Don’t Assume Jesus is with You: Luke 2:41-51

Yellow boots on the road

“43 But when the feast was over, as they were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but (because they assumed that he was in their group of travelers) they went a day’s journey. Then they began to look for him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” (Luke 2:43-46)

It is understandable that Jesus’ parents lost track of Jesus given they were most likely travelling in a large caravan full of family and friends from Nazareth to Jerusalem and back. If Jesus was hanging out with His cousins (possibly playing tag) then His parents could have easily lost track of Him. However, it is interesting that the text says that “they assumed” Jesus was still with their group. And this should be familiar to us all. How many times have we as Christians in America ventured off with our plans, and our goals, all while assuming that Jesus is with us? It is as though we presume that whatever we do Jesus will automatically endorse, offering His divine stamp of approval.

This can be seen in big and small decisions we make every day or through the materialistic and financial focus we operate by. We often are trying to climb the corporate ladder or accumulate more toys, like big houses and fancy cars. We just chase after our dreams and take for granted that God also wants that path for our lives.

Jesus’ parents are disrupted from this assumption when they realize that Jesus indeed was no longer journeying with them. How devastating it must have been to realize their child had been left behind in the big city (remember, they are small time country folk from Galilee), and they have no clue as to where He is. As a father myself, I can only assume that they felt helpless, vulnerable, broken, and scared. It is no coincidence that they must go three days in Jerusalem, because for them the loss of their child would have begun to feel like God had abandoned them in their despair.

After three days of searching, they finally decide to look in the Temple. Contrast the parents with Jesus. The parents are anxious and frantic while Jesus is hanging out, seemingly un-phased by this familial separation. Like any Mom, after realizing that their child is fine, Mary digs into Jesus, disturbed with how their child could put them through such agony. Jesus simply says “didn’t you know” that I had to be “in the things of My Father” (that’s the literal Greek translation). Again contrast the parents’ posture and approach with that of Jesus. The parents began assuming that Jesus was journeying with them. However, Jesus had actually intentionally aligned and arranged His life with, and around, the things of His Father. And there we find a timely challenge for us to follow after. May we, like Jesus, surrender our will to the Father and rearrange our lives and decisions around the Lordship of the Messiah. And may we join God in His radical in-breaking kingdom rather than assuming Jesus will go along with all of our pursuits.

Written by Dr. Drew Hart: Dr. Hart is a professor in theology at Messiah College, author of “Trouble I’ve Seen”, and an activist with ten years of pastoral experience. Dr. Hart recently spoke at a America’s Keswick this past summer with his father, Dr. Tony Hart.

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 115; Proverbs 23

Daily Quote:God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. ~C.S. Lewis

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:38-39

Who is Your King?

Golden royal crown

“Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” – 1 Samuel 8:19-20

In 1 Samuel 8, we see the people of Israel approaching Samuel to ask God for a king. This doesn’t seem like a big deal. All the other nations had kings, Israel was under constant attack, and Samuel’s sons had become corrupt judges who did not walk in the ways of the Lord. Someone looking at the situation from the outside could see how their plea for a king was warranted. The only problem was that they already had a King: God. In verse 7, the Lord says, “for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” The people failed to recognize that God was their King, that he was sufficient, that he was their security, their protection, their justice, and their peace. Israel looked to the outside world and saw that other nations gleaned their confidence and security from a king, and therefore Israel sought to become like the outside world. Despite Samuel’s warning (1 Samuel 8:10-18) of impending oppression from the very king they sought, the people still insisted.

Who is your king? Who reigns over your life? Where do you turn when you feel threatened? What do you look to when injustices seem to be happening all around you? Who or what do you put confidence in when the difficulties of life become too much? Do you look to God as your conquering King or do you look to the world around you? It’s easy to become like the Israelites. It’s easy to look at the world around us and reason that we should find our comfort and security in the same way. We look to money, possessions, relationships, education and success to provide us with the security that can only be found in the King who already reigns over us. We try to replace God as king of our lives. We even boldly ask Him, as the Israelites did, to provide us with these God-replacements. We ask God to provide us with the amount of money that would make us comfortable or with the relationship that would make us feel loved. We ask Him to put into power the political leader who makes us feel the most at ease. We ask Him for the things we think we need to provide us with the sense of security we are looking for instead of resting in the sufficiency of His grace, His love, His wisdom, His presence.

