For Freedom.

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

No amount of self hate, regret, past mistakes, condemnation, guilt, or shame can take away our freedom. There is NO ulterior motif to the freedom that Christ has given us. Standing firm in the promise of His word will extinguish the fiery darts of the enemy.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry,“Abba! Father!”
Romans 8:15

When I am tempted to despair over the man I was and the people I hurt, these promises ring true. God gave us a spirit of adoption. He set us free and we can stand firm in that freedom. The very offense that brought you to the cross has been redeemed and forgiven. And shame, sorrow, and past regrets are lifted.

Fear not; you will no longer live in shame.
Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you.
You will no longer remember the shame of your youth
and the sorrows of widowhood.
For your Creator will be your husband;
the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name!
He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,
the God of all the earth.
Isaiah 64:4,5

And there is NO CONDEMNATION IN HIM. He looks upon us and says
“Who stands to accuse you? Go and sin no more.”


Father,

Continue to wreck me with this truth. You are the true artist, and you have interwoven me into a story you have been writing since Creation. Thank you for your redemption. Thank you for your perfect love that casts out fear. Thank you for the freedom that is found in  your forgiveness.

YOU PAID THE PRICE. NOW I AM FINALLY FREE.

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The Paradox of Pain

In this world, there is a great paradox that exist within the pain we experience.

The paradox  is this:
Though you hurt something good will come from it.

Would it be possible to experience the fullness of joy
without the tyranny of misery?
Would we know peace without tribulation? 

Hope without despair?
Acceptance without rejection?
Adoption without abandonment?

Love without heartbreak?
(and the list could be a mile long)

I’ve been more convinced than ever that the pain we experience exists to give us a greater appreciation for the good things that are to come or may even already be present. I believe that God uses the very pain we experience to draw us to himself. The enemy has hijacked pain to distract us from seeing the good things that Jesus has done and is actively doing in our lives.

I don’t know that I would have ever know the value of God’s unfailing love had he not broken down my perception/perversion of love that was only self-serving and not self-sacrificing. When He made me come face to face with the misery of failure, he was placing in me a scale in which I would begin to notice what love truly is. I wonder how many of you have that same exact story, and how many of you are on the brink of knowing this truth.

The Great Perspective Changer

Painful experiences have a way of placing us in an alternate reality. One in which hope seems unobtainable. It has the habit of minimizing all the good things that God is doing in our lives. There is however beauty within the sorrow.

When we change our perspective on pain and place our eyes back on the cross and boldly approach the throne of God in times of need, it opens us up to know and enjoy God in a way that prosperity may have never allowed us to do.

It opens the door to more clarity.

Since we live in a world that operates in pairs (think sweet vs. salty, light vs. dark, you get the point) the fact that God doesn’t only pour out blessings on us is a blessing in of its self. In this world, in order to fully experience the joys of life we must experience some of its pitfalls. There is no reason to fall into despair when you do. Use painful experiences as an opportunity to shift your perspective from temporal to eternal. From the here and now to Eternity.

We have to come together and fight against the voice of the enemy that says “you are worthless, you are the only one who struggles…” It’s a lie. Though the enemy wants to place you in an alternate reality where it is nearly impossibly to sees pain as a hidden blessing, we have to fight against this and worship through the sorrow. We have to encourage one another to remember the bigger picture that’s taking place.

So, despondent Christian, when you feel like the world is falling down around you when you find it easier to despair than praise, never forget these truths:

There is ALWAYS a bigger picture taking place.
Your destiny is greater than your past mistakes.
Keep pursing Jesus. He is producing in you an eternal weight of Glory. He is calling you to Himself. Worship through the pain. Cling to what is eternal.

I’m incredibly humbled and thankful that our loving Father refines us on this fallen earth. It makes the flip side of that coin, joy, so much sweeter. And what a glorious day it will be when we worship Him face to face and sorrow will be no more!


Scripture to Consider:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
-Romans 15:13 

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

…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
-Romans 5:3-5

Future Glory

For the past year in a half God has completely redefined my world.
I’ve never lived with such an utter dependency upon His grace, His Son, and the Word for which we are given to know His will. This dependency wasn’t something that magically happened or popped up over night, It came through suffering.

There were many nights when it was hard to hold onto hope. There were many days I fell into despair and despondency. Fear, anger, and depression defined me, but God has a way of shifting our focus off of self and re-focusing us onto Jesus, where all hope is found.

So, as I write about suffering, it’s not an easy place for me. It’s not an easy place for anyone. But my hope is that you will be encouraged after reading this.

