You Keep Using That Word, Part 2: Progressive

I need to preface this with a shoutout to the author whose podcast and book put a name to a dark and nameless dissonance I’d been often frustrated by in my walk with the Lord.

As an atheist who came to know God through the Bible long before stepping into a church congregation, I’d puzzled for years over a disconnect I found between me and some who call themselves Christian. We used the same terms, claimed the same Lord, even referenced a few of the same Scriptures, but what we meant by these things didn’t seem to mesh.

Then I heard Alisa Childers reference Progressive Christianity. Whether by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, instinct, or both, I knew this was the name of the lurking menace I’d encountered.

If you’re looking for an excellent Christmas present or a great Christmastime read for yourself, I HIGHLY recommend Another Gospel? by Alisa Childers. She writes with grace, tact, and candor of how a self-proclaimed “flaky artist type” took a plunge into the deep waters of apologetics and learned that her faith is built on Rock-solid ground.

Buy it. Read it. You won’t be sorry. Now on to today’s program:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

Galatians 1:6-8

Progressive. The word just sounds so… dynamic, doesn’t it?

It hints at sophistication; of gaining ground. When attached to a noun, this adjective lends a sense of importance, of forward motion, and of… well, of progress.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

– Inigo Montoya

But in truth, progress isn’t the significant thing. Making progress in the right direction is of far greater importance.

Four times now, I’ve made excellent progress on a hike – along a route that diverged moderately from the planned path. Once my companion and I forsook the path entirely and struck out on our own.

Such enthusiastic and progressive hiking experiences culminated in a variety of results. One particularly memorable result involved an unintended tour of adjacent mountaintops while keeping one eye on the sun’s position in the sky and the other on our (fortunately) distinctive goal.

We did make it to the goal before sunset, though our appearance must have been alarming. We were immediately offered food and water.

I suppose experiences like these have taught me to be cautious of vague descriptors such as progressive.

So when I first heard of “progressive Christianity,” I initially responded with a mixture of puzzled disbelief and a primal shock of icy horror.

If progressing up the wrong mountainside prompted wide-eyed day hikers to thrust their half-empty water bottles towards me, what is the appropriate response for people progressing towards the wrong eternity?

Though we’re easily lulled into believing our physical, mental, and emotional needs are the most important thing in life, the plight of those meandering comfortably and happily down the broad path to destruction is far more desperate than, say, a starving hiker lost in the backcountry with nothing but the clothes on his body and the seal of the Holy Spirit on his heart.

Progressive Christianity shares very little with actual followers of Jesus the Christ. It is progressively moving towards quite a different goal. A more honest devotee would call it progressive churchianity – or even what it is – secular humanism dressed in a dollar-store Jesus costume complete with Anglo-Saxon features.

Ironically, Christianity as it is understood through the Word of God, the teachings of the Christ, and the early Church is progressive.

It speaks of progressively becoming more like Jesus of Nazareth; of progressively dying to oneself and one’s sin; of daily progress towards the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Of progressive expectations of persecution and suffering laced with the joy of knowing it all has a purpose and an eternal hope.

However, the other thing wears the name of Christianity much like decaf wears the name of coffee. It has little of the flavor and none of the power.

What passes under the title of progressive Christianity has a form of godliness but denies its power. It promises something which resembles peace on earth and good will towards men while assuming a lack of peace and good will among men is the worst part.

Progressive Christianity treats the spiritual equivalent of ebola with a splash of lavender essential oil and a sweet little smile.

And it is making progress in our churches. Just not in the right direction.

Unmasked

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

2 Timothy 2:3-4

Here’s a bit of irony for you: the issue of whether or not to wear a mask has unmasked a disturbing dereliction of duty within the Church.

If only the problem were confined to small bits of cloth…

But it isn’t. Every time I browse social media, a heaviness invades my heart.

So much of my feed brims with frustration. So many responses are subtly, or even overtly, hostile. So many opinions flung into virtual print seethe with smugness and accusation but lack verifiable data.

