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The Lowest Moments Begin

Sovereign Lord, I must confess there are things I do not understand, & events that are difficult for me to fully comprehend. Betrayal by a close friend, a compatriot, a partner in ministry is such an abhorrent thing, but Jesus experienced it, too. Divisive, poisoned thoughts, selfish prioritizing, & an apparent refusal to express what was on his heart to Jesus…this all led to his downfall. The world is full of this type of behavior, but that doesn’t make it easier to accept. Father, give us strength to be honest & open with one another in love. Give us the grace to walk in the light as You are in the light. Release us from selfishness & pride as we walk with Jesus. May we glorify You. It is through Christ we pray, amen.

Luke 22:1-6
1Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.

So the Passover celebrations were beginning, a day of remembrance & delivery from slavery. So much speaking to freedom, a removal of the yoke of oppression & there is no doubt that Judas had felt that yoke from the Romans for as long as he thought he could stand it. He saw what he thought was the perfect timing, the perfect opportunity to stand up & point things in what he thought was the right direction. He felt his motives were right, he was convinced that he knew best & there was no way that he could mess this up.

I know some people speculate that Judas betrayed Jesus in order to provoke Him to do something miraculous, something that would force His hand so He might begin the overthrow of the Romans. Others say he did all this because he was tired of seeing Jesus refuse the kingship that the people were trying to press on Him. He made his own plans for the Messiah. There are plenty of other ways to attempt to explain the actions of Judas Iscariot, but no matter how the events came together in his heart & mind, he still wound up betraying Jesus & it resulted in His death by crucifixion.

It seems like everyone was aware that something was coming. Judas knew, the chief priests & scribes knew, the people had picked up on it & things were coming to a conclusion of some sort. Desperation comes into play. Social pressure leans heavily on people & impatience becomes a minute-by-minute struggle. Justifications are made & evil’s presence is secured. Judas was entered by Satan, who is always looking for opportunity, & things were set for this most horrendous betrayal, this ultimate rejection of God by humanity.

Betrayal is ugly. There is no way to make it less than what it is. It is painful. It is cruel. It is unfeeling. It is soul-wounding. But Jesus came to bear it all for us. He wasn’t spared anything. Judas would betray, a stab in the back by a close friend. The High Priests would betray God, the final snub that expressed their desire for self over submission. The people would shout “Crucify,” their voices echoing the hollowness in their spiritual walk. Even His closest friends would abandon Him. And Jesus would experience every moment of it.

This is the love of God poured out for us. That Jesus would come, take on our flesh & all the suffering that comes with it. The Prophet reminds us that He is a man of sorrows & acquainted with suffering, David saw His bones exposed through skin & God the Father had spoken of this moment from the beginning with Adam & Eve at the Fall of humanity. Everything was coming to a climax, & God allowed what needed to be allowed while He orchestrated our release from death & the bondage of sin. Pride & betrayal began it all & pride-laced betrayal would bring about the solution.

Father, give us eyes to see & ears to hear the correction that comes from You & in Your love. Teach us to obey You & reveal the intentions of our own hearts to us as we walk in the rhythms of Your grace & in the power of Your Holy Spirit. Open our eyes so we might see, open our ears so we might hear. Open our heart so we would be aware of our own struggles & receive the light of Christ as our daily guide. Please forgive us our pride-filled weaknesses & poor judgment. In Jesus Name, amen.

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Free means Free

Sustain us in the struggle Lord, and raise us to Your life. Amen.

Galatians 5:1-15
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

13 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. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Let’s read that last bit again:

13 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. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

When we hear the word freedom, we probably have several different images pop into our mind. Mel Gibson pops in first as William Wallace, face painted blue, war worn, tied to a table and suffering his last. It is a gasping final breath, a cry for something that mattered most, that was worth dying for, a cause that was meant to bring hope to others.