Who is your king?

As we face the uncertainty of the future, let our confidence be in the one and only true King.

Written by Jim Lang: Jim is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy and full-time staff member at America’s Keswick.

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 108; Proverbs 16

Daily Quote: If you’re alive, there’s a purpose for your life. Rick Warren

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

~Romans 8:35-37

The Reckless, Raging, Impatience of G_d

Hand reaching for the cloud in the sky

First, if we continue to picture God as a small-minded bookkeeper, a niggling customs officer rifling through our moral suitcase, as a policeman with a club who is going to bat us over the head every time we stumble and fall, or as a whimsical, capricious, and cantankerous thief who delights in raining on our parade and stealing our joy, we flatly deny what John writes in his first letter (4:16)—‘God is love.’ In human beings, love is a quality, a high-prized virtue; in God, love is His identity. Secondly, if we continue to view ourselves as moral lepers and spiritual failures, if our lives are shadowed by low self-esteem, shame, remorse, unhealthy guilt, and self-hatred, we reject the teaching of Jesus and cling to our negative self-image. ~Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God

The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;

you shall never again fear evil.

“Fear not, O Zion;

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:

let not your hands grow weak.

He will rejoice over you with gladness;

The Lord your God is in your midst,

a Mighty One Who will save;

He will quiet you by His love;

so that you will no longer suffer reproach.

He will exult over you with loud singing.

I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival,

Behold, at that time I will deal

and renown in all the earth.

with all your oppressors.

And I will save the lame and gather the outcast,

and I will change their shame into praise

At that time I will bring you in,

before your eyes,” says the Lord.

at the time when I gather you together;

for I will make you renowned and praised

among all the peoples of the earth,

when I restore your fortunes

before your eyes,”

says the Lord.

~ from Zephaniah 3

Oh beloved, it is true. And we cannot even begin to comprehend it. Any way we try to grab ahold of this is to fall off into some sort of downgrading of G_d, or a false uplifting of ourselves. But, for us to not begin to see it, is to miss the very heart of our King.

G_d is Reckless.

Oh, you may very well say: “How dare you! G_d is perfect. He is infinitely patient. He is utterly holy. How could you use such a messy – and fallen – word in describing the Almighty!” And… you would be right. Perhaps it is the foolishness of a writer like this one, who has come to the end of his theological rope, to say that G_d is reckless, and impatient.

Or, is it really all of us who get it wrong?

The infinitely Perfect One who has bought us with His blood, has an agenda. He is about the work of making us like Himself. And this process, in the normal human being, is terrible. It involves the actual killing of a man that he might come alive as a wholly new creation.

And then, He doesn’t even slow down. He goes about crushing down all the old defenses our flesh had against Him. He rips our lives to shreds. He disorients us as He sets us on the paths of Life in Him. And to make things even more difficult, we find that our old ways become miserable if we even think about going back to them.

He seems to be in a terrible hurry.

He is.

G_d knows the end our lives from the beginning. He fully understands that our tiny little temporal existence is but a few clicks of a clock. We really do sprout up like late spring grass, only to be burned up in the wildfires of a hot summer. And so, this One who inhabits eternity has quite a clear picture of what needs to be done before our process of sanctification is complete.

But there is more.

Can we see it? G_d is in Love with you. He is absolutely delighted at the prospect of having you Home with Him one day. He is exultant over the prospect of sharing His Life with you forever. He is – quite actually – more excited about Heaven, and you being in it, than you are. And, as True Love does, it breaks down any barriers to that Love being consummated!

So, are you looking forward to exploring His Life and Love and Heart in the Kingdom? This fool of a writer is. But, only recently have i come to realize that my desires for Him are NOTHING in comparison to the furious longing He has for each of us. Tonight is your night beloved. Time to see Him for who He is.

