A FALSE FREEDOM

“Being free means nothing other than being in love. And being in love means nothing other than being in God’s truth. People who love because they are made free by God’s truth are the most revolutionary people on earth. . .

. . .  God preserve us in love, so that we will not dream up a false idea of freedom.”

                                                                                                                                                -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

America and the world have become obsessed with the idea of freedom, yet have it falsely defined. The world views freedom as a person’s right to do as they please – as the freedom of choice – yet this is the reason freedom cannot be found, because it overlooks the central problem with humanity, which is our nature. We are beings which revolve around sin, and are deceived to believe it’s good. In our ‘freedom,’ we are slaves to ourselves and our sinful desires. Our ‘freedom’ really only allows us to live in our own selfishness and sinfulness rather than somebody else’s.

But what happens when we recognize something free of this sin nature, as well as someone able to show us how to free ourselves from it? This is exactly what Christ has come to do. Christ has lived the life that we have lived, yet was able to withstand sin. He was tempted for nearly 1000 hours straight, yet did not fall. Only He can show us how we can redefine our freedom.

The key to living in freedom is not to live for ourselves, because then we are only slaves to our own selfishness and wickedness, blindly seeing ourselves as wise or good. The key to freedom is to look completely away from ourselves and towards the One free of a sinful nature. Only if we look towards Him are we able to free ourselves of our human desires, and are we able to pursue a life of selfless devotion to the One who has conquered sin, and also knows us better than we know ourselves. As we focus on the One who remained free of a sinful nature can we see unrestricted freedom, as well as His potential for us, which is a potential we never thought possible before.

In changing our definition of freedom, we are able to see that our God is the god of infinite possibilities. All we have to do to see them is open our eyes to Him and close our eyes to the world. Our true potential rests in the vision of an eternal perspective, and the recognition of the one source that can truly free us – even from ourselves.

KEEP YOUR HEAD UP

We are a humanity defined by our brokenness.

In my mind, realizing our brokenness is the biggest step in living a Christian life. Without recognizing our brokenness, we never will come to view Jesus as anyone other than a Hebrew teacher who was killed by the Romans. We will always hold the view of Jesus as ‘a good guy’ or ‘someone to look up to,’ but we will never acknowledge that He was also a savior, because we’ll never truly believe we are people in need of saving.

Without seeing ourselves as broken, we can never see Him as the only one able to repair us.

I have a few over-simplified views of what a Christian is compared to a non-Christian. My biggest idea is that a Christian is simply a person who has looked at themselves and noticed their brokenness, while a non-Christian is someone who has looked at themselves and looked past their cracks. A Christian has simply recognized a crack for what it is – no matter how small and insignificant it may seem – and found that Christ is the only one with the ability to repair those cracks. A non-Christian may have noticed their cracks, but go about repairing them only with temporary fixes. Not until a person recognizes their brokenness as well as the only way to repair it can they truly understand what Christianity is, which is repair through relationship.

Repair through relationship. This is the entire basis of Christianity, and one of the giant aspects of Christianity that people misunderstand. Christianity is so often viewed as legalism, or as ‘follow the ten commandments or off to hell you go,’ when in reality it’s less about obeying commands and more – in fact, entirely – about God’s grace for the times we disobey. The key is in seeing how God can use His grace to show us Himself, and as we discover more about Him, the more traits we pick up from Him, which can slowly repair our brokenness.

Remember back to your childhood. There was always that one person growing up that you wanted to imitate – whether it was a grandparent, parent, brother, uncle, or friend. You always saw this one person as the person who knew how to navigate life, and believed that if you wanted to navigate it well, you’d just do what they were doing. This is our relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the one we long to imitate – the one who lived life the right way. He is the one we want to model ourselves after – and we must be so focused on Him that we completely lose sight of ourselves, going about doing as He has instructed and taught us to do no matter how well or ill-suited we feel we are in His area of calling.

The key to living a Christ-centered life is simple – keep your head up. With your head up, you lose sight of yourself, and only see that which is in front of you, which is Christ. Although this is simple, it is not easy. You will get tired and weary, and wonder what your body looks like. But the moment your head begins to drop down is the moment you begin to see more of yourself and less of Christ, and the moment your focus begins to shift from Him to you. The more that focus shifts, the easier it is to completely overlook the power He has given you and see yourself again as broken, even though He now sees you as repaired. As you look towards Him, let Him tell you how He sees you, rather than feeling the need to look yourself. To Him you look new, and your brokenness is replaced – but if you look for yourself, you will always see the brokenness that once was.

STRIP ME OF MYSELF

Lord, strip me of myself

and clothe me in you.

For I recognize the extent of my wisdom,

and how foolish it is to You.

For the only way to gain in my wisdom

is to completely surrender it

And to identify only in the wisdom of you.

In my own plan, I wander,

Yet in Yours, I can walk straight.