Then I think of people like Harriet Tubman & Sojourner Truth, people who worked and struggled and did things both stealthy and public to draw attention to the plight of their people, desiring freedom from oppression & slavery. They didn’t care what man’s opinion was on the matter, they did what was right. Dr. King echoed their hearts on the other side of the Emancipation Proclamation, while men and women still struggled for equality because of the color of their skin, and many still echo their cause today, and rightfully so.

I think of Moses standing in the court of Pharaoh, staff in hand, and Charlton Heston’s beard hanging down on his chest demanding that Pharaoh let God’s people go. A power struggle between two men, one who thought himself a god, and another who was on a mission from God. Moses stood representing a people who were oppressed, taken advantage of, beaten down and suffering. Freedom seemed like a pipe dream to them, suffering was their companion.

But God has different plans.

All of these examples of freedom that pop into my head center around people who were willing to stand up to that others might have freedom, and I think that’s only right. People who fight for their own freedom, but neglect the needs of others around them do not understand the true nature of freedom. And this thought is found in this passage from Galatians 5 today. We have been granted a great freedom in Christ, yes. But we cannot, not even for a moment, keep that freedom to ourselves. It is counter-intuitive, truly free people want non-free people to truly be free, and they will point the goals of their life toward that work.

Freedom isn’t an idea. It’s not a rough concept or construct that we work under. Freedom is a state of being, and it shapes everything we have license to do. Paul was pointing this out, too, when he reminded the church in Galatia that their freedom was given so that they might serve others. It isn’t a freedom for self, but a freedom to serve. That’s what freedom is for, freedom is for freeing, and people who are free, and understand their freedom, having engaged with it, will seek freedom for others. They will ‘go’ as Jesus called them to go, bringing freedom to the captives.

Luke 4:16-21
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

If this was Jesus’ mission, then it belongs to us, too.
Freedom if for everyone. Free means free.
Go set someone free today.

You are known by God

Do you think that the Queen of England ever forgets her status? Do you think she ever gets up in the morning, looks around the royal bedchambers, notices a staff member setting up the tray for her morning tea, opening the curtains, laying out her things and wonders, “Well, who is this and why are they doing all this?”
No. Of course not. She’s the queen, and that life is what is afforded for her. It is part of her rank and status that she would be so cared for & so well attended. While she may have no real power, she is still beloved by those who are hers.

We often forget what we have been afforded in Christ. We look around at the world God has created, at he provision He has laid out for us, we forget how dearly loved we are. We forget =Whose= we are and we fall into the trap of disbelieving just how deeply and how greatly we are loved.

Galatians 4:1-11
I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything,
but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

God has made provision for =you= in Jesus Christ. He has shown the depth of His love, and breadth of His grace. He has given us a wonderful gift beyond measure. But so often we see and observe, and we turn back to what we once had. That is what Paul is dealing with in this portion of his letter to the Galatian church. Why would we turn back to the life that once had us, to the pain that once ensnared us? Why would you turn back to death once you have been brought back to life?

But we do it every day.

We leave behind the rich appointments of grace to wallow in the filth of our own sin.

This is why we are daily glad for grace, and for the presence of the Holy Spirit that corrects us.  There is mourning that comes with this realization, but it is a mourning that is infused with hope.

Lamentations 3:19-26
19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

You are deeply loved and dearly bought when you are clothed with Christ. You are afforded a richness that comes with being drawn into the presence of the Living God. Jesus gave proof to His disciples after He was resurrected by doing something simple, He ate with them. He wanted them to see that this was the new reality, the new normal. The life they had been appointed to was past and there was something new on the way. This is what Jesus does for us, this is what God has laid out for us. It’s all for =His= glory, but as heirs, we share in the glorious promises of righteousness.

Luke 24:36-49
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

God will take great care to clothe us, care for us and shower us with His love. We are His children, deeply loved, dearly bought. Just as Christ did simple things, like eating fish, to convince His disciples that things really were as they were, even thought it was beyond hope, maybe even beyond belief, He was alive again and there, present with them. Just as He did that, we need to remember that every day, through many convincing proofs, God reminds us that He is present with us, loving us. He is our Abba, our Father, our Daddy & He cares very much for us.