It’s sad to see the bickering in the secular world, but it’s appalling to see it within the Body of Christ. It’s as if we’ve forgotten who our enemy is.

Our enemy is not the lady asking you to please put on a mask in the grocery entryway, nor is it the man walking around without one.

Politicians, political parties, billion dollar industries, liberals, conservatives, illnesses, treatments, “THEM” – none of these are our enemies. And none will be our savior.

In truth, all the issues causing us distress and mouth-foaming rage are temporary. Transient. A vapor soon dispersed by the wind.

For those of us who are in Christ, the time we spend here is not a matter of rights or politics or safety. It’s a matter of eternal life or death.

Brothers and sisters, the hour is growing late. We are ambassadors for the King, and it’s imperative we remember what this means.

And if I may be frank, getting caught up in the swirling digital babble clamoring over politics and masks and disease numbers and the maelstrom of controversy does not point the hurting, sin-weary heart to Christ.

We are called to share in suffering, not dodge it. We willingly sacrifice all else in order to proclaim forgiveness of sin through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If we are in Christ, our allegiance is not to any worldly agenda. It is to God’s agenda, and it we take it up at any cost to ourselves. A quick glance through the pages of Scripture yields several examples.

Jeremiah endured public ridicule and imprisonment, but not for his rights – for the Word of God. And he did it after God told him no one would listen.

Hosea did not place his right to a happy and satisfying marriage over his obedience to God’s command to marry an unfaithful prostitute. The command of God superseded his rights and he knew it. And acted on it.

Ezekiel did not spend over a year lying on his left side and eating bread baked over a poop fire because it brought him joy. He did it for the Lord.

Paul did not suffer persecution, torture, and chains by standing up for his earthly freedoms. He, too, did it for the honor of serving the Lord.

They knew what today’s Church seems to have forgotten. This world is dark, broken, horrible. Bad things will happen. And yes, we will lose rights and freedoms; we will be persecuted. We will suffer harm.

But if we belong to Christ, we will not be overcome so long as we remain faithful to Him and His calling on our lives. But we must have a willingness to share in suffering as good soldiers.

The enemy is not out there, fudging numbers and plotting to cover the faces of the globe with cloth. The true enemy works intimately, stirring up our pride; our selfishness; our sin.

Mine. Yours.

And he is gloating over our distraction from our primary purpose as ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. Let’s no longer give him the satisfaction.

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, 
but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 
Rejoice always, 
pray without ceasing, 
give thanks in all circumstances; 
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 
Do not quench the Spirit. 
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything;
hold fast what is good. 
Abstain from every form of evil. 
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, 
and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:15-24

Wise Words

When you get sick, and sad, and weary of God’s people, turn your thoughts to God Himself; and if ever you see any spots in the Church, Christ’s bride, look at her glorious Husband, and you will only love Him the more as you think of His wondrous condescension in having loved such a poor thing as His Church is even at her best.

C. H. Spurgeon

Back in the days of my atheism, I had a ridiculous habit. OK, I had several ridiculous habits, but one of the silliest was a tendency to judge Christianity by Christians.

This, of course, is foolish; akin to judging the entire field of theoretical physics by the mathematical expertise of the world’s preschool students.

If you want to rightly assess Christianity, the Person to examine is Yeshua Messiah, aka Jesus Christ. He is the one who set the standard. His Church are the ones learning how to live up to it – one computational error at a time.

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;

it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

Revelation 19:7-9

Friday Flora: Increase

And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”

1 Kings 17:12

Y’all, it’s getting real here in the Davis household. COVID Madness has infected certain companies, leading those who run them to fretfulness.

And a fretful company is not a good thing. They start searching for heavy things to pitch overboard to keep the thing floating high above the waves.

Thus, yours truly is officially back in the workforce, this time serving in a very different role than the recent short-term positions. All things considered, I’m grateful to be helping a litttle with the family income – especially in the middle of COVID Madness.

