wane, they grow, they fade, they’re ever changing.  If you’ve longed for a relationship for a long time and finally find one, the danger to you if you base who you are on that relationship is that if anything changes in that relationship your self esteem and even your sense of self could be damaged.
Sometimes even our relationship with God can be affected by this.  If we base who we are on our Christian practices, like the fact that we go to church every Sunday, pray every night before bed and go to Bible study faithfully, then it is possible that these practices might be holding us captive.  Don’t misunderstand me, these are very good things but we should ask ourselves, ‘Why do I do these things?’  To look better in the eyes of others?  If so, you’re captive to the approval of others.  To earn God’s love for you?  Then you’re captive to pride (‘me do, me do!’).
As the above CS Lewis quote says, we make an error if we think that we are anything in the eyes of God because of ourselves.  It is entirely because of who He is that we can come into His presence.  If we base our life on becoming worthy of God’s love, not only have we missed the point but we’ll be wasting our time. Even worse, if we are held back from His freedom because we are captive by a sense of unworthiness we will miss out entirely on His plan for us.  We must come to the place of freedom in Christ.  Part of this freedom is relinquishing our captivity in feeling that we earned or are earning His love.  Coming to the place of truly accepting God’s infinite grace even though we can’t understand it is freedom like no other. This is why John 8:36 says,  so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (NIV)
I challenge you this week to honestly answer these questions to yourself–What am I captive to?  What can I do to change my focus to freedom in Christ?  And I hope you become free indeed!

Lies Singles Tell Themselves…

SingleBcSo I found this new blog, The Single Woman, by Mandy Hale.  I’ve been keeping tabs on it over the last few months and am quite excited about it.  Mandy speaks from the heart with obvious concern for and understanding of her fellow Christian singles.

A recent post really caught my eye–Lies Singles Tell Themselves.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

http://us7.campaign-archive2.com/?u=289e1f78a90b57cfc0160d723&id=9756b3fa08&e=68c6e11a4b

The above picture is from the Single Woman blog post above.

Equality

“It is idle to say that men are of equal value. If value is taken in a worldly sense—if we mean that all men are equally useful or beautiful or good or entertaining—then it is nonsense. If it means that all are of equal value as immortal souls, then I think it conceals a dangerous error. The infinite value of each human soul is not a Christian doctrine. God did not die for man because of some value He perceived in him. The value of each human soul considered simply in itself, out of relation to God, is zero. As St. Paul writes, to have died for valuable men would have been not divine but merely heroic; but God died for sinners. He loved us not because we were lovable, but because He is Love. It may be that He loves all equally—He certainly loved all to the death—and I am not certain what the expression means. If there is equality, it is in His love, not in us.   

—from “Membership” (The Weight of Glory) by C.S Lewis
Remember, your value is not in what you wear or what your job is or what you’ve done or what you will do or whether you’re single or married–it is in who God is and what He has done for you.  And THAT will never change.  Isn’t it refreshing to realize that you don’t have to keep up with the Jones’?

I Blame God…

Grief

I love getting comments on my posts from those who happen across my blog.  Just recently a reader left a comment in response to an earlier post about how he does blame God for his singleness.  Seeing as there may well be a lot of you out there who may overtly or covertly feel the same way, I thought that it might be a useful thing to talk about again.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. Psalm 31:9 (ESV)

All of us at one time or another throughout our lives have been horribly disappointed or monumentally let down.  This does seem to be the nature of humanity:  to at some time in our lives passionately hope for something only to be eventually disappointed.  Perhaps it’s because of what we hope for, or how we express our hopes, or how persistently we cling to them against all odds that makes the disappoint in the end so intense.  I am confident that we all have, or will, have this happen to us at some point in our lives.

Now, there are 2 basic responses to disappointment:  1).  camping out at that point of disappointment and making the rest of your life about that issue, or 2).  mourning the loss of that particular hope and then moving on.

Sometimes the intesity of the hope lost precludes ones ability to move on.  You feel compelled to stay in that place of disappointment, circling it, staring at it, grieving it, wishing that it had worked out differently, creating worlds in your mind where it did work out differently.  Mourning the loss of a hope or expectation is natural and, should I even say, healthy.  I think a problem arises, though, when we refuse to let it go.  When after a while the grieving becomes a habit that we are unwilling to give up, when we literally get STUCK in this place of disappointment and sacrifice our future to mourning this lost hope.