Rest in His arms today. Let Him sing over you. May the joy of the Lord be your strength.

No more loneliness, no more labels

There are days where we feel vulnerable. There are days where we feel, open, exposed and there seems to be no place to hide. We doubt our identity, and we aren’t really sure that we have the strength to stand. We begin to wonder if the world even knows that we’re a real, live human being. There’s an emptiness that comes from standing alone, or even perceiving that we stand alone. There’s an imprisonment of the heart, a captivity of the spirit that keeps us from really living, when we stand alone, we are very aware of that solitude, it can be completely overwhelming.

Praise God for Christ Jesus who draws us away from these terrible feelings,perceptions and lies. What we felt while in sin is exposed, where we felt alone, we find that God had been there the entire time, His hands outstretched toward us, ready to take us in. We didn’t see the divine attention that was pointed our way, the reception of heaven’s host that was poised for celebration when our heart would be turned toward Jesus. Listen to Paul’s description of this wonderful news!

Galatians 3:23-29
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Jesus specifically said that He came to set the captives free, to proclaim this wonderful news:

Luke 4:16-20
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

There is no delay, no lingering in the promise. When we come to Christ, we find forgiveness, freedom, and we are given a new identity in Him. We need to remember that on these hard days, the days when we feel alone, vulnerable and exposed. He has taken away our isolation, He has removed any other labels that may have been placed on us, any other names that we may have called ourselves. Anything that would have degraded us, pulled us away or perpetuated harm in our hearts, to our identity, He has removed by His grace-filled presence. We are now those blessed heirs of an eternal promise.

Let yourself live in this freedom. Walk in the knowledge that He covers you if you have submitted your life to Him, been baptized and walk in new life. Your identity in Christ doesn’t change based on how you feel on a given day, on how difficult a situation might be. Your identity in Christ isn’t determined on how blessed you feel, on how you might ‘rank’ in the eyes of another person. No other human being can give or take away from your value. You belong to Christ, you have put on Christ. So when God Himself looks at you, He doesn’t see who you used to be. Instead, He sees His Son.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Romans 1:1-7 // The Focus of a Disciple’s Heart

“1 Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news — 2 which He promised long ago through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures — 3 concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was a descendant of David according to the flesh 4 and who has been declared to be the powerful Son of God by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness. 5 We have received grace and apostleship through Him to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations, on behalf of His name, 6 including yourselves who also belong to Jesus Christ by calling:

7 To all who are in Rome, loved by God, called as saints.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 1:1-7

==

Paul’s primer on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ begins with a greeting that does everything he can to point the focus at Jesus Christ rather than at the reader. All in all, in just this way of saying ‘Hello, it’s me Paul,’ contains close to 20 references to God and only 6 to the reader. There is no doubt, from the first moment, that this letter has an agenda. That agenda is to direct believers, new and old, toward the undeniable truth that God is the center, Christ is the focus and the Spirit is the One who draws us there. 

There is such a relief, such a freedom, that comes from having the focus shifted off of us and onto Jesus Christ. The first steps of discipleship then echo that call to come and die to self, and to then, inturn, live to Christ. Even in saying hello, it is apparent that this new endeavor of the soul is going to create a rhythm that is based in Him, on Him and for Him. This life of being a disciple isn’t anything that might look like our old life, that might resemble whoever it was that we used to be. Instead, we begin in that first step to do what we will be doing in eternity, namely kneeling and confessing His Lordship over all. We begin by confessing Whose we are, as Paul does in the inaugural 6 words, “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ.” and in being owned by Jesus, again, we find such freedom. The weight and responsibility of ownership shifts off of our insufficient shoulders and rests firmly on the shoulders of the One who carried the weight of humanity’s sins on His own shoulders. So, in our kneeling, He makes us able to stand. In confessing His Name, He gives us a new identity. In submitting to His Lordship, He makes us Hiis grace-covered ambassadors to the nations. 

