Identity and Freedom

Paul has a very interesting way of framing the idea of freedom. He talks about it a lot but specifically in Romans Romans 6:18-20. This is just verse 148 but you should go read the whole thingDo you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” In the Roman world where Paul lived if you were a slave, you had no personality. There was even a special phrase for this idea: Servus non habet personam. A slave had no past, no future, no property of their own, no family name, and no personhood. They were just property. It was possible to buy your freedom but that was typically not until you were old enough to not be of any value to your master. Some were treated better than others but they were still slaves. If you were a slave, you wanted freedom but generally, there was little to no hope of obtaining it. You were personless property. You did not belong to yourself. That is the idea behind the meaning of what Paul talks about when he talks about being a slave.

With that in mind, we can add in that Paul says we are either in Christ or in Adam. It’s a clear either-or scenario.  There is no in-between we are either in Christ (sometimes called Spirit) or we are in Adam (sometimes called the flesh). You cannot be in both. This is important because Paul is framing an argument throughout all of his writing that says we exist as slaves one way or the other. The question is who the master is. What is unique is that Paul says we get to choose our master. Now by default, the master is sin or flesh.

Before Christ we were slaves to sin, we were slaves to our sin nature. We belonged to it. Sin was not something that we did as much as it was part of who we were. It owned us. We had no identity outside of it. Some of us embraced that more than others but true to the reality of the situation we all belonged to sin. Our natural default position was self-focused. Being controlled by sin means you are free from the requirements of righteousness. You belong to one master and do not need to listen to the other.

After you come to Christ the whole thing changes. We move from this position of self-focused to Christ and Spirit focused. We transition from one master to another. It’s like the old Bob Dylan song Gotta Serve Somebody says “yes Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody, Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody” and yes I just quoted Bob Dylan while talking about the Bible. You don’t get a choice in whether or not you serve but you do get to choose whom you serve.

When we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, we chose to serve Him, that’s the Lord part of the equation. We now not only have the power to stop being self-focused, but we have new requirements for service. Before when we served the sin nature the requirements were to do what feels good. Do what you want. Lookout for you. Now we are bound to the requirements of righteousness. That means we are outward and upward focused. We are called to seek the kingdom of God and let Him rule and reign in our lives here and now. We are called to walk as Jesus walked. We are called to love the Lord God with all of being and love one another.

The amazing thing is that as slaves of righteousness we are also adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High. We are no longer just slaves and servants but children who are promised an inheritance. We get something we did not have before. We get a future.  We get personhood. With the change in masters comes a change in identity. This is an amazing and glorious thing. We went from slaves with nothing to servants who are adopted by God. But that is not cause for bragging. On the contrary that is a call to surrender. In Philippians 2:6, speaking of Christ, Paul writes that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to used to His own advantage. Instead Jesus, fully understanding who He was laid down His rights and served.

That is our call. We are called to now understand our rights and lay them down. We say, yes, I am a child of God, and yes, I will one day see heaven but until then I have work to do. We place ourselves under the authority of Christ and do like He did. We submit ourselves and find our identity in God just as Christ did. We do not use our freedom for our own good but seek ways to serve and love one another. When we do this, we can rejoice that we truly know who we are.

We need to understand our identity and when we do, we can go out and do the things of God and for God without fear and with less hurt because we know who we are. We can move from a position of being a child and serving as obedient slaves and servants.

Just a thought,

Mike

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A Base of Love

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Working from a base of love is a funny thing. Sometimes life is stressful and confusing. Sometimes life is great and easy. Regardless of what life is like at any given moment, we are called to operate from a base of love. This means that when life is stressful and confusing we are to look past our circumstances and move from a position of being loved and loving others. This can be hard because our stress and confusion attempt to demand our attention. They should be given attention but they cannot have it all.
When life is great and easy it can be hard because we don’t have something pressing us towards the Father in prayer, there is nothing requiring us to look past our own situation. We should enjoy the many blessings we have but we should not forget to love others. Operating from a base of love means embracing the love of God and intentionally looking past our situation to see the image of God in others. It is not always easy but it is best.
Today I challenge you to work from a base of love. First, embrace the love of the Father. Bath in that love. Let it roll over you like waves. Let it drown you like the sun. Soak it up. Then go out and find ways to express that love to others. Find someone, find a few people that need that love and drown them in it. Give them the water of life that flows from within you like a mighty river.
It’s going to be awesome!
Just a thought,
Mike

God of the Wednesdays

As Easter closes, we are left with this time of resting. A lot of the rest of Christianity will celebrate the Ascension and maybe we should too but in general, we have hit our high. After a long time of preparation, we move from this high back to the ordinary. I am anything but ordinary, so I struggle here. We like the high moments. The mountain top experiences. The event. The loud and the fast-paced. But most of life is made up of the ordinary. Most of life is lived in the mundane. Most of life exist on Wednesday.