Makala_FF 2016Written by Makala Doulos: Makala Doulos is a child of G_d, a husband to his wife, a father to his children, and a teacher to his students. But mostly, he is a prisoner set free by Jesus. Love has invaded his life, crushed it, and made it new. Now, G_d’s Love is what constrains him to live in full surrender to the freedom The Father and Son and Holy Spirit have bought for us all. Grace and Peace to you all.

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 107; Proverbs 15

Daily Quote: The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian. ~Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

~Romans 8:35-37

You Were Created for so Much More!

African American man reading.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

The book of Romans packs a plethora of wisdom and discernment that clarifies many doctrines. I realized that it’s a concise version of the Bible and it is not for the faint hearted. I studied chapter-by-chapter, verse by verse and was blessed beyond measure of the revelation that God gave me. A good book to study if you are looking for meat. Let’s look at this one verse.

And we know: A lot people like to separate and unpack the doctrines of election and free will. But and the end the day We Know. And since we know we can rest assured that rest of this verse pertains to us. Who knows? Those who put their faith in Jesus Christ know.

Who love God: Are you a Lover of God? Simple answer; “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”(Jesus) For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)

All things work together for good: Are you resting that God is working it out?

Let’s let the Bible answer this!

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. (Psalms 119:67)

“It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn your decrees.” (Psalms 119:71)

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:1)

Who are called according to his purpose: Do you fully understand the Call on your life?

It is an effectual call, from self and the world to God, Christ, heaven, as our end; from sin and vanity to grace and holiness, as our way. This is the gospel; that the love of God, ruling in the hearts of those who once were enemies to him, proves that they have been called according to his purpose.

God is very clear and intentional about the call on your life. He has created you for good works and indulging in pointless sin does not help accomplish His divine will. Yes, there are liberties and yes, the grace God is flawless, but is it wise to use our God given privilege for its intended purpose? God bless you saints. You Were Created for so Much More!

Juan Mendez_FF 2016Written by Juan Mendez: Juan is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy and full-time staff member at America’s Keswick. 

 

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 106; Proverbs 14

Daily Quote: No one can get Joy by merely asking for it. It is one of the ripest fruits of the Christian life, and, like all fruits, must be grown. ~Henry Drummond

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

~Romans 8:35-37

Who Can Imagine Life Without Worry? Part #2

Young man suffering depression sitting on ground street concrete stairs

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” ~Philippians 4:6-7 (MSG)

When I was with you last I was going on about freedom and how important it was for us to understand that Jesus came to set us free from sin. I also said I would get to “the most universal of all addictions” which is summed up in one word…worry. Worry is a verb that, according to The American Heritage Dictionary, means to feel uneasy about some uncertain or threatening matter; be troubled. Be troubled…hmm somehow I remember a story about a king-wanna-be saying he was troubled when a bunch of dudes showed up in his throne room and told him about a King that had been born. His worry leads him to what history calls “The Massacre of the Innocents.” Anyway…

Worry is something that gets done by us all in some way, shape or form. It can happen in the smallest way just as much as it does in the biggest. 20th Century theologian, John Stott comes right out and says that “worry is waste—a waste of time, thought and nervous energy.” Worry is so engrained into the human condition that we justify its existence much like other addictions however Jesus made it a point to address this “universal addiction” when He gave His Sermon on the Mount. He begins the dialogue with this key phrase, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)

Then Jesus will tell folks not to be anxious about their lives, what they’ll eat, what they’ll drink, and what they’ll wear. Now during those Roman Empire times dem’s was some everyday “where’s it gonna come froms” and now this guy says don’t worry about it ‘cos even the birds get fed by the hand of God. ALRIGHTY THEN…but Jesus doesn’t leave them hanging on thread, AU CONTRAIRE, He gives the straight up deal right here, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33) So basically it is matter of perspective. Doom along the horizontal and hope in following the vertical.