At that point it almost seems like we WANT to be stuck in our sorrow.  That we want to warn all that pass of the vanity and futility of hope.  Is this a ‘dog in a manger type response’ (eg. if I can’t have happiness neither can you) or do we really think that hope is dangerous and best avoided?

C.S. Lewis published a little book called A Grief Observed.  In it are journal entries from the early days after he lost his wife to cancer.  Now, as I understand it, Lewis never really wanted to get married but fell into it to help a young lady and her children.  He fell in love with her though and was heart broken when she died.  Imagine his grief–he was a happy confirmed bachelor who was ‘dragged’ into marriage, discovered an unexpected joy in it, then loses it again.

I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
Tennyson

Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?  I do not know.  I sit firmly in the camp of those who have ‘never loved at all’ so I will have to let you read Lewis’ book, consider your own experience and come up with your own opinion on the matter.

I think that the important point to make here is that if you have been seriously disappointed in your life, being single when you dream of marriage, being alone when you dream of togetherness, being solo when all you want is a duo, remember this:  if you stay stuck in the mire of your dead hopes things will never change.  If you insist on camping out at that spot of disappointment, whatever you think of God, you will always be there, surrounded by your broken dreams and sorrows, and you will never fulfill any of your other potential.  Unless you take courage and walk out the front door you will always be looking at the same four walls.

It does take courage to walk out that door, to move on.  Especially if you’ve been stuck for some years.  To move on means that you might be disappointed again, your hopes might be shattered again.  But, then again you might find a promise fulfilled or joy in a different place than you expected.  When you move on, instead of your lost hope being a weight around your neck, it can become an extra bit of character that gives you strength and courage and that will help you to stand strong–‘I went through pain and suffering but I made it through,’ or ‘it didn’t come to STAY, it came to PASS.’

We do not need to be stuck in our sorrow.  We can choose to move on.  And we will see things that we never expected and may even find joy in that which brought us the most sorrow.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

 

GOD’S NOT DEAD

“The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.”
St. Augustine

I just watched the movie, God’s Not Dead, and boy was it a good one!  What I particularly liked about the movie was the way that each character did what was right despite their family and friends and what must have seemed like the whole world standing against them.  They spoke the truth.

Cheers to each actor who was in the movie and to each person who has been involved in a similar situation (they’re commoner than you would expect).

I had a professor in my undergraduate science degree who was a Christian in what I would describe as the ‘bastion of atheistic faith’ aka my university (there were not many professors who professed Christianity at this great place of learning).  He was a great teacher but alas I learned later, after finishing the class and moving onward, that he was no longer teaching at my university.  From the rumours, it was because of his stance on creation.

This was confusing to me at the time because our university moto was straight from the Bible:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8 NIV

My friend, Mandie, also told me that her brother, while in grade school, was asked to write a paper on worshipping the devil.  When he refused he got into a lot of trouble.  Kudos to him for standing up for what he believed in even at such a young age!

Freedom of speech would seem to be withering away in our western world.  Don’t let this be the case!  If the Spirit is telling you to talk, do it.  No one can argue with your testimony–it’s your story.  Tell them how God is not Dead–how could He be?  You just spoke to Him 5 minutes ago!!  Speak Truth and He will defend Himself.

I would probably re-write St. Augustine’s quote:

The Truth IS a lion (the Lion of Judah).  Speak the Truth and He will make His defense.  All you have to do is let Him loose!

Here are the Newsboys, with the heavenly voice of Michael Tait, proclaiming God’s Not Dead! (you just have to love the enthusiasm of the drummer, Duncan Phillips!)

Are You Down for a Moment?

So for the last 8 months I have had my hands full with a significant amount of circumstance related stress/spiritual warfare.  It has been a really interesting time for me.  I’ve had to think and reassess and ponder and try to come to terms with how things were in my life.

I was in a bad place at one point and at the right time my friend, Mandie, sent me a video.  I had heard Mandisa’s song, Overcomer, but I had never seen the video.  I was “overcome” by the video.

The video includes former U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, Captain Mark Kelly, Gold Medalist Scott Hamilton, and Good Morning America host Robin Roberts.