An older, less experienced me would be pretty darn nervous right now. Instead, the present me is pondering the many things I’ve written in my Ebenezer Journal (aka – my journal reminding me, “Thus far, the Lord has helped us.” See 1 Samuel 7:12 if you need a reminder.)

I need those reminders sometimes. Especially when large bills loom and small numbers cower before them.

But thus far, the Lord has helped us. And you know what? He has already taken our tiny little faith and our itty-bitty obedience and amplified the results far beyond anything I ever thought possible when I nursed my first baby, unsure how we’d pay the full amount of the next month’s rent.

So while the numbers in my bank account may tremble a bit in the shadow of bills to come, this girl isn’t trembling at all. Because I serve a God who is able to do far more abundantly beyond anything I ever asked or thought.

He has never failed to provide. Never. He’s even provided amply enough for us to be generous.

We haven’t always had all the things we want. But we’ve never done without the things we need.

Sometimes He provides just in the nick time, often we have to work to pay for some foolish choices, but He’s never been late.

It’s from experience that I trust my God – the God who is able to take a little bit of faith, a handful of flour, and a few drops of oil and multiply it to cover the needs of one generous widow, her son, and their guest.

He’s already provided me with salvation from my sins, a family, a more amazing life than I ever deserved, this current job, and so much more.

I trust my God with my whole heart, in little or in plenty. How could I not? I have Him! I have the Lord my God; my Savior Yeshua; my King!

Whether we return to times of plenty or continue in times of want, my heart is full.

Because in Christ, I have all I need.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, 
for I have learned in whatever situation I am
to be content.
I know how to be brought low, 
and I know how to abound. 
In any and every circumstance, 
I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, 
abundance and need.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:11-13

Blessing

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; 
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
(Psalm 63:1-4)

So how are you holding up during COVID Madness? I’m still enjoying having all my family around for the most part. But I won’t lie: I miss my friends. I miss seeing one daughter play tennis, and this weekend, I’ll miss seeing my other daughter’s now-cancelled spring play.

Finances are a bit tight, too. I’d hoped for more chances to substitute at the school while working on this silly book and help out with our expenses -which have increased. And in truth, I’m a bit sick of never being able to keep the house clean.

Even still, I count myself very blessed.

Wild Violet

I am blessed not because life is perfect and my kids have all the opportunities we’ve sacrificed to give them. I’m blessed because I know the Creator of the universe. Because my Lord died to give me access to the Throne of Grace. Because in Christ, I have the astonishing privilege of meeting with the Almighty, of reading His word and talking to Him, every single day.

Each day, I also love to walk in my neighborhood and marvel at the beauty He’s placed all around me. Even the weeds here are pretty.

Even more, though, I marvel that the same God who put such detail in the tiniest of flowers has put the same amount of attention into the details of my life.

Every single thing – from chronic pain and fatigue to the challenges and joys of motherhood; from a childhood of sorrows to a roller-coaster adult life; from the roof over my head to the dirty floor under my feet – all of it, He has used for my good. Preparing me. Changing me. Growing me.

Because He is a good Father, my God has not kept me from hard things in life. Instead, He has used the hard things to teach me more about Himself. To expose my need of Him and to shred my awful pride.

I am blessed not because of what He gives me, but because of who He is. He is my God, my King, my Savior, and my Rock. He is my Reason for doing everything I do. And He is worth it, not because He is the Giver of good gifts. He is the Good Gift.

Whom have I in heaven but you? 
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:25-26)

Y’all, I am totally in love with the Lord my God. Even now when life isn’t easy and the future is unknown. Truth be told, the future has always been unknown to me. But not to God.

Dwarf Larkspur along a trail

In Christ alone, I have peace. Apart from Him, I not only have nothing, I am nothing. But in His love, knowing that He is my future and my hope, I have Shalom. Peace.

Because His steadfast love is better than life, I will praise Him. No matter what.

Friends, I pray that You will seek Him with all your heart and find Shalom beneath the sheltering wings of the Most High. Even now. Especially now.