Now don’t go sitting there thinking that I am advertising a worry-free Gospel and that I think this Christian life should be free of it, once again I say AU CONTRAIRE because there are things we can take worry or anxiousness to. We should take thought

for each other especially for those who we call brother or sister. We can be concerned for the things that are of The Church (that doesn’t include carpet color, wallpaper style or should there a chicken dinner versus a potluck dinner). We can be concerned for the eternal salvation of loved ones or the lost in an unsaved world but as with everything there are limits…” All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” (1 Cor 10:23)

That about does it for me today but I am not completely done covering the universal addiction of worry. Next time I am with you I would like us to spend some time gleaning why Jesus made it a point to tell those in attendance during His Sermon on the Mount why being anxious in our everyday lives stunts our growth of faith. Until then why not take a look at Matthew Gospel 6:24-34 and see for yourself why Jesus would have use consider the issue of serving two masters. I think it is plausible to think that He knew that people had an enslavement to material security (we still do, don’t we?) and He came to give us assurances that set us free from stuff that has no eternal value. Bottom line…if it serves no purpose in eternity it is eternally useless. Amen?

Chris Hughes_FF 2016Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married (Kathy) with two adult children (Kevin and Karen) and has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008.

 

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 105; Proverbs 13

Daily Quote: “God never intended His people to become prisoners to worry. Such an unbelieving, energy-draining addiction strangles our faith and makes us unable to bear fruit.” —Charles Swindoll.

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

~Romans 8:35-37

Still, Like Water

Empty footbridge over the lake
It is only with total humility, and in absolute stillness of mind that we can know what indeed we are. ~Terence James Stannus Gray

be still.pngI beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. ~Paul, The Least of The Apostles, in Romans 12

Oh beloved, it is true. There is so much of us that has to go. And most of it is stuff within us that is all to precious to us. The list of things to be jettisoned is long and wide and deep:

The right to pleasant circumstances.

The right to be accepted.

The right to be successful.

The right to my possessions.

The right to be rescued from my circumstances.

The right to see results.

The right to know the specific will of God.

The right to understand my circumstances.

The right to be proven right.

The right to be loved.

The right to have a mate or children.

The right to be used by God the way I want to be.

The right to live in the place I choose.

The right to the job I want.*

Our rights in general.

And this, is the pain of death that is going on inside of us. Though we have already died with Christ, there is so much programming and tapes that need to be cut. There is so much garbage in the waste bins of our emotional makeup.

This fool of a writer is not good at this.

There are so many times, where i really feel the need for people, especially those close to me, to realize that my life is being poured out for them. I have made so many mistakes in the past; ruined so many things and people and circumstances, that i get hurt when people don’t see that i am finally getting it right after 45 years of getting it wrong.

He must increase, but I must decrease. ~John, The Prophet, in John’s Gospel 3

What to do?

Absolutely nothing.

The reality is truly that we have given our lives as a living sacrifice to our King. And if our King deems that our lives be poured out over rugged terrain and mixed with the dust of the earth. Quite simply brothers, we need to come to a place where we realize that a living sacrifice does not give orders back to the One receiving the sacrifice.

Can we see it though? There is an upside. It is here, in complete stillness and surrender that we finally begin to get some clarity on where we are supposed to be going with our lives. We finally get to the place where we can here Him speak… And when we do, we truly find another thing we have been looking for all the while: We hear Him tell us how much He Loves us. We hear Him saying how proud HE is of us. We hear Him telling us that HIS grace is sufficient, and that all is well.

So, are you going through the pains of death to your own self? This fool of a writer does. And just when he thinks the thing is dead, The Holy Spirit shows me some more things that need to go. However, what i have learned is something that may be of benefit to you. I have never – not once – regretted letting go of anything. EVERY time i have let go of some little thing, He has poured more goodness and freedom into my life than i could ever have imagined.

Tonight is your night beloved. Time to be still.

Makala_FF 2016Written by Makala Doulos: Makala  is a child of G_d, a husband to his wife, a father to his children, and a teacher to his students. But mostly, he is a prisoner set free by Jesus. Love has invaded his life, crushed it, and made it new. Now, G_d’s Love is what constrains him to live in full surrender to the freedom The Father and Son and Holy Spirit have bought for us all. Grace and Peace to you all.

