Set Free for Freedom's Sake — for Goodness Sake (Gal 5:1)

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

Last week I met a good buddy for lunch. He became a believer about 7 years ago, and then was involved with a cult for 5 years. Two years ago he left that cult through immense spiritual warfare (as you can imagine), married his girlfriend, got his life together and sought the Lord. He spent the first year out of that craziness telling me about how obvious it was that the church he used to be in was filled with lies.

Well when I met him last week he told me was considering going back. I was devastated... I love this guy. How can he go back to something he so clearly knew was wrong? I am reminded of the quotes I posted recently from the book "Out of Mormonism" where the author clearly states she was lured in to Mormonism because she stopped reading her Bible. And that's what my friend had done.

So for the last 7 days he and I have been reading through Galatians and I've been chewing specifically on this verse. Christ came to set us free. More specifically he set us free for the very specific purpose of freedom. How awesome is that?

And how foolish are we to return again to a yoke of slavery? In just mentioning this briefly to my friend yesterday he sort of laughed, "Yea," he said of his old church, "they have an absurd number of rules that don't seem Biblical at all." And they certainly aren't for freedom.

The longer I tell people about Jesus the more I'm convinced that one of the most significant ways we as believers are supposed to be different from the world around us is our lifestyle of freedom. We are supposed to be free indeed; that is, after all, why Christ set us free.

No one who is set free from prison runs immediately across the street to another prison and asks to be put back in the chains he's grown so accustomed to. And yet Christ releases us, and then we run back to enslavement because we're too foolish to stand up and dance, rejoicing in our liberty.

Teaching Pant-less Preachers

The following text is slightly modified from a recent prayer letter I sent out to our supporters, uniquely qualified to fill a space here:

A few weeks ago on a Wednesday afternoon a local pastor came down for an afternoon training. He walked in to our little office and took his pants off. Just laid them over the chair like it was nothing and sat down in his boxers to study. I've been walking him through one of the materials our team offers, hoping he can learn it well enough to offer the training in his church. But this is the first time I've been in the presence of a pant-less pastor while teaching.

While we've been here a while now, and less and less seems to surprise me, I suppose there are still a number of cultural things I just simply wont ever understand.

The next week I had the opportunity to preach at the same pastor's house church. This isn't actually something I've done very often. While I teach a lot, I seldom have opportunity to preach. One of the things I love about teaching the Bible is the way it requires me to really dive in to it for a while and pull out something that works on my heart. So that morning I spoke on Psalm 1.

I cant share everything I spoke about in this little of a space, but the part the Lord really used to work in my heart is related to the righteous person being planted by streams of water. While I've read this chapter many times, it had never sunk in just how significant it is that we as believers receive our life from a completely different source than the world.

Most people around us depend on themselves for everything. They're taught that this isn't just the way things are, but that it's also inherently good to not need others. Some people call religion, or even Jesus, a crutch. Something to lean on so you don't have to support yourself. It's such an apt description.

The beauty of this passage is that we are the righteous ones. We are not planted by the stream of water because we're awesome, but rather because Christ is awesome. We are righteous despite our unrighteousness because of the work of Christ (praise the Lord for the Gospel). And as a result this whole Psalm is not a burden-giving directive, but rather is a burden-relieving promise. We will bear fruit, because our life source is constant. We could attempt to live on our own strength, but it would be pretty foolish when our life source is the stream we were graciously planted beside.

The Holy Spirit lives in us, empowers us, strengthens us, and communes with us. And feeding us we have the Word of God; the life-breathing, liberty-giving, good news of our God's great love for His people. All because Christ is awesome.

I've been chewing on this truth for some time now. How the Lord uses us despite our foolishness, sometimes in hilarious pant-less situations. How He feeds us from His word despite our ignorance. How He gives us the strength to live, love others, and minister despite our constant weakness and baseless fear the stream will dry up.
Anyhow, I've been blessed recently as I've dwelled on my source of life being the Lord and His Word. I hope it's a blessing to you as well.

And if ever I find myself teaching a 60 year old man who has pastored a church for 33 years while he lounges around in his boxers again, I hope I'm just as humbled by it as I was the first time. I also hope the Lord continues to bless us with such ridiculous opportunity because of His grace, mercy, and willingness to bear fruit through such a strange looking tree planted by His stream of life.

Power and Weakness (2 Cor 12)

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." - 2 Cor 12

I've been dwelling a lot on this verse over the last six months, largely because I've been so awful weak. I've been sick as sick can be, and often right in the midst of the sickness is when the Lord shows up and intends for me to do ministry. I hate it because I hate feeling week. I've been a missionary for some time now and frankly, while it isn't perfect, my language is mighty good. I can speak clearly. Communicate well. Speak encouraging words. Share what I've learned from the word. Even my prayers in the native tongue are more and more eloquent (yes I know this is ridiculous). So weakness is unsettling.

The first year I was here, back when I couldn't communicate anything more than a very poorly accented "hello", I still saw an outrageous amount of fruit. I was weak and God showed up because He had to, because I was too incompetent to do anything but stare at my friends and smile unless He was at work. He showed because I needed Him to.

Now I depend on myself much too much. Though, I have grown to see things like colds as opportunities to watch the Lord do significant things. And when my friends are sick, or otherwise weak for another reason, I almost look down at them for feeling weak instead of strong in the Lord.

I know, I'm an ass sometimes (read: frequently).

Then this week something new happened. I got an absurdly painful infection right in my manhood. (One of the advantages of blogging psudonymously is this is easier to admit when you don't know me). And you know what this infection did? Well, for one thing it didn't offer me opportunity to minister out of weakness. In fact it didn't hardly give me opportunity to stand up. If I wasn't laying down I was in excruciating pain.

Last night I got up from the couch to walk to the bedroom and I had to lay in the fetal position for about 4 minutes just to overcome the urge to cry.

This is a different kind of weakness. A much bigger weakness. I have no idea what Paul was struggling with (his "thorn"), maybe he couldn't even walk around without experiencing overwhelming pain. But I do know pain like this has certainly given me an appreciation for people who live with it chronically. It's also awaken me to my mortality a bit (though I still think of myself as young and invincible).

I'm trying to lean in the direction of looking forward to aging and the ways the Lord will use me despite my frailty. I don't know if I'm getting there though.

But I think I see the point. My strength won't last forever. And the sooner I can get good at leaning on the Lord instead of my own competence, the sooner the Lord will be accomplishing God sized things through me. I don't want to be 70 and falling apart before I start leaning on the Lord again.

That said, it sure feels like I'm standing in a gym looking at a heavy barbell I think I might just be able to lift, and the Lord's saying, "I got this." It's hard to let Him sometimes, but other times my balls hurt so bad I can't stand up to try. And then I stand back (or lay back, as the case may be) and watch God pick up the whole gym.

Goodness our strength is pathetic, our foolishness blinding, and the Lord's grace is outrageous. Praise the Lord for the good news of our undeserved salvation, for the gospel.