All of this confirmed in a simple greeting by a man the readers haven’t even met yet. 

As we greet each new day, week, month, moment, opportunity or year, as Christians, we a compelled to remember our discipleship and where the focus of our life really rests. Each day is meant to be a practice of His presence and a rememberance of His grace-filled love. As disciples, we cannot look to self, but to our Master. This new life is a complete retooling of the entirety of our being. We are being reset, recast, into His image, His likeness. All of life then, has its lens adjusted, focused and dialed in to the heart of God by the blood of Christ and the direction of His Holy Spirit. We gain a new direction and in turn find contenment in Him. We give over the controls for the lens of our heart to Him, knowing that He knows better than we ever could what will bring richness, joy and purpose into our lives. 

Paul’s introduction echoes these senitments, and so much more. This is about Him, not about us. The rhythm of grace that compells us to GoLove others in His Name finds it foundation in the beating of His heart, not in the compulsions of our flesh. The struggle that ensues, between flesh and Spirit, will wind up being a major topic of conversation as this amazing letter progresses. But as for us, let us greet this day with the rememberance of Whose we are, and use these moments we have to draw the hearts of others around us to see what we have found when we come and die, finding life abundant in Jesus Christ. 

Acts 16:1-5 // The Emphasis on Freedom

“1 Then he went on to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a believing Jewish woman, but his father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to go with him, so he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled through the towns, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem for them to observe. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily.”

Acts 16:1-5

This is a wonderfully uncomplicated process that we find Paul engaged in as he spreads the Gospel. Take these first few verses of chapter 16. The church in Lystra recommended Timothy for deeper discipling, and so Paul does. There was no need to hold an interview, a vote, to have him run through a process or jump through hoops. Timothy simply stood out as one who was taking his walk with Christ seriously, and was a good example to everyone else. In this, he stood out and because he was willing to do what was needed for the sake of the Gospel, he would become not simply an elder in his town, but a travelling missionary and evertually a permenant minister elsewhere. There was freedom and simplicityin the process. 

Again, Paul is carrying out the desires of the council of Jerusalem and sharing their desicion with the Gentile believers. He is delivering freedom, not legalism. He is delivering joy and hope, not hardship or a stack of rules. He is communicating a new life, a better life, that they would get to take part in apart from their old life. When you present the Gospel, that is what you are bringing. Freedom comes with the Good News, not a burden. Paul did a wonderful job of communicating truth, accountability and freedom all at the same time, and God used him well for it. He understood, personally, what it meant to be tied down with the burdens of legalism. He lived that life, he walked that path personally, and he knew its pains well. 

As we GoLove others in Jesus’ Name, we need to make sure that we are delivering the good news and freedom in Christ. We need to do the same for ourselves. There is joy in the Gospel, not a secondary burden. There is adventure and freedom, and we need to communicate that clearly to others and ourselves. It takes a prayerful effort, and it should. 

Acts 15:22-35 // Appreciation for a Simple Faith & Freedom

“22 Then the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, decided to select men who were among them and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas: Judas, called Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men among the brothers. 23 They wrote this letter to be delivered by them:

“From the apostles and the elders, your brothers,

To the brothers among the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:

Greetings.

24 Because we have heard that some without our authorization went out from us and troubled you with their words and unsettled your hearts, 25 we have unanimously decided to select men and send them to you along with our dearly loved Barnabas and Paul, 26 who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who will personally report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it was the Holy Spirits decision — and ours — to put no greater burden on you than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from food offered to idols, from blood, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. You will do well if you keep yourselves from these things.

Farewell.”

30 Then, being sent off, they went down to Antioch, and after gathering the assembly, they delivered the letter. 31 When they read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32 Both Judas and Silas, who were also prophets themselves, encouraged the brothers and strengthened them with a long message. 33 After spending some time there, they were sent back in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. 35 But Paul and Barnabas, along with many others, remained in Antioch teaching and proclaiming the message of the Lord.”