*this list is from another, unknown author

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 101; Proverbs 9

Daily Quote:  What then are we afraid of? Can we have too much of God? Is it a misfortune to be freed from the heavy yoke of the world, and to bear the light burden of Jesus Christ? Do we fear to be too happy, too much deliver from ourselves, from the caprices of pride, the violence of our passions, and the tyranny of this deceitful world? ~ François Fénelon

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.~Romans 8:33-34

Who Can Imagine Life Without Worry? Part #1

braveheart
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:6-7 (NASB)
 
Although the movie “Braveheart” had its inaccuracies concerning the life of that infamous Scotsman, William Wallace, the one quote that stood out for me was “They may take our lives but they’ll never take our freedom!!” and then they go into battle. The word freedom has become a precious commodity to all of humankind. Many wars have been fought for this idea of freedom. Over time however, man has polluted freedom as a privilege by the decree of one constitution or another instead of treating it as it was intended to be…a gift given to us by God. Now don’t go getting’ all nutso with me by Americanizing it, freedom is a gift from God period!
 
The formula is simple, God made us with minds so we can think freely, He made us with hearts so we could love freely and He made us with wills so we could obey freely. Our God wants us to be able to choose the way we should go instead of putting a ring in your nose and dragging our fanny perpendicular’s down the road. Now nothing can please The Father better than choosing Truth, the life that is found is Jesus and to freely obey and worship Him BUT there is a downside to this gift of freedom. The freedom to reject all this and hit the dead end of freedom out of control.
 
In the 8th chapter of John’s Gospel we find Jesus trying to explain what will actually bring freedom to the Jewish nation but in their typical “that’s certainly not us” fashion they fall back on being children of Abraham and therefore absolved of any connection to evil to which Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34) This is the same mindset that beleaguers Christendom today. Most pew warmers are content to say “that’s certainly not us” all based on agreeing with a Pastor’s sermon, writing a tithe check and just being in God’s House. That’s all fine and well but it ain’t enough.
 
The truth here to understand is that Jesus Christ came to set us free and we can find His job description in Isaiah 61:1-2a. But if really you wanna see freedom in action turn to Luke 4:16-21. Jesus walks into a synagogue in Nazareth, is handed a scroll, rolls it open and points right at the prophecy of the “favorable year of the Lord”, then sits down and says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Now when I went looking for the “truth” about myself I found this web thingy called Truthfinder and when I plugged in my name in I found that I had 6 possible criminal records and if I gave them about thirty bucks I could get the complete report. I think I’m keeping my loot.
 
I’m not saying that there aren’t a possible 6 criminal records bearing my name but what I am saying is that Jesus Christ came to set me free from that payment because the bottom line is I ain’t got enough to pay for the actual sin nature of those records. If I were to use my “go to” for an answer I’d find myself in James 2:5, “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” So why bother with Truthfinder in the first place? Anyway…
 
There is a lot more to say about freedom but I’m outta time today. Bet you’re wondering why my title ain’t matching the content of this Freedom Fighter, well I’ll be getting to it, don’t you worry about that. Until then I ask you to think about something today and it is a quote that comes from an 18th century French philosopher. Jean-Jacques Rousseau said that, “Man was born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” Sad…but true. When I am with you again we’ll cover what Charles Swindoll calls “The most universal of all addictions.” Hopefully it hasn’t got that much of a hold on you. Amen?
 
Chris Hughes_FF 2016Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married (Kathy) with two adult children (Kevin and Karen) and has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008.

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 99; Proverbs 7

Daily Quote: “The Constitution may be, as Gladstone said it was, the noblest document ever struck off by the mind of man. But we must remember that there are countless thousands of Americans who use it merely as a place to hide when they are caught in some act of iniquity. Liberty as used by the founding fathers meant freedom to do good; many today conceive it to mean freedom to do evil, and they work it for all the traffic will bear.” — A.W. Tozer

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.~Romans 8:33-34

The Cost of Our Work

Dying Earth

We have spoken of trying and trusting, and the difference between the two. Believe me, it is the difference between heaven and hell. ~Watchman Nee

Therefore, while the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as He has said, “As I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest,” … Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again He appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. ~The Encourager, in Hebrews 4

Oh beloved, it is true. We are tired. So much has happened in our lives. But mostly, we are tired because of our efforts to try and live a christian life. And it is this “christianism” or “churchianity” that is nearly the end of us.