Before Jesus redeemed me, I was like a ship setting out for a journey without a sail. I would be tossed and turned by any wave that happen to come my way. Countless relationships were ruined because of this and I was too ashamed to turn to Jesus, but God in His great love and mercy took compassion on His wandering son.

For the first time in my life I was confronted with the ugliness of my sin. A growing cancer in my soul whispering the lies of the enemy. “worthless…you’ve strayed too far…Jesus doesn’t love you…anger defines you…un-redeemable…” But just as I was confronted with the insanity of my sin, I was confronted by the voice of Jesus calming those winds and waves.

This experience is so incredibly hard to capture in words. At the time I knew He was doing something special, but I didn’t know what. I feel as though, to use producer language, He was writing a new script in my life. He was painting over an old canvas and creating a new image, one that reflects Him. There was a bigger picture taking place behind the suffering I was experiencing.

The Bigger Picture

When any amount of suffering is taking place, it’s incredibly easy to neglect the good that Jesus is doing in your life. It’s incredibly easy to lose hope and see only the temporary circumstance, but there is no reason to fear or give into despondency because there is always a bigger picture taking place

Romans 8 does an incredible job of speaking life into this. There’s a section of it that reads like this:

…I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.. (Rom. 8:18-19)

Paul is letting us in on a big secret here.

Pain produces a peculiar glory,
one of which we may not see until we are with our savior in paradise.

He is introducing a concept called Future Glory. It’s arguably against the American (and millennial) culture of instant gratification.

What future glory begs us to to is to look beyond a temporary circumstance
into the eternal perspective. It invites us to look beyond our temporary suffering into a future in which the circumstance shaped us to be stronger and more fit for Kingdom work.

But that’s easier said than done.

Why is this so hard for us to do, even as followers of Jesus?

Culturally, it is very American to desire instant gratification. We love fast food. We love fast internet. Hate waiting in lines or traffic and love to express every bit of emotion on social media. You are in even more danger of falling for this if you are a Millennial. (because we barely had the chance to know anything different.)

It goes beyond our culture though. Romans was written around 57-58 a.d. and as someone who is reading as a Millennial I feel like Paul is writing this letter to me! The sufferings that the followers of Jesus were facing at that time were much more extreme than anything we face here in the U.S. (we can worship openly without worrying about death) but holistically we still struggle with this when pain hits whether it be physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental.

We have to know that God is working something good through our suffering.

It is inevitable that our peers may not understand why we are able to worship God through hard circumstances, but scripture makes it incredibly clear that we are not defined by a temporary circumstance, or even our response to the said circumstance.

When you look at life through the lens of Scripture,
it changes your perspective on suffering.
You begin to see there is hope found in suffering.

Paul continues to write in Romans 12

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This is relevant to many situations we face as believers, but can be applied to how we process suffering.

Don’t give up hope.

Remember Romans 5? There is a cycle of hope behind any suffering.

Suffering produces endurance
Endurance produces character
Character produces hope
Hope does not put us to shame

What the flesh will try to dictate is your suffering is eternal.
It is not. It is temporary.

Shame?
Temporary.
Anxiety?
Temporary.
Fear?
Temporary.

Remember, behind every ounce of suffering is a future glory that is being revealed.
Hold onto hope. Keep pressing hard into Jesus. 


Scripture to consider:

“Through him (Christ) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:2-5 ESV

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18


A Helpful Song

 

The Power of Hope

In fighting despondency, hope is your greatest weapon. Since the fall of man (Gen. 3), we have been hard wired to find our hope in everything but God. These are temporary joys, broken cisterns, and not true joy. This produces false hope. Being followers of Jesus, we know the ultimate source of true joy. There is ultimate satisfaction in knowing God. There is ultimate hope in knowing Jesus.

Rejoicing in Hope / Rejoicing in Suffering

Very early on in my experience with suffering, a very wise friend/counselor pointed me toward Romans 5.

 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we[c] rejoice[d] in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Rom. 5:1-5

This is part of a larger concept called future grace. Simply put, future grace teaches you to look beyond a temporary circumstance into the eternal perspective. Hope allows you to see beyond the fog of depression, anxiety, and fear. Hope gives you the courage to cling to what is eternal. The beautiful thing about depression and anxiety is that it is always temporary. It may feel permanent, it may feel like you are drowning in an ocean of fear, but it is a very temporary experience. Cling to Jesus. His perfect love is casting out fear.

Because what is written here in Romans, and what I have experienced in my own life over the past year,  I know that we serve a God who does not waste our suffering.