Acts 15:22-35

If you have never had the joy of packing up and moving to a new location, then you have never had the unusual perspective given by physically laying hands on everything that you ‘own’ in a short amount of time, getting to evaluate it, getting to count it, to see how much space your stuff takes up in a moving truck or a storage space. It always makes me want to just get rid of it all and start over because I see just how much baggage I have accumulated, and just how much nonsense gathers around us. Here in the West, we have so much, too much. But we also seem to want to surround ourselves with even more as time goes on. For some it even becomes an obsession, in dealing with loss or grief or change, they gather and hoard and hem themselves in with more and more trying to physically fill in the space that they are emotionally struggling with…it is a cultural disorder. 

So, When these new Christians hear about the simple joys faith, and hear about freedom that God offers in Jesus Christ, they are overjoyed and rightfully so. It is like waking up in the middle of your hoard and finding freedom to walk away and not need those extras anymore. It is like having your eyes opened up for the first time, someone taking lead boots off your feet. It is the sweet release of freedom that only can be brought to you by someone else, like a prisoner being unchained and their door being left to swing wide. 

But then they meet people who have already been ‘free’ for a while, and they are given a suitcase, and maybe a backpack loaded with all the extras that they ‘must have’ in order to enjoy their freedom. They are loaded with expectations and arguments, with to-do lists and burdens that were never meant to accompany their freedom by the One who gave it to them. And in time, they are expected to fall in line with everyone else. Let the excitement wear off, get in step with reality, and polish the edge off that joy a little and THEN you will see what it really means to be ‘free’ like me. 

These new believers were being loaded up with extra burdens, extra ‘joys’ that were not joyful from any angle of observation, and told that the freedom that had been purchased for them came with a few extra…caveats, that they needed to understand and carry along for themselves. (I hope this sounds incredibly familiar for us today.) And when they groaned under that burden, the church stood up, prayed, consulted Scripture, and stated that they were indeed allowed to enjoy their freedom to the fullest extent of the word. There were not going to be any rules that did not point their hearts toward God and God alone, or attempt to replace their new identity in Christ.

And so when they heard the good news, that ‘freedom’ really meant FREEDOM like they had hoped, then they rejoiced, as we all should. So, as you GoLove people like Jesus does, don’t bind heavy burdens on their backs, hearts and minds. Instead, show them that when we are free in Christ, we are free indeed! 

  

Mark 5:1-20 // The One Master Over All

“1 Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 As soon as He got out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came out of the tombs and met Him. 3 He lived in the tombs. No one was able to restrain him anymore — even with chains — 4 because he often had been bound with shackles and chains, but had snapped off the chains and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 And always, night and day, he was crying out among the tombs and in the mountains and cutting himself with stones.

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and knelt down before Him. 7 And he cried out with a loud voice, “What do You have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You before God, don’t torment me!” 8 For He had told him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”

9 “What is your name?” He asked him.
“My name is Legion,” he answered Him, “because we are many.” 10 And he kept begging Him not to send them out of the region.

11 Now a large herd of pigs was there, feeding on the hillside. 12 The demons begged Him, “Send us to the pigs, so we may enter them.” 13 And He gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs, and the herd of about 2,000 rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned there. 14 The men who tended them ran off and reported it in the town and the countryside, and people went to see what had happened.

15 They came to Jesus and saw the man who had been demon- possessed by the legion, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 The eyewitnesses described to them what had happened to the demon- possessed man and told about the pigs. 17 Then they began to beg Him to leave their region.

18 As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon- possessed kept begging Him to be with Him. 19 But He would not let him; instead, He told him, “Go back home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.” 20 So he went out and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and they were all amazed.”
Mark 5:1-20

What a horrific existence must have been taking place in that cemetery cave. Tormented, constantly being afflicted and torn. An unsettled mind, a broken heart, to say nothing of the physical discomfort, hunger and separation from society. The ‘legion’ of demons infecting this man’s body, mind and life was indicative of the condition of humanity. Tormented by sin, pain and evil impulses, humanity grapples with something beyond its capability, and is powerless to change their own situation.

