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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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

 

LONGING

Last week a bought of sadness hit me like a ton of bricks.
It always hits at the most inopportune time.
Life has been nothing short of fantastic, then it hits you.

I thought my issue was with loneliness.
I thought my issue laid in unwanted singleness.
But it goes so much deeper than that.
and until this past week, I didn’t have a name for the struggle.

I opened up to a friend about this and his words were so incredibly encouraging.

(if i butcher this I’m sorry brother)

What you’re struggling with sounds like longing, and that’s not something that will go away. Once you’re in a relationship, you’ll long for marriage. Once your married, you may long for kids. Once you have that you may long for a better job…the list can be many many many pages long…

I never even thought of this. It was a completely foreign concept until Tim mentioned it.
The issue wasn’t unwanted singleness or loneliness or scars from the past.
The issue is LONGING.

Longing can be defined as a yearning desire, or a strong, persistent desire or craving, especially for something unattainable or distant.

Navigating new relational waters and new waters in my walk with Christ has been as rewarding as it’s been stressful, and the concept of longing never even crossed my mind.

He opened up about his own struggles with longing and said this, which I remember very vividly:

“I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but unless your satisfaction is in Jesus, you will never be satisfied. You will always be longing for more, no matter what stage of life you are in.”

This rocked my world a good bit.

In essence what longing tells us is:

ONCE I HAVE ___________ I WILL BE HAPPY.

But, follower of Jesus and those who have yet to discover him, If your satisfaction is not in Jesus, you will continue to long for temporal things, broken cisterns that will never satisfy our thirst.

So, let me challenge you:

What would you fill in that blank with?
What are you longing for?
What are you seeking for satisfaction?

Everyone wants to be happy.
Everyone is on a search for fulfillment.
Find your fulfillment in Jesus and everything else will fall into place.


Father,

Please forgive me for my shortfallings. Please forgive me for my lack of faith in light of relationships. Satisfy my longings, for you, O LORD, are the only one who can satisfy. Satisfy  me and make me thirsty for more of you. Make your love sufficient for today.Give me hope for tomorrow.

Your servant

Matt.


Scripture to Consider:

Jeremiah 29:11

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

John 6:35
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.

John 7: 37-39
“…“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.Whoever believes in me, asf the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

2 Cor, 4:7-18
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

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.


Taming a Romantic Heart

I am a bit of a hopeless romantic. I often find myself thinking about love and what it means. I don’t think that being a “hopeless romantic” is a bad thing, but there are times when I have to dial it back a good bit (anyone who knows me probably certainly knows this). I am easily captivated by beauty.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how much of my captivation is fueled by an appreciation of beauty, and how much is fueled by a desire to be loved. There is nothing wrong with attraction or the desire to be loved when kept in check. But these things can quickly cross over into the realm of idolatry.

I have to often step back and evaluate where I am in my relationship with Jesus when I feel lonely or when I find myself dreaming about the ideal relationship. All of these ideas come from a place of brokenness.

A major question that has been helpful in taming a romantic heart:

Is my longing to be loved overpowering the love that Christ has already poured out on me?

So, hopeless romantic Christians, Let’s take a step back together and evaluate where our concepts of love are coming from.

Are they worldly in nature?

Are they based off of our own ideal relationships?

Is what we’re longing for realistic?

Are we looking for the perfect man or woman to give us the kind of love that Christ can only give?

After that quick heart check, it may be time to go before God and repent. If you need to do this now, please take the time to talk to God. I’ll wait 🙂

We are fallible creatures, meaning that we are not perfect. Heartbreak will always exist until Jesus comes back. There will always be broken relationships and families. There will always be a longing for temporary satisfaction when there are pleasures forevermore at the right hand of God (Psalm 16:11).

Let’s evaluate this together and become better about finding our identities in Jesus rather than some form of ideal relationship. I believe that God want’s us to be in healthy relationships one day , but I also believe that if our hope is set in a relationship and not in Jesus then failure is eminent.

Only from the overflow of Jesus love in our own lives will we be able to extend an unbroken form of love to a future significant other.

So, when you are lonely, cling to Jesus.
When you are tired, cling to Jesus.
When you feel unloved, cling to Jesus.
When you feel unlovable, cling to Jesus.
When you are tired of being single, cling to Jesus.

He wants your identity to be rooted in Him, then it will be possible to tame the romantic heart and see through the noise to what God has promised.

Cling to Jesus.


Scripture to Consider:

Romans 8:35-39

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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.”

The Art of Celebration

Blame.
Shame.
Fear.
Guilt.
Condemnation.

They do not define you.
They do not control you.
They are not your identity.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
-Matthew 11:28-30

Those are the words of Jesus.

Reject shame.
Reject fear.
Reject guilt.
Reject Condemnation.

you are free. you are free. you are free.

JESUS IS YOUR IDENTITY. CLING TO HIM. PRESS HARD INTO JESUS.

never forget…

“…we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
-Hebrews 4:14-16

That is our Jesus.
Hold Fast.
He knows.
He sympathizes.
Be confident.
Draw near to Jesus.
He will give you Mercy and Grace and rest for your soul.

“This is the art of celebration, Knowing we are free from Condemnation. O, praise the one, praise the one, who made an end to all my sin.”

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.