True Freedom: The Gift of Self-Forgetfulness ~

“With privilege comes responsibility!”  It was a phrase repeated often as our children grew into young adulthood and left the family nest.  They are gone, tending to their own families, but the truism remains in our home (with a slight twist) . . . “With FREEDOM comes responsibility!”

Why the change?  Because as the years have passed, God has given me a heightened awareness and appreciation for the spiritual freedom won for us by Christ.  Such freedom is not a right . . . it is an amazing Gift:

“It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us free! 
Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” 
Galatians 5:1

Passing on that Gift has become an important part of what I do in the Counseling Room, especially when the subject of self-esteem comes up: 

“Your self-esteem is not my concern–there will always be someone or something ready to tear it down.  My goal as your Counselor is to strengthen your esteem for God (your God-confidence) and to achieve His goal for you: a mature faith.” (James 1:2-4)

Living in a culture where the self-esteem philosophy is so prevalent, even the church has become weakened by its influence.  All too often, we blame low self-esteem that resulted from childhood deficiencies, a bad marriage or the influence of others rather than taking responsibility for our sin.

That is why I was delighted last week to discover a small jewel of a booklet titled, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: THE PATH TO TRUE CHRISTIAN JOY* by Dr. Timothy Keller.  I appreciated the clear and concise way Dr. Keller addresses the problem of the self-esteem philosophy and lays out the biblical framework for self-forgetfulness.

What I found most encouraging from a Counseling standpoint, is how Dr. Keller affirms our Christian responsibility to grow a mature faith by trusting God more and relying less on ourselves and others when it comes to the measurement of our self-worth.

In a world where low self-esteem is deemed the root of all evil, where elevated self-esteem is touted as the answer . . . what has become of JOY?  In a world where we have turned ever-inwardly and darkness appears to be winning, it would seem hopeless.  You might wonder what self-forgetfulness would even look like?  Dr. Keller answers our doubts as he introduces gospel-humility as the prescription for what truly ails us.  Gospel-humility is:

“Not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself,
it is thinking of myself less.”

 He writes further,

True gospel-humility means an ego that is not puffed up but filled up . . . The truly gospel-humble person is a self-forgetful person whose ego is just like his or her toes.  It just works.  It does not draw attention to itself.  The toes just work; the ego just works.  Neither draws attention to itself. 

In short, self-forgetfulness . . . gospel-humility . . . embraces the Gift of our spiritual freedom to no longer worry ourselves about ourselves.  Gospel-humility loves with abandon; it is no longer run by hurt feelings or the fear of “not making the grade” of someone else’s expectations.  Got low self-esteem?  Praise Him and shoot for the moon as you live your lives in gratitude for such an amazing freedom!

Self-forgetfulness . . . gospel-humility?  Trust me when I say . . . it is our only hope!

All to His Glory!

*Timothy Keller, The Freedom Of Self-Forgetfulness–The Path to Christian Joy, printed in the UK by a division of 10ofthose.com, 2013. (To get a copy PRESS HERE)

“The Quiet of Now . . . . “

“The quiet of now . . . .” It is a simple phrase that tumbled into my mind one morning as I was writing praises to God in my Journey Notebook.  I remember being struck by how it expressed the delight in my soul as I was aware of His Presence.  “The quiet of now . . .” is not so much about silence (although there may be a “hush” that accompanies it) but has more to do with the cessation of physical or mental busyness.  It can be experienced in times of blessing as well as in the midst of trial and heartache.  “The quiet of now . . .” refers to those rare moments when the world becomes distant as God awaits our stepping through the doorway to Him.  It is in such moments that Hope reigns supreme to both delight and comfort the soul.