All Things New

The following is the December devotional I wrote for my church family. I wanted to share it with you for Christmas. I’ll be taking a break with my family (and hopefully finishing the first draft of my book) for the next few weeks, so merry Christmas to you and may the Lord draw you closer to Him in the year to come!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17

As a teenager, I believed I would die at the age of 26. I had no health problems and the number seemed arbitrary, yet the idea remained lodged in my mind.

Then in early adulthood, a series of poor decisions spiraled my life into chaos and the years slid away. My 26th birthday came and went unnoticed, eclipsed by life events more pressing than the passage of another year.

Mere weeks later, I sat on the edge of the bathtub in my apartment staring at a positive pregnancy test. Once I opened the bathroom door, I would have to face the baby’s father, a man I barely knew, and admit our lives were forever changed.

And they were. That year, that pregnancy, marked the beginning of God’s work in my life and heart – a work that took a broken, lost, and angry atheist and transformed her into a passionate lover of God, His Word, and His people.

I was a married homeschool mom of three before the Lord reminded me of my morbid adolescent certainty. Oddly enough, I’d been right. At age 26, I died to myself and begin to live for God. Everything I had been, every goal and ambition, changed radically that year. The old me had passed away; the new had come.

Nearly two decades have passed, and my life before and after Christ are as different as stone and water. To me, 2 Corinthians 5:17 is not just a pretty platitude. It is truth, raw and real.

Perhaps because of this, when I read Luke 2, I do not picture the idealized and brightly colored manger scene often displayed on Christmas cards.

Instead, I visualize sweat on Mary’s brow as she inhales the mingled stink of animal manure and blood. I feel her confusion as she wonders, “Is this how it’s supposed to be, God?” I imagine Joseph struggling to keep animals from jostling the newborn Child as they poke their noses into a trough that should hold their dinner but instead holds this Baby.

And I picture the Babe Himself lying there, straw poking His newborn skin through cloth scraps like a premonition of the nails that will one day pierce His flesh. In my mind’s eye, the shadow of the Cross obscures the Infant’s features.

Do you see it? Embodied in helpless human infancy is THE King of kings. In an unthinkable act of humility and sacrificial love, He willingly lay aside boundless power, confining Himself to the stuff of His own creation.

Learning to walk, to talk, enduring the pain of birth and of human life only to grow into a Man who will take on the sin of the world – and greater pain still – to finally settle the price of redemption for the creatures He loves. For the creatures who even now reject Him.

And someday, that King will return. Someday, He will make ALL things new. To this new creation in Christ, that is the true joy of Christmas!

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21:3-5
  • Spend some time reflecting on the implications of the Almighty confining Himself to the form of an infant human being. Is any act of humility He asks of you greater than what He has already done for you?
  • Ask the Lord to show you if you’ve been clinging to any of the “old things” from your pre-Christ life and to help you let them pass away.
  • How can you show your gratitude to God for the gift of new life in Christ He has given you?

Christmas Present

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…

Philippians 1:29

It’s that time of the year when peppermint and pine have staged a coup and sent all things pumpkin spice into an ignoble retreat to the clearance shelves.

The North Pole has launched its annual penetration into American homes as well. All over social media, parents are documenting their complicity with the greatest stalker of our age, the Great Elf Himself (you know who I mean – the man in the red suit), by positioning his elvish spy network in various locations throughout their homes. Evidently this is how he sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake…

But of course, all of this martial festivity is a feint to disguise the main offensive which targets our contentment and will lay siege to bank accounts and credit lines for the month of December: the tantalizing lure of the perfect gift.

Ah, Christmas!

Is it just me who sees the irony in all the smiling faces and twinkling lights when the first Christmas was celebrated in the murky stink of a stable? When the first Gift was born to be raised up as the Lamb of God who would be slaughtered to take away the sins of the world?

Perhaps this is why Paul told the Philippian church it had been granted to them to suffer for Christ.

Being a nerd, I had to peek into the original Greek and research the word translated granted. That word, transliterated echaristhe, carries the connotation of doing a favor, graciously bestowing, or giving freely.