This man’s start down this road is a total unknown for us, but we don’t need to know just what events started this path, just that he is there and that he desperately needs to be saved from both the demons and himself. It is a terrible story, I’m sure, but that is the past, and now change has come.

How often do we see Jesus encountering people dealing with situations bigger than themselves? Mary & Martha with Lazarus, funeral processions, Jairus, the centurion and so many others, stories, John says, that are apparently uncountable, we couldn’t write enough books to contain them all. And this is part of why He had to come like He did. Sometimes, the only way we will see just how bad our situation is, is by having someone who is bigger than our own capability step in and show us the way out. Like a parent helping a scared, confused toddler out of an easily fixable situation, Jesus steps in and simply exerts His authority. And in doing so, everything changes.

As we GoLove others in His Name, a Jesus send us out to see good works done and the Gospel shared from the same authority thatgreat his man from all his trials and troubles. The authority that brought Him peace is the same authority that brings us ours, and to the world through us. Trust Him. He is the One who has authority over all, and the One who gave Himself to see us freed from death and sin. It doesn’t matter where or what your life may have been before today, it just matters that He is here now, and He is ready to free you, too.

Mark 4:35-41 // Faith, fear & worry

“35 On that day, when evening had come, He told them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea.” 36 So they left the crowd and took Him along since He was already in the boat. And other boats were with Him. 37 A fierce windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher! Don’t You care that were going to die?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 Then He said to them, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?”
41 And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!””
Mark 4:35-41

Apparently, I am a worrier, and I have let fear get the best of me at times. I have obsessed, been consumed by things that shouldn’t consume me, and generally exhibited a lack of faith when in my heart of hearts, I know better and have been shown so many times that God has everything under control. I am the storm drenched disciple in the boat wondering why Jesus is napping.

I feel immensely silly once I realize what I am doing, yet again, and I must apologize and repent, yet agian, for doubting and letting my mind play tricks on me. I have listened to the repeated whispers of the enemy in my ears, knowing they’re nonsense, but entertained those thoughts anyway. And I repent, pray and seek forgiveness.

So much of combatting fear, for me, is to immediately act in the opposite way. Just look it in the face and do what fear says not to do. Not being foolhardy, not acting in ignorance, but stepping out, moving forward. Fear builds a wall, and piles rubble on top of you, pressuring you and weighing you down. You are hemmed in on all sides, and made to feel like you cannot move. And so, to combat fear, I must move. I must go. I must trim my sails, turn into the waves and trust my Master to go where He said to go.

Fear fails when we move, its façade crumbles, and its foundation slips away. When we step up and step out, walking with the Master, Jesus, listening to the call of the Holy Spirit, trusting the will of the Father, we will find so much strength has been given to us. Fear is only as strong as we let it be. Anxiety can only control us as long as we give it permission. If we know we are called to GoLove, walking as Jesus walked, then we must trust that God has given us the strength to do just that. If Jesus said to share the good news of the Kingdom, which He did, we must trust Him to work in us and through us to see that commissioning accomplished. He will be faithful, just as He always is, and we must let faith guide our every action. Fear and faith cannot coexist, the Christian walk cannot be defined by both.

1 Timothy 2 // Drama free’s the way to be

“First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God
and one mediator between God and humanity,
Christ Jesus, Himself human,
6 who gave Himself—a ransom for all,
a testimony at the proper time.

7 For this I was appointed a herald, an apostle (I am telling the truth; I am not lying), and a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Instructions to Men and Women

8 Therefore, I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument.9 Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, 10 but with good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God. 11 A woman should learn in silence with full submission. 12 I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent. 13 For Adam was created first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. 15 But she will be saved through childbearing, if she continues in faith, love, and holiness, with good judgment.”