Yesterday morning was one of those times when “the quiet of now” entered the forefront of my praises to God.  Our home had rocked for a week as our family of eight adults and seven children enjoyed the rare treat of spending time together.  Laughter, good food, messiness of varying degrees, old friends dropping in and a beautiful snow were the hallmarks of our week.  Several times, I found myself thinking about Mary who, after all the events that occurred around Jesus’ birth, “treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)  In like fashion, I tried to store away odd moments in my mind to be savored later:

  • The way our kids and their spouses enjoyed each other.
  • Watching how the three oldest cousins sensitively played with their younger cousins.
  • The laughter shared by the five bigger boys while sharing stories about sledding one afternoon afternoon.
  • The two youngest leaving gooey fingerprints on our den windows as they excitedly watched the squirrels and birds romp around the bird feeder in the snow.

Yesterday, with everyone gone it was quiet–almost too quiet,  It was then that I pulled out those freshly stored memories and laughed “in the quiet of now.”  (I laughed even harder last night, when I noticed those gooey fingerprints still gracing our den windows!)  It was truly lovely to share those memories with the One who ordained them from the beginning of time.

Are you yearning to experience such a moment?  Perhaps you are feeling harried by the craziness in your life or are discouraged by the seemingly quirky unfairness of how things are right now?  Psalm 46 lays out a helpful formula to lead us to “the quiet of now . . .” when life is falling apart.  It concludes with this direction:

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Consider this breakdown–

Step One:

~ BE STILL ~

Step away from what you are doing when you can; ask Him to help you see a window in time to be with Him,  (I guarantee He will help you to do this!)

Step Two:

~ KNOW ~

 Stop focusing on your problems and discouragement.  Focus instead on the One who loves you.  Ask Him to help you to know Him more intimately than you do— He will help with this one too!

Step Three:

~ I AM GOD ~

Bow before Him as you give thanks that HE IS GOD, AND THAT YOU ARE NOT!  (It is always such a relief to set that one straight!)

Step Four:

~ I WILL BE EXALTED! ~

If you got steps one through three in order, then enter His Gates (“the quiet of now. . .”) with thanksgiving and praise!

One final thought on entering “the quiet of now . . . .”  Since the fall of man we have sought and failed to create our own heaven/peace on earth apart from God.  The Bible makes clear, we cannot enjoy such quiet/peace apart from the Peacemaker–Christ Jesus–who unabashedly pointed to Himself as the path that leads to quiet we crave:

“I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  
John 14:6

All to His Glory

With Conviction There Is Hope ~

When she walked into my office I was surprised as she offered an almost shy smile.   She called a few days earlier asking about “anger management.”  I responded with a question, “Who is it for?”  She answered with a quivering voice, “It’s for me.  I have no friends because they’ve all distanced themselves from me.  I’m so lonely . . . I hurt people without thinking with my sarcasm . . . can you help me?”  Although I could not see her, I knew tears were falling . . . each one marking the pain of regret. Concerned yet aware of a knowing smile forming on my face, I remembered myself a lifetime ago with nowhere to turn . . . so angry . . . so afraid when I realized my anger had become a prison.  Life was hard but I soon found out that God is very, very good. . . .

During our first meeting, I introduced myself and talked about what I do as a Biblical Counselor.   I explained that I don’t “do” anger management but that I would help her get into the Scriptures to gain insight into God’s perspective on life and how He sees her.  I told her about how God helped me with my anger and that He could certainly help her too.  A light came into her eyes that I can only describe as a glimmer of hope as she responded, “That’s exactly what I’m looking for.”

It was my turn to listen as she told me her story.  She talked about her family, about hurt inflicted upon her by others.  She admitted that being angry had been a way of life; only recently did she realize that it was becoming a prison.  I appreciated her candor as she spoke of losing the people she holds most dear as they have distanced themselves from her angry outbursts and cutting remarks.  She admitted being confused as to why God allowed bad things to happen to her while also feeling convicted about hurting people who had done nothing to her.

I spoke to encourage a dry and hungry soul, not with pat answers but with the assurance of God’s provision:

Conviction is a good thing; with conviction there is hope.