Think about this: the Philippian church had been favored with suffering for Christ’s sake.

If you’ve read this blog for long, you’ll know that I have written about the unusual blessing of chronic migraine and what my God has done in me through pain. But I can hardly say I’ve suffered for His sake; I’ve just learned – or rather, am learning – to suffer well for His glory.

But meditating on this verse lately has changed the way I pray for my kids.

Like most parents, I’ve wanted to give my kids good gifts. I’ve longed for them to learn from my mistakes and spare themselves the hardship of self-imposed suffering. I’ve sincerely desired for them to have a better life than mine; to make better choices and live with less difficulty.

But by praying for them to be spared hardship, struggle, and suffering, am I praying to deny them a wonderful, God-given favor?

As I look back over my life, I see suffering that I had no control over, but I see more well-deserved suffering brought on by stubborn attempts to live for myself.

I’ve no right to complain about any suffering, really, when I consider that my Creator chose to join in human suffering despite never engaging in human sin. But I have zero reason to complain when I brought pain down on my own head simply because I refused to obey God – or at one point, refused to acknowledge Him at all.

Yet in His astonishing grace, even the harrowing consequences of my crimes are redeemed. Once I surrendered myself utterly to the Lord, He even turned the most awful, negative consequences of my sin into a glorious gift.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Romans 8:28-29

And He really does. In the economy of my Sovereign, truly nothing is wasted!

And so, I no longer pray that my young people will be spared suffering.

Instead, I have begun to pray that no matter how or why they suffer in this life – whether brought on by their choices or thrust upon them by others – God will give them the grace to suffer well.

By suffering, I pray they will be drawn closer and ever closer to the redemptive, compassionate heart of God. That they will choose to suffer for Him for a little while so they can rejoice together with Him for all eternity.

And when I think of suffering in the terms of eternity, what gracious favor is offered to us – embrace suffering for few paltry decades with the promise of everlasting joy to look forward to when it’s done.

What a gift, indeed!

Thoughts on Halloween

***This is a partial re-write of an old post…

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8

Confession: I am a Halloween scrooge.

For one thing, I’ve always suspected a group of economists plotting to stimulate the economy in lagging months are behind certain holidays, of which Halloween is one.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m more than happy to part with my scant dollars to help someone in need, though I prefer not to leave my name attached to said dollars. But when it comes to forking over cash for extravagant costumes, ghoulish decorations, or mountains of sugar-laden junk, I’m less than eager.

Still, the main reason I dislike October 31 runs a bit deeper.

If you enjoy the ghastly and the macabre, riding through zombie-infested forests or being startled by creaky floors and hideous visages in darkened houses, that’s fine by me. You do you. It’s just that I do not find any pleasure in these things.

For me, Halloween is an annual reminder of the old me; a day which recalls pre-Christ fascinations of which I am now ashamed. As a atheistic teenager, I had a morbid interest in the occult.

In the days before the internet and smart phones existed, I would visit the restricted section of my high school library (yes, we really had one) and read up on the wicca. I made my own Oiuja board and toyed with it, and I listened to dark, sinister bands like Danzig.

In truth, I didn’t really believe in such things, but I had an interest in the possibility of a spiritual realm beyond what I could see. In retrospect, I know now that God has set eternity in our hearts, but since I had convinced myself He wasn’t real, my enemy slipped in and harnessed the reality of my heart-longing for his own nefarious purposes.

But God had a plan for me even then, and He answered the prayers of those who faithfully interceded for me during those dark years.

A handful of experiences left me convinced the things I explored were more than myth. One in particular shook me. At my fast-food job, a man approached the counter with a terrifying grin and a knowing look in his eye. He handed me his card – that of a wiccan high priest, and either told me I’d be able to find them or the message was written on the card. That portion of the memory is unclear, but I do recall the message.

Keep in mind this transpired before internet search history even existed. I’d read actual, paper books and used a home made Ouija board. There was nothing tangible anyone could have used to track my interest. It spooked me.