 —

When the natural order of things is upset, drama ensues. It’s pretty much a guarantee. And when Paul says, “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity,” this isn’t a suggestion, it’s a goal. Living a tranquil, dignified life is a hallmark of Christ at work in you. Your surroundings can still be crazy and things that are out of your control may well be running rampant. But our sign of the Spirit in us is that in all things, we trust God, we work and serve according to His purposes and we pursue peace everywhere possible insomuch as that peace works according to His Word. We do not compromise to make people happy, we stand firm in the truth of God’s Word, will & instruction.

After this statement about quiet dignity, Paul reinforces his point by reminding us that this is all good and it pleases God, which should be our aim each day. Every day is an opportunity, and how we react to what happens around us is 100% our responsibility. I have met Christians whose lives should have been in utter turmoil for health reasons or for situations going on in their family, but they maintain that quiet dignity, acknowledging that God is sovereign and that they are content to rest in Him no matter what storms may be swirling around them. They are not super heroes, they are not cold, calloused people. They simply trust and walk according to His will. I have also seen the opposite, more often than I would like to admit, where people who claim Christ have lives that are constantly careening from one dramatic situation to another. A little explosion here, another overreaction there, nothing ever changes in their home or hearts and yet they cannot understand why life is the way it is. They do not trust, they do not take the Word of God to heart and they refuse to make long-term changes. Oh, they’ll adapt a little, but no permanent changes take place. The crazy cycle of 24/7 drama rules their life, and no one is surprised but them.  They have not recognized the authority of God, only the authority of self and their own desires, and so life continues careening over the brink.

Paul lays out some structure here in the later half of the chapter that echoes that need for order. It’s not that men are better than women, it’s simply that God has wired us differently, and because of that there is a certain order to be maintained. Women are not the center of drama, either, I know plenty of men that are good at popping off their mouths and stirring the pot. The point being here instead, that God has set things up a certain way, in His infinite wisdom, and each of us should take ownership of the roles He has given us. Men must behave responsibly, serving as the example for their households. Women must do likewise, maintaining their own God-honoring dignity. It’s not sexist, it’s not misogyny, it’s not even opportunistic. If men are living in proper, quiet dignity in a God-honoring way, then they will do everything they can to show respect and honor to those women around them. A man who claims Christ, yet demeans women, is fooling only himself. Women who desire to be like men, to have the position of a man in culture, strive for something unnatural, and cannot realistically expect to be viewed well.

Women can be strong. Women can be successful, and not just within some little bubble just for women, but out in the marketplace, serious contenders. But when it comes to the spiritual things of life, God has placed the man at the head. And as we read elsewhere this means that the man must die to self in order to live this role properly. This man must deny his ego, his fleshly desires and lift up his wife. He remains the head, but a head that is modeled after Christ, who did not see His own position as a point of pride, but carried our burdens in His body on the cross. This self-sacrificial leadership is the kind that immediately draws respect, appreciation and inspires love. 

Drama is the opposite of this. Drama is so often the lifting up of self, the prioritizing of pride, and it results in the cutting down of others. Wounds are never allowed to heal. Everything runs on gut feelings and impulse and hatred flows easily from lips and hands. Drama doesn’t reflect Christ. It never will. It is self-serving, opportunistic and kills without thought. It only seeks self, only serves self and only honors self, even thought that self is not very easy to honor. It is a hollow shell of meaning, and a way of life that encourages disease within the heart and soul.

Drama free is the way to be as we GoLove others in the Name of Christ, picking up our crosses and following Him daily in love, peace and quiet dignity.  John 3:30 – “He must become greater. I must become less.” It’s all about Him, not about us. 

* and just a note, when Paul says ‘silent,’ he is only speaking about the context of teaching in the presence of men. This isn’t an admonition to remain totally quiet at all times, or when at church. This instruction is meant for the context of teaching and leadership of the church where men are concerned. Paul talks elsewhere about women praying in the assembly, and we see how Jesus honored and respect women within His own group of disciples. 

 

 

 

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