She looked at me with her face twisted oddly as she tried to make sense of what I had just said.  She finally asked, “How can conviction ever be good?”

I answered simply, “When it serves as evidence of God’s Holy Spirit working in your heart.  God convicts in order to bring us to our senses, to recognize our need for salvation because we know we deserve hell.  When we repent of our sin (no longer making excuses for it) and trust in Christ Jesus to save us, we are truly free to live our lives well before Him.”  A light seemed to dawn as she listened and considered what I had said; that glimmer of hope began to widen as we looked at the Scriptures together . . . .

In a world that avoids taking personal responsibility for anything that happens and shifts blame to others for our sinful ways, the idea of conviction being a blessing is absurd.  Yet, consider the parable Jesus told about the youngest of two sons recorded in John 15:11-20,

“There was a man who had two sons.  The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.  After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.  He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’  So he got up and went to his father.”

When the rebellious son “came to his senses” he became convicted of his sinful behavior.  It was with that conviction that he realized his only hope was to return to the father he had dishonored and to confess his sins in the hope of being allowed to work for him as a hired hand.

Of course the parable has a much happier ending as Jesus pictures the father ready to receive and restore:

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”  (vs. 20-24)

I still remember the day I realized I deserved hell.  I realized that before a Holy God there was nothing I could do but ask for the mercy I had refused to give to others because of my anger and resentment.  It was when I understood how filthy I truly was, that I came to appreciate the awful necessity and wonder of what Christ accomplished on the Cross.

17th century Commentator Matthew Henry lends insight into the blessing of conviction under the Holy Spirit:

“Without clear discovery of our guilt and danger, we never shall understand the value of Christ’s salvation; but when brought to know ourselves aright, we begin to see the value of the Redeemer.”

Truly, with conviction there is hope when it is placed in the Lord Jesus Christ!

“He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.  Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  John 1:11-13

Feeling convicted?  Go to God as the younger son returned home to his father.  You can know and trust that God is watching for you just as the father watched for the son he had lost.

All to His Glory!

Freedom in Waiting~

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  For the Creation waits in eager expectation . . . . “  Romans 8:18-19a

How are you when it comes to waiting? Looking back, I have to admit there were seasons in my life when, waiting was an agony to press through to where I thought I wanted to be.  It was in such times when I made foolish demands such as, “I want it yesterday!” 

Living in such a fast-paced, go-to culture, waiting is something most people try to avoid.  A Colorado tourism commercial I saw recently reflects our human aversion to waiting as it presents an enticing backdrop of the natural wonders of the Rocky Mountains:

“No longer should we wait . . .
Not for the second-hand . . .
not for the stop light . . .
not for some sign from the sky.
Our skin was meant to feel the sun . . .
our legs to travel . . .
our eyes to see great things.
We will not wait another day,
for waiting . . .
is the opposite of living.”

What I find interesting about the ad is how it showcases Creation as glorious with tall mountains, blue sky and flowers across an expansive meadow.  Even as the text is read, reference is made to there being intent and design in how we (people) were Created, “to feel the sun . . . to travel . . . to see great things.”  Yet from the beginning of the commercial, there is an overriding sense of rebellion against waiting for time or neighbor as the idea of a Creator is derided as “some sign from the sky“:

“No longer should we wait . . . .”

Even in Christian circles the idea of waiting/patience is joked about– “If you pray for patience, you’ll end up stuck in a two-hour traffic jam!”  Yet, waiting is an important discipline within the Christian walk and, in fact, is a reflection of the freedom won for us by Christ.  In our call to “walk by faith, not by sight” much of that walk is spent in waiting.  The point I am trying to communicate here is that how we wait should reflect His Presence in our lives.

As time has passed I have learned to be grateful for the opportunity waiting provides, to appreciate the nuances of “life” happening around me:

I have discovered a gracious freedom in waiting, as my focus has become less on my desires and the things of this world and more on the Sovereign Goodness of God.