I say Wednesday because on Monday most people are getting back to work and still have some of high left over from the weekend. We can talk to our co-workers about what happened. We can talk to other students about what we did. Tuesday we are starting to come down, but we can still relive our stories. Someone might still ask how the weekend was. Our Facebook posts from the weekend might generate a few new likes. But on Wednesday there is usually a lot of silence. Maybe your Wednesday is actually Thursday but still, you have a day when nothing is going on. A time when nothing is happening, and you are just there. As a people who generally crave excitement these days can be hard but, in the Bible, we are presented with a deep and wonderful truth: God’s steadfast love endures forever. We think of forever as a time coming but in fact right now is part of forever. There are not moments that are here and gone or will be, but each moment is a moment where God’s steadfast love endures forever.

God is still God on Wednesday and He still reigns and loves us. He is still moving and active. He is still in control. We cannot be like the disciples that stood there looking up to heaven. We must move forward living out this life of love that we have. We must move forward walking each step as Jesus would walk. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31 “whether we eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all things to the glory of God.”  In context, Paul was talking about not causing your brother or sister to stumble but it is important that he is using daily things. We are in the daily movements of life more than we are high on events. We spend more time living in Wednesday than anywhere else. It is in these ordinary times that we need to fall back on spiritual disciplines to help us remember that God is God and His steadfast love endures forever, even on a Wednesday.

  • How do you feel Gods love in the daily activities of life?
  • How do you connect with God in the mundane?
  • What are some areas you could improve on during your ordinary times?
  • What spiritual disciples do you make a practice of? (silence, reflection, daily reading (office readings perhaps?), contemplation, self-examination)
  • What is your private worship like?
  • What is your private prayer life like?

These are just some examples and you will need to find ways that work in your life, but it is important that you find ways and make them solid habits.

Just a thought,

Mike

10:10 Prayer

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During worship at church, I felt like we need to be praying big and praying specific prayers. The idea is to be praying for 10 new missions’ partners for the next 10 days at 10:10 who can give special gifts of $1000 each. That will put us at half way of our total. Will you pray with us? Or maybe you are one of the 10. We are looking for individuals, groups, churches, or even businesses that want to come alongside what God is doing and help us bring the Gospel to France this Fall. Is it a bit scary to pray bold prayers like this? Yes. Absolutely. But we often find God when stepping out in faith. So set your calendar for 10:10 each day (AM or PM or Both) and let’s see what God does.
 
If you feel led to be one of the 10 click here. We would be honored to have you as a partner https://teamexpansion.org/thefarleys/

Going the Distance

I have been thinking about Johann Dober and David Nitschmann who were so determined to minister to the slaves in St Thomas and St Croix that they were willing to sell themselves as slaves. I don’t think they ended having to do this, but they were willing to go the distance. I have also been thinking about Gladys Aylward who was so determined to get to China to be part of the ministry there that she worked for years as a maid to pay her own way. She was willing to go the distance. When I think missions, I think a lot of things, and one of those things is that we must be willing to go the distance. We must be willing to do whatever it takes (biblically) to reach the people we so desire to serve. What cost is too high?

Paul says 1 Corinthians 9:22 I have become all things to all people so that some might be saved. Yes, this means we take interest in the things that interest other people and yes it means we give up things so not to as offend but it also means we are willing to go the distance and be uncomfortable. In Acts 18:3 it says Paul was a tentmaker in Italy because the people he was with were tentmakers (he was also a tentmaker). In 2 Corinthians 11:7-15 Paul says he did not take money from the Corinthians because he did not want to offend or burden. Paul was willing to go the distance.