There is an opposite to this. And it is so very opposite, that we have a hard time even beginning to believe that it is true. Everything within us rails against the prospect that we have been getting it wrong. We think that our efforts to show G_d our gratitude are the way to go.

We know that we are sinners. We know that we are broken. We know that we need to live for God. We know God, in Jesus, has already given everything for us… But, something is teasing at the edge of our soul. We read His Word, and it tells us… but we think that we are just getting the interpretation wrong. Our fear (and our enormous pride) won’t let us see what is right in front of our face.

Something is not right.

We are exhausted

and bruised

and frustrated

and hurt

and failing

and doubting

and becoming bitter

and, just wishing things could be better in our walk with Him.

We have counted the cost of following Him, but what is happening to us seems far from abundant. It feels like we have been cheated. We don’t even feel the joy of His Presence, and the lightness of losing everything to gain Christ. Instead, we are just worn out. We are beginning to wonder if we got something very, very wrong.

Can we see it? We have indeed gotten something VERY wrong if we are in this place. We are to strive in this Life He has given us. But, we are only to strive for one thing – and one thing alone. We are to strive to quit striving. We are to shatter the idols of our busyness and effort. We are to slice up our lists of things to do, and we are to let His Word cut deeply into who we are.

And when we do, something amazing happens. We finally get it. The gargantuan Love of G_d has already saved us in Christ Jesus. There is nothing do, but rest in this certainty. Instead of trying to claw and trudge our way home, we find that we are already seated at table with our Lover and King and Dear Friend. And it is here, in this reclining at the table of Grace, we find strength we never knew could even exist.

Oh yes, there will be great labors and even deeper pain in the future. But now, everything is different. We are beginning to get it. It is joy that is our strength. It is Love binds us together with Him and it is Grace that empowers us for the work in His fields quite white unto harvest.

So, are you tired? It happens. But, are you worn out? Are you fraying at the edges? If so, you may indeed want to focus your efforts on just one last work: stopping. Tonight is your night beloved. Time to rest in Him. The cost of any other approach is just too high.

Makala_FF 2016

Written by Makala Doulos: Makala  is a child of G_d, a husband to his wife, a father to his children, and a teacher to his students. But mostly, he is a prisoner set free by Jesus. Love has invaded his life, crushed it, and made it new. Now, G_d’s Love is what constrains him to live in full surrender to the freedom The Father and Son and Holy Spirit have bought for us all. Grace and Peace to you all.

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 93; Proverbs 1

Daily Quote: “It is the Father’s life, and the Father’s life alone, that ever lives the Christian life. It is the Father’s life, and Father’s life alone, which will live the Christian life in you. Embrace a formula or a list in order to “live the Christian life,” and you are doomed to frustration.” ~Gene Edwards

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? ~Romans 8:31-32

 

Church Can Be Fun!?

First United Methodist Church of Pasadena

“We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the LORD has done for them.” Yes, the LORD has done amazing things for us! What joy!” ~Psalm 126:2-3 (NLT)

Where in the Bible does it say church should be fun or even relevant? If we were to ask this question in a different way it might sound like this, “What is the purpose of the church? Is it a time when we all get together in comfortable setting, dump some loot in a basket, do a sing-a-long or two or three, listen to a self-help sermon because “Jesus loves you”, shake some hands, get some lunch afterwards and then get our butts home before the Star Spangled Banner is finished and the coin toss favors the opposing team?

My fellow Freedom Fighter writer, who I’ll call Rob (to protect his identity) and myself have gone back and forth on the notion of church being fun. We’ve taken to Facebook with the question (well actually he started it…I may have to finish it) and there have been some surprising answers. There are people who do find “fun” in their Sunday worship. Now we can find fun at Six Flags but get real here people, you wait in line to get on a ride…BORING!! Well now they are handing you cute little disc’s that vibrate and blink little L.E.D lights when it’s your turn to get on a ride that last maybe 90 seconds so you don’t have to wait in line but where’s the fun in that? Now you gotta go find something to do until the thing activates.