To give you a recent example:

Several months ago a military friend received orders to leave his wife, family and friends to serve in Iraq for a year.  These days, you might wonder why such news would be a surprise?  But nearing retirement, this was not exactly the ideal assignment our friends were hoping for.  Tears flowed at the prospect of such a prolonged separation and the danger involved.  Much time in prayer was invested as plans were adjusted and preparations made for Tom’s departure date.  There was a farewell gathering and then the unexpected happened . . . No Visa so his departure was delayed!

One week passed . . . everyone tiptoed around, not wanting to be the one to burst the bubble.  Then came week two . . . still no visa . . . Tom began to fidget, wondering what was going on?  This past week the visa arrived . . . tears flowed as prayers were extended in hope to the Lord of Creation . . . .

Tonight Tom leaves as his wife, his family and his friends who, along with all Creation, “wait in eager expectation” for God to continue to work out His perfect will in Tom’s life and in ours.

Waiting can be hard but there is freedom in waiting for those who trust in a God Who is always and forever Good:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? 
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; 
they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
 Isaiah 40:28-31 (ESV)

All to HIs Glory!

Uncomplicated Freedom ~

As our children were growing up, there were certain words we set apart for special usage in our household.  We referred to those words as “Royal Words;”  words that are intrinsically powerful but that, by misuse (or overuse), lose the strength of their meaning.

LOVE and HATE were two of those words.  In essence, we neither loved or hated spinach; we instead liked or did not care for the green stuff.  In our household we sought to love God and/or our neighbor; we hated what was evil.

It has been many years since I thought about our family list of royal words, but this week I added a new word to to the list: FREEDOM.  It all began with something my Pastor said in his sermon last Sunday.  He was talking about Job’s response when he received word that much of his wealth had been either taken or destroyed and then learned that his ten children were dead.  Job’s response was both challenging and instructive:

“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”  (Job:1:20-22)

My Pastor talked abou how Job’s response reminds us how truly naked we are apart from God’s provision for us.  He went on to say that God’s grace is what frees us, that freedom is not a right.  He underlined this by citing Galatians 4:4-7 where the Apostle Paul wrote:  

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Because you are His sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”  So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are His child, God has made you also an heir.”

As I thought about it I realized that true freedom cannot be legislated; it is not about human rights.  In fact, it is as we focus on our perceived rights that freedom becomes complicated.  To uncomplicate freedom we must take ourselves out of the center and put God in His rightful place.  When we do, it is amazing how simple true freedom becomes.  Freedom cannot be determined by where one lives or by what one possesses.  Jesus taught in John 8:31, 32,

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Freedom in Christ is a rare and precious gift that cannot be taken away any more than His grace can be removed or shattered by our changing circumstances. Such freedom is more about surrendering and trusting in Him to free us from the bondage and misery of sin.  The bottom line?  If you know Christ, you are free indeed!

In my last post I reblogged a video that underlines what I am trying to say; it is a look at what we refer to as the persecuted church.  I invite you to watch it and marvel at the uncomplicated freedom unveiled as Christ becomes the focus.  Looking to uncomplicate your freedom?  Uncomplicated Freedom counts up the cost of following Jesus and says He is worth it!

All to His Glory!

The Cost of True Freedom

True freedom cannot be determined by where one lives or by what one possesses. Jesus taught in John 8:31, 32,

“If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Freedom in Christ is a rare and precious gift that cannot be taken away any more than His grace can be removed or shattered by our changing circumstances.  Such freedom is more about surrendering to Him to be freed from sins bondage and misery.  If you know Christ, you are free to live for, love and serve Him, no matter where you live or what you may or may not possess.

I enjoyed watching this video this morning and pray that you will too.

All to His Glory!

The Peanut Gallery

Count the Cost of True Freedom – The Cost by Rend Collective Experiment

“Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” – Galatians 5.1 MSG
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