Between this and a handful of other bizarre occurrences, the mask of this world slipped and I saw there was a very real, very present spiritual element behind the shiny surface of the American dream.

Fortunately for me, God had other plans. Rather than drawing me in, these events terrified me and caused me to reject the darkness vehemently. It was one step in the process which eventually opened my eyes and heart to my Lord Christ. I cannot claim any merit of my own for this, only that the Lord had designs on my life and used my youthful interest to awaken me to a greater reality.

This is why, when I finally came to Christ on my knees and broken that I had ever dabbled in things so vile, I had absolutely no trouble accepting the fact that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness…”  

For me, this passage is not a poetic description but a gritty reality. I had seen those spiritual forces of wickedness, faces leering at me, smug in their certainty that I would come as they beckoned. But I did not.

The fact is, there is an actual evil stalking this world today. It can be seen murdering babies in the womb in the name of convenience and in the “you deserve it” mentality of self-gratification. It is found in children’s programming that champions disrespectful and selfish attitudes and in adult programs that endorse negative thinking towards spouses or children.

Evil is evident as sexual and physical abuse, in the modern slave trade, and it lurks behind the refusal to accept responsibility for sin. It lulls human beings into an entertainment-glutted stupor. It gnaws the face off a homeless man, and it quietly swindles elderly widows, sometimes even in the name of Jesus Christ. Evil is both brutal and subtle, shocking and silent. It displays itself brazenly in hideous, revolting ways and it dazzles and confounds with a sly and handsome facade.

 Evil is a reality, and I simply do not wish to parody or play with it in any way, nor do I wish my children to be desensitized to it in even a small degree. For me, Halloween is a reminder of the greater spiritual battle that we face each morning both out in the world and within our own hearts.

It makes me sorrowful for all those who are yet deceived as I once was, lulled into complacency and unaware of the spiritual battle that rages around them. It reminds me that I am the chief of sinners, once rejecting and mocking the King who died as a substitute for me. I am humbled and grateful at the extent of His forgiveness, and because of it I have no wish to revisit in even the most playful or lighthearted way the darkness of my past.

 I want to be clear: I cast no judgement upon others who find enjoyment in haunted houses and zombie makeup. Perhaps it is simply that my faith is too small for me to enjoy these things. . . I am fine with admitting that, for I have yet to move even a small hill or caused so much as a blade of grass to uproot and plant itself in the sea.

There is nothing in my life to point to a mighty or an earth-shaking faith, and I certainly do not think more highly of myself because I choose not to participate in the October 31 festivities. I simply do not need reminders of the evil in this world.

I would much prefer to avoid all that is fearsome and ghoulish and keep my mind fixed instead on all that is good and just and pure and holy–on the Author and Perfecter of my faith. Only enveloped in His presence do I find hope, joy, and peace. And that, my friends, is precisely where I want to be.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Ephesians 6:12-13

Freedom

So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 4:31-5:1

I’ve probably mentioned before, but this is the busiest season of my life to date. Just keeping up with my teenagers takes up many hours of my week. Thus my erratic posting…

At any rate, a recent read of the Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass coupled with a study of Galatians has me thinking through Christian freedom.

As briefly as I can, I think I’ve spent much of my journey with the Lord grappling with the idea of freedom. It’s taken me some time to come to grips with exactly what it means to be free.

Perhaps this is due to the bizarre misunderstanding of the term, “freedom” my culture embraces. When most of us think of “freedom” in Christ, the mental picture we seem to conjure is more akin to licence than to actual freedom.

Freedom in Christ is not freedom to do whatever one wants. It’s so much better! The freedom Christ died to give is freedom from enslavement to sin. Freedom to choose not to sin, not freedom to engage in it.

The enemy of our soul is a liar whose goal is to steal our freedom and sell us a cheap substitute instead: a free-for-all instead of freedom. Licence instead of liberty.