According to the Christian Post (online, Justin Sarachik, 07 Oct 2013), in a press release Mandisa said the following about the people highlighted in the video.  “We chose each of them because when we thought of who has been an example of an overcomer in a very public battle, it is hard to imagine anyone more appropriate than the amazing people in my video. They have all fought, and continue to fight victoriously. I pray that sharing their inspirational stories throughout the video will leave people saying, ‘If they can do it, so can I!'”

The same article quoted Gabby Giffords as saying, “I was really inspired by Mandisa’s song ‘Overcomer’ because its message is one of hope, perseverance and faith.  We can’t always control what happens to us in life, but we can control how we respond. Like the song says, if we keep positive and ‘stay in the fight till the final round,’ we can overcome more than we ever dreamed possible.”

Please watch this video. I’ll warn you, it makes me tear up every time I watch it.  I hope and pray that someone out there may find hope and strength in their time of need through seeing others that have overcome and by hearing the Good News that with God you are never alone!

Mandisa, Overcomer

Happy or Holy?

So I was talking with a friend yesterday and he said something quite singular.  He told me that if someone had enough faith that they would not have any medical problems.  He thought that this is what “overcoming” meant–that the problem would disappear.  When I asked why he thought this, he said that God is a good God and all He wants is for us to be happy.cherubim with harp

Now, I have already talked about health in a couple of blogs last year (Christians and illness, Parts I and II–found in the ‘Misconceptions’ category) so I won’t go into that again.  What I do want to discuss is the idea that the main thing God wants is for us to be happy.

Yes, I realize that some may raise their eyebrows at what I’m going to say next but here it is:  God’s goal for us is not for us to be happy, but rather for us to be holy.

This is a very important distinction.  This defines God’s purpose in our lives.  Let me explain.

If above all else God wants us to be happy, then why can’t we just live our lives the way we want to?  Why can’t we just do as we please?  Why does He interfere with our lives by telling us to “love our neighbours as ourselves?” (Mark 12:31).

Do you really think that Abraham was happier leaving his home to travel to a land that he’d never seen before (Genesis 12)?  Don’t you think Joseph would have been happier to skip out on being sold into slavery and ending up in prison in Egypt (Genesis 37, 39 – 46)?  Would Moses not have been happier living as a prince in Egypt instead of wandering in the desert for 40 years (Exodus)?

For that matter, would not Christ have been happier staying in heaven and reigning as the Son of God than living on earth and dying on the cross?  If all God wanted was for His children to be happy he would likely not have sent Christ to this earth at all.

So why did God let these things happen to these His children?  Because He wants much more for us than to be “happy.”  He wants us to grow, to mature, to aspire to holiness, to become more than we even imagined that we could!  Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.  2 Corinthians 7:1b NIV

Imagine Esther’s surprise at being picked by the great King Xerxes as his wife in place of Vashti!  But do you think that she was made queen so that she would be happy?  When the Israelites came under attack, even though it would put her life at risk, Mordecai, her uncle, encouraged her to petition the King.  He said to her, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 NIV

And what are we told about Christ?  “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”  Hebrews 5:8,9 NIV

We hear Christ say that “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NKJV

So it would seem that as the children of God we can expect hardship and difficulties.  We can expect suffering that tests our faith.  This does NOT sound very nice or encouraging. It’s actually rather disheartening.  But listen to this encouragement…

We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Romans 5:3,4 NIV

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2 – 4 NIV

So, it kind of sounds like we should not only expect suffering, that we should look forward to it because God uses it to mold and mature us!   To help us to become holy like Himself.  I don’t know about you, but this process doesn’t make me overly happy. In the end, however, we will earn more than a little happiness–we will have pure joy!

Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh. 22
Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.
Luke 6:20 – 23

Now that it has become clear that we will suffer as Christians, we need to realize that our hardships are for a higher purpose, not only to build us into stronger and better people but often to improve things for those around us.  Consider what Joseph said to his brothers after they had sold him into slavery and finally found him in Egypt as the second in command to Pharoah:  “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” Genesis 45:6 NIV

And from Paul:  “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.  Philippians 1:12 – 15 NIV

But do not lose heart.  We don’t have to do this on our own strength.  Christ said in Matthew 28:20b, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  NIV

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  NIV

We may not always be happy, but we will be working on holiness with every hardship we persevere through, with every illness we overcome, with every obstacle that we navigate through.  So it is not because you lack faith that these things come your way; it is to help you gain faith!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 NIV

Holy is much better than happy! 😀