I don’t exactly know what it means for me to go the distance and I more certainly don’t know what it means for you to go the distance in missions. But I do know we must be willing to do it. We must be willing to sacrifice and live a life that gives preference to the call of God. It can be hard, and it can be tough, but it will always be worth it.

When we serve God when we are willing to take up our cross when we are willing to go the distance people and things change. Yes, the people around us see Christ and find hope and healing but we also change. We become filled with less of us and more of Him. We pour out our lives as a drink offering and in return, God fills us with more of Him.

So as Dober and Nitschmann said as they left for the West Indies “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering”

Just a thought,

Mike.

Looking for the right reward

Daniel 3:16-18 The Message (MSG)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”

One of the amazing things about the Bible is that there is more there than is at first visible. This is one of the reasons we can read the Bible so many times and find something new each time. One of my favorite quotes about this comes from Augustine who said, “The Bible is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim.” What that means is there are layers of depth in the Word of God. It has surface meanings and deeper meanings. It has what was said to the original audience and then it has things that can be applied to our situation today. It stands the test of time and breaths live into every new generation.

I was rereading the verses above recently and it struck me that there is a larger principle at work. For Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego they made a choice to follow God regardless of the consequences. They said no matter what the cost we will not bow down and serve false gods. But the larger principle is that when you are doing what you know is right and what God would have you do there are obstacles. This is partly because life just has obstacles.

Life is just hard sometimes. Sometimes life is hard because we are dumb and make dumb choices. We sin, we make mistakes, we get it wrong. Sometimes life is hard because we make it hard. Other times life is hard because we live in a broken and fallen world. As Christians, we believe that the kingdom of God has come but we live in this tension of the now and not yet reality of the kingdom. We live in a tension of belonging to the kingdom of God and being Christ’s ambassadors but being here on earth. That is hard and causes tension.

This is also partly because sometimes doing God’s will is hard. Doing God’s will is hard sometimes because we might not like it. We find that Paul’s words ring true when he says, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” So sometimes the difficulty comes in obeying despite ourselves. We like to blame the devil but sometimes we are own worst enemy. However, there is a real enemy and he has many servants. So sometimes life is hard because there is opposition to serving God. Whether it be people or spiritual forces there are things that come against us. We must understand this, and we must acknowledge that this a reality.

In the end, we have options in the face of that adversity. We can shrink back and surrender, or we can stand and say, “my God will rescue me, but even if He doesn’t, I will still serve Him.” Our faith must be strong enough to say I will serve God and He will rescue me. I trust completely God in this situation to come to my aide and deliver me. We must look past the circumstance and the situation and move forward in faith when we know we are obeying God’s will. We also have to be willing to admit that we are not God and if He does not come in the way we want, we have to be secure enough in Him to still serve. Service to God cannot be about the reward or the deliverance. Yes, He is a God who rewards and delivers but God told Abraham that He (God) was Abrahams great and mighty reward. God, Himself is the ultimate reward and goal. In the end, this means our service and faith must be grounded in God Himself and not our desires or wants.

Just a thought,

Mike

Listening

Do you ever just stop when reading your Bible? You’re reading and moving along and then all of a sudden your read something and it makes you slam on the brakes? I love it when that happens because it reminds me that the Bible, this amazing book is more than just a book of stories. It is more than just a record of what happened. It does more than just communicate the past because it is alive.

Hebrews 4:12 says that the Word of God is alive and active. In the NLT it says “it exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” which is pretty amazing when you think about it. The words in this book can in an instant expose our innermost thoughts, desires, and fears.

This morning I was finishing up the book of John for the hundredth time and I read John 20:16 where Mary is looking for the body of Jesus. Mary is confused and crying, not know where His body was. Jesus was there with her but in her pain and confusion, she could not see Him. That changed when He called her name. Just her name from His mouth made her see.

How many times in my own life do I miss Christ and think that I cannot find Him because of my circumstances? How many times do I miss the Lord? Yet the whole time He is right there. Something changes when He calls our name. When He speaks our name, we can see anew and come alive. Jesus called Mary’s name and she could see Him and was comforted. Jesus called Lazarus’ name and he came out of the grave. Jesus called my name this morning and my worry ceased. Something happens when Jesus calls your name, we just need to be listening. Are you listening?

Just a thought.

Mike