As much as I understand that we essentially should maintain a reverent mindset when it comes to Christ’s Church, I am also a man who believes Jesus wasn’t above having Himself a good laugh every so often. I mean, after all, we humans do some pretty laughable things…like take ourselves seriously on way too many issues. The bottom line is Jesus, although the Passover Lamb, also came to rebuild His Father’s community. And for all you wordsmith’s out there the word “commune” is the central idea here. We forget the idea behind the church is to “commune” with each other as we “commune” with The Father. Why do you think we are called to partake of the elements off The Table?

But what’s a community/church like without a little fun or laughter to it? Well…BORING…it doesn’t make it wrong but it can make it too rigid to handle a storm. Truth be told the only thing in a building that has to be true to solid is the foundation, the rest of the building needs to be able to handle the elements around it. Sometimes that takes a little flexibility to the construction. I once knew a guy (Jan Savercool is his name) that told me I was gonna need to be flexible in my walk. In its

own little way, it’s kinda laughable ‘cos he has been right since 2003. (wish he still among us so I could tell him)

The real thing to grasp here today is that church should be a place of joy. The writer of Hebrews puts it like this, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) Even though I think using the word “fun” in the same sentence that we use “church” has a hint of irreverence to it (making it seem like going to Youth Group) I don’t think we should take things so rigidly when it comes to church.

But I do believe there should be laughter in church. If we can laughter together then we can pray together, serve together, worship together and even mourn together. And if we are coming together, out of the joy we have for our God, and joy is a Fruit of the Spirit dare I say that “fun” is a fruit of that joy and those folks out there who have fun worshipping YHVH aren’t doing anything that deserves them a stonin’ or two? Well maybe that’s still debatable among some but for me I have fun ironing out these kinda issues. But please heed this warning as I end with you today, when you treat the things of the Kingdom as common everyday items, judgement is just around the corner. Amen?

Chris Hughes_FF 2016Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married (Kathy) with two adult children (Kevin and Karen) and has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008.

 

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 92; Proverbs 31

Daily Quote: “The church is an outpost of God’s empire: a community of people whose passport is stamped [or issued by] “heaven” but who continue to live in a foreign land – earth – with the aim of making that foreign land more like home. We take heaven seriously, and live with different aims and different values from the people around us. We also take our citizenship seriously, so instead of hiding under the bed and waiting for rescue (or the rapture?), we live in the world with the intention of changing it…” —Andrew Wilson

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? ~Romans 8:31-32

The Privilege to Serve

All hands together, racial equality in team
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

While watching a television program where an actor, playing the President, was sharing to his Vice President that he was human and he was ok with making some immoral/emotional choices. She rebuked him immediately and mention we voted for you to be different your position doesn’t allow you the privilege to indulge as the commoners.

It was clear what God was communicating to me at that point. I was created for something more. It’s a call that doesn’t give me the privilege to do as the world does. Furthermore, the call on my life doesn’t allow me to do what other Christians do as well. It’s not how about many liberties I gain under the grace of God, rather the call that God has created me for.

God foreknew the work he designed or marked out for you before the foundation of the earth. He has designed plan and purpose for you that are intimately graphed in the way he designed you. We are not just existing and our lives or not our own.

“For you, brothers, were called to freedom. Only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity to gratify your flesh, but through love make it your habit to serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)

God is very clear and intentional about the call on your life. He has created you for good works and indulging in pointless sin doesn’t help accomplish His divine will. Yes there are liberties and yes the grace God is flawless, but isn’t it wise to use our God given privilege for its intended purpose? God bless you saints.

Juan Mendez_FF 2016Written by Juan Mendez: Juan is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy and full-time staff member at America’s Keswick. 

 

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 91; Proverbs 30

Daily Quote: Nothing can bring a real sense of security into the home except true love. ~Billy Graham

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? ~Romans 8:31-32