Look to the future, as distorted or foggy as if may seem, there is always hope.
Look to Jesus because He is our Living Hope.

Never forget:
Suffering produces endurance.
Endurance produces character.
Character produces hope.
Hope does not put to shame because of God’s love.

Hallelujah! Praise God, He does not waste our suffering!

Jesus is a Living Hope

Through Jesus, we have been born again into a living hope! (1 Peter 1)
Because our hope is alive, as we press hard into it, it presses back. it blesses back. it breathes back. It’s not a band-aid. It’s not a temporary solution. It’s not medication. It’s a cure.

The fight against despondency is a fight FOR hope.OUR ULTIMATE LIVING HOPE IS JESUS. Look beyond the fog of fear and press hard into Jesus. He will deliver you.

If you are having trouble finding hope in a “hopeless” situation, please seek help. You are not alone. There is no shame in reaching out, and i assure you, hope is to be found.


Scripture to Consider

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

Hebrews 10:23
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Lamentations 3:22-25
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.

 

O, To Be An Alabaster Jar

I long to have a passion for Jesus that resonates Him and Him alone.
Despondency and fear are a double edged sword used by the enemy that easily masks and tears away at that desire, and anyone who has ever experienced the weight of fear knows that it is a damaging emotion that quickly and effectively disrupts daily acts of worship and confuses Joy.

This is why the fight for Joy is so important.
Fighting fear is no fun, and quite impossible without Jesus working in our lives.
In fighting despondency and anxiety, Christ must be the focus.

“God…I screwed up…I won’t have a second chance to love and be loved….I’m used….I’m no good for your kingdom…I’m lonely…I’ll never measure up…”

Lies.

God does not measure you by your past mistakes or current struggles.
God measures you by your desire to know Him and BE KNOWN by Him.
God measures you by the grace He has already freely provided.

If you are truly His, He is perfecting love in you, and casting out fear (1 John 4:18).
If we are being perfected in love through Jesus then much like the darkness retreats at the first sign of light, fear retreats at the first sign of perfect love.

Fight fear.
Fight shame.
Fight anxiety.
Fight despondency.
Jesus is on our side.
He is our advocate.
And He is powerful.
He is Mighty.
He Chose you.
He has made you new.
He is CONTINUING to make you new.
Press hard into His promises.


O, To Be An Alabaster Jar

O, to rejoice in brokenness
to be broken before your feet
weak to men alive in You

Can such sacrifice exist?
How can one repay?
How could such love exist?

O, to rejoice in brokenness
to be broken before your feet
dead to man alive in You

Take my sacrifice Lord
it’s all I can offer
an alabaster jar broken before you

O, how I long to wash your feet with all I own
how I long to wash your feet with all I am.

“I will bow my life…
at your feet…at your feet.
My lips…so lost for words….
will kiss your feet…kiss your feet.”

You are more.
In your presence shame melts away
You are more.
In your presence
a broken heart and contrite spirit
Is more than gold.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

O, to rejoice in brokenness
to be broken before your feet
weak to men alive in You

Can such sacrifice exist?
How can one repay?
How could such love exist?

Take my sacrifice, O God.


Matthew 26:6-13

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Luke 7:37-50

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Fear, Idolatry and Losing What We Love

There is a direct correlation between fear, anxiety, and idolatry.
You fear when your kingdom is being threatened.
You fear when your idols are being crushed.
I have ultimately been encouraged by the thought and knowledge that all things come from God and that he is working all things out for the good of those who work according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

If all things work together for my good, then that must mean feelings of anxiety and fear are working for my good.

How?

They are bright red indicators to what my hearts desire is.
I fear the most when I trust the least.
If perfect love casts out fear and I feel fearful, there is an area of my life that I am refusing to give over to Jesus.

Indicators of idolatry.
What do you fear most?
Loss of comfort? Then you love comfort more than Jesus.
Loss of a job? Then you love security more than Jesus.
Negative bank account numbers? Then you love money more than Jesus.
Relationships? You seek affirmation from something that is going to die instead of the eternal security and affirmation we receive through Christ Jesus.

Consider this.
When you fear seek the root cause and repent.
If He is working all things for the good of those who work according to His purpose and if from Him are all things, then though the enemy uses fear as a weapon, it is ultimately for your good.
Take the enemy’s weapon flip it and go on the attack.
Use fear to your advantage by pressing hard into Jesus.
Use it as an indicator and repent.
He is faithful to forgive and steadfast in His love.


scripture to consider
Romans 8:28
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose.

Philippians 4:6-7
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1 John 4:16-19

16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.19 We love because he first loved us.