For you are my compass; my bearing,

And only You can light my way.

As I stumble out of the darkness,

You enable me to stand upright

And chase after the sun.

So if anyone looks towards me,

They are overwhelmed by your brightness.

KONY 2012 – INVISIBLE CHILDREN

Hey everyone! I encourage you to watch this video and learn about the LRA and all of the horrible things they’re doing in Uganda.

Also, I have a Social Vibe sidebar that supports Invisible Children, and all you have to do is take two seconds and click on it. Let’s all do our small part to help these kids!

IN TRIALS, SPEAK UP!

You’ve probably been there. A while into your relationship with Christ, something comes along and you get sidetracked. And you keep getting sidetracked. The busyness never ends, and by the time it does, God has begun to feel distant.

This was me about two weeks ago.

It’s really out of laziness, but a sporadic work schedule didn’t help. Spending quality time with God is a hard thing to do in the morning when you have to be out of the door by 6:35, and every other day of the week you’ve been waking up at 8:30 or 9. It makes it hard to set up a routine. My internal clock gets thrown off, and I find myself lacking the energy or motivation to get up the first time my alarm rings, which results in losing the time I was supposed to spend with God.

I’d work two, three days in a row, always sleeping as long as I could before pulling myself up just in time to eat and head to work. Then on my days off I’d sleep, wake up and check a few things online, and having those ‘few things’ turn into two hours of wasted time. And then I’d get busy, and forget to spend a quiet time with God.

I hit a patch where I’d spend a day, maybe two a week where I’d actually read my bible, and I could feel myself drifting away. My motivation was gone. My fire was slowly going cold, and I was beginning to resent God for it.

I was in the place where I knew I should talk to God, but simultaneously I knew the things I wanted to say were completely based on selfishness and laziness, so I waited as long as I could before bringing it up.

I knew I needed to talk it out with God, but out of my pride, I couldn’t bring myself to admit my selfishness. After all, when you plan on becoming a pastor of some sort, you should be able to recognize and fix your problems on your own, right?

I think I was missing the point. I like to think of these moments as God face-palms, because I’m sure that’s what He was doing when He looked down on me.

It’s amazing the things we can validate telling ourselves when we’re being fueled by our selfish human instincts. When did I start to believe that I was good enough to fix my faults on my own? Whenever that started was the day I started questioning God’s plan, but it took far longer than that to really ask God about it.

It took about a week and a half. It started small – as the smallest trace of doubt – and as I spent more time away from God, the doubt grew and grew until one Friday night, I couldn’t sleep. I was too busy wrestling.

I finally brought my doubt up to God. I asked some simple questions, and I desperately needed some answers. I asked how my life is so much better than it would be without God, because without God I could be pursuing my degree, making 50 grand a year, and indulging myself in the pleasures all 24 year olds with some extra money can imagine. I could be living completely for myself.

Following God’s plan, I was spending my days working temp construction – which is basically doing the work that no one else wants to do, making just enough money to pay the bills. The rest of my time was spent either being lazy, or being involved in ministry. In reality, I didn’t feel qualified at this particular moment at all. I was basically waiting for God to reveal a little more of His plan to me day by day.

It pretty much all came down to me asking God the question every five year old asks when they get brussel sprouts for dinner. “Do I have to?”

Don’t worry, God answered.

The next day, I was randomly surfing the web, when I went to my blog and decided to look back on the past. I decided to read the first two posts I ever put up, and they were all about God’s purpose, and the work He’d been doing in my life, and how insufficient I felt I was in the areas He was working. Yet despite my perceived weaknesses, I was confident in His work.

And then I realized where I’d really be without God.

I’d be living a life at 50%. I’d be avoiding my purpose, and my potential. I’d be settling for a life of meaningless pleasures because of a fear of not knowing what God would ask of me. I’d be a coward.

My life is so much better than that right now, and I can thank only God. Because if it wasn’t for Him, I might have a job where I’d be making 50 grand a year, thinking only about myself, and not thinking about the students and people I have the privilege of knowing and meeting and serving each and every day. I’d be doing things that wouldn’t scare me at all. Thinking about that scares me.

I’d be making 50 grand a year. But what good is 50 grand when it’s only at 50% potential?

It’s amazing how all we have to do is ask Him, yet so often we feel like we aren’t qualified to ask, or we think we can fix it on our own. In our doubting, we must simply turn to Him and start talking. David wrote psalm after psalm while in moments of extreme doubt, but he was never afraid to ask God about it, and God always answered. Remember that David also wrote psalm after psalm praising God and His glory? I think part of that is because God answered David in those times of doubt, and nothing is as comforting as that moment when God answers.

Know that God is always there, and you can never ask Him a bad question. He simply enjoys hearing your voice and walking you through your questioning, until you recognize His answer. He is the Wonderful Counselor – let Him counsel.