Interestingly enough, the slavemasters of the 1800s apparently took a lesson from the ancient snake. As Mr. Douglass writes:

Thus, when the slave asks for virtuous freedom, the cunning slaveholder, knowing his ignorance, cheats him with a dose of vicious dissipation, artfully labelled with the name of liberty. The most of us used to drink it down, and the result was just what might be supposed: many of us were led to think that there was little to choose between liberty and slavery. We felt, and very properly too, that we had almost as well be slaves to man as to rum.

Fredrick Douglass

It’s the oldest trick in the Book. What God offers is genuine Joy, actual Liberty, a glimpse at real Life and honest Love, and our own self as we were created to be.

The enemy asks, “Did God really…?” and makes us question the Divine motive.

The snake makes love look like it’s withholding some mysterious and desirable thing. But in truth, he wants to bind us up in chains of addiction, sorrow, guilt, despair, anxiety, fear – all the nasty things we struggle under.

And that old serpent is so good at the game by now that he manages to convince us that our chains are freedom; that God wants to take something from us rather than turn us loose to live without fear and crippled by the shackles of our own cravings run amok.

The enemy glories in taking our liberty and sells us addiction, imprisonment, servitude. It especially feeds his miserable, vengeful core if he can sell us our bondage and make us think we need it to be happy. But he knows, friends, the greater the bondage, the less happiness we receive from it.

Oh how he loves to watch us squirm.

But Christ does offer freedom. Real, honest freedom.

Freedom to not need drink to have fun. Freedom to not need a hit or the next fix – of whatever.

Freedom to face death without fear, to let our kids go out into the world without anxiety, to meet the worst possible circumstance with a smile and confidence that whatever may happen to us here, our future is secure in Christ.

Freedom to live and die in victory, knowing that for those who are in Christ, death is really only the final freeing of our self from the temporary shelter of our mortal bodies, so that what is mortal can be swallowed up by Life.

Let freedom ring!

… For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.

Daniel 9:18b-19

Lord God, our King and our Redeemer, today I come before Your throne in humility and in repentance. Once again, I have allowed fear to eclipse my faith in You. Once again, I’ve given way to anxiety instead of clinging to Your promises. Again, my mind has strayed from contemplation of Your faithfulness to mull over my own failures.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…

2 Corinthians 10:5

Forgive me, Lord, and help me to truly take every thought captive to obey Christ! Let me not fall prey to despair when my family seems to be far from You, but help me instead to rejoice in You no matter what.

Forgive me for being silent in the face of those who resist discussing Your goodness. Instead, Lord, let my mouth be full of praise to You and my heart filled to the overflow of my love for You. Remind me that even when it seems I walk alone, I am never alone. You are with me.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

Despite my frailty, despite my weakness and my ineptitude, Lord, You are still King. You are still on Your throne. Help me to be mindful of this fact, trusting that You can reach the hearts of my family and awaken in them a knowledge of the true depths of Your grace – even if I have failed in every way to present You to them.

For though You are gracious to use me, You do not need me to do Your work, Lord. Like a loving Father, You allow me to participate in Your work. But You are the Craftsman. You are the Master – the One who reshapes my blunders and does the work I cannot do.

But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Isaiah 64:*

I look to You to bring all of my family into right relationship with my Lord Yeshua Messiah. I look to Your Spirit to move in their hearts, shattering idols, quickening true passion for the things of God, slaying pride, and stirring up a keen desire for righteousness and holiness.

I cannot do this work, Lord, nor can my worry over it accomplish anything more than exposing the weakness of my faith. Return my mind once more to a contemplation of the glory of my King, and keep my eyes fixed forever on the light of Your goodness and grace.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:2-3

May my heart be so filled with Your Spirit that the natural overflow of my lips is praise to You. Let my vocal and constant worship of You point others ceaselessly to Your glory.

And Lord, do a mighty work within my family, please. For Your Name’s sake, do not delay but act. Change our hearts so that we seek first Your Kingdom and Your righteousness in unity, together walking in Your light through this dark world. May our family truly be one who can say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord;” Amen!