Walking in Freedom

Miscellaneous musings along the way

Enter Into Their Pain December 21, 2012

Just finished a book about leadership and followership by John Perkins and Shane Claiborne titled “Follow Me to Freedom.”  The biggest idea that stood out to me was that a good leader leads out of the pain he feels for the people who are following him (or her).  When your passion turns into a person- their character and experiences, and especially Teen Angstthey’re pain- then you are at a place to lead.

 

Who better to look to on this than Jesus?

“He was despised and rejectedby men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted withgrief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.”

-Isaiah 53:3-5 (ESV)

Our Savior knows pain.  He chose to enter into a world permeated with pain.  He not only bore the pain of rejection, but “he has borne our griefs.”  Before you were born, before youjesus-on-the-cross even knew your pain, he bore it- ultimately, on the cross where “he was pierced for our transgressions.”  In a strange twist, this climactic act of cruelty is the very event that opens the door to peace and healing for people- the people who were Christ’s passion.

 

I haven’t processed all of this yet- it’s all very fresh in my mind and heart.  But, God is starting to let me know that I can’t expect to lead or have influence in the lives of people until I know and share their pain.  yikes!  That sounds messy and quite possibly dangerous!  It’s not enough to be passionate about a cause or issue, although that’s a great start.  God has called us to love Him and love people.  His passion was for people, and ours should be as well.  Our life is to be about relationship.  And a huge part of relationships, as shown in the work of Christ, is deciding how we will deal with and respond to pain.

 

This Christmas, I’ll be reflecting on the God who chose to send his son into a world where he would experience great pain- for our sake!  May Christ who chose to expose himself to real brokenness and hurt be the guiding example in my life, especially as I interact with my students!  A leader worth following knows and shares the pain of the people!

 

Here’s a link to a Chris Tomlin song called “Mighty is the Power of the Cross” that includes some of the Scripture above 🙂 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8sw-g6P544

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Forgive and Forget? October 9, 2012

Filed under: Faith — songofjoy88 @ 9:40 pm
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It all started when one of my high school students (I’ll call him Isaac) chose not to pay attention to the lesson because he was catching up on work that should have already been completed.  As I was moving around the room helping students with the assignment, he quickly became frustrated because I wouldn’t come over to him to reteach the entire lesson to him.  Isaac’s frustration boiled over as he angrily gathered his belongings and stormed out of my room.  I still had students in the room to teach, and I wasn’t about to chase after a student who clearly wasn’t in the mood to see things from another point of view.

 

The next day, I put a half sheet “Re-entry” form on a clipboard and handed it to him before he came in the room.  It included questions like “what happened?” and “what could you have done differently?” and “how can you prevent this from happening again?”  After being in the hallway for a bit, Isaac knocked on the door.  It didn’t take long for me to notice that he still had the “teacher wasn’t doing her job” mentality.  I told him I didn’t think he was ready to re-enter the room to which he replied something along the lines of “can’t we just forgive and forget?”

I have only God to thank for bringing to my mind the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11).  What does this have to do with a stubborn teenager?  For those of you who don’t know the story, a woman is caught in adultery and is brought before Jesus by a group of religious men.  According to the law, the penalty for this sin was to stone her.  Jesus responds by saying, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”(v.7)  Realizing their guilt, all of the men gradually leave.  Jesus, now alone with the woman, asks her if anyone condemns her.  When she says there is no one, Jesus declares “Then neither do I condemn you.  Go now and leave your life of sin.” (v.11)

 

Jesus extended grace.  He chose forgiveness.  BUT, he did not ignore her actions that led to the accusation in the first place.  He declared forgiveness and also made a call to action.  He sent her off calling her to leave her life of sin.  God does not forgive us so that we can keep messing up (Paul says a lot about that in Romans!).  We see through the story of this woman that forgiveness propels repentance (or turning away from sin).

 

I shared this story with Isaac, stressing the importance of changed behavior.  I emphasized that I didn’t think less of him as a person, but I expected him to change his behavior.

 

Yes, God does remove our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).  Even still, from the story of the woman, we see that he desires that we walk away from our sin.

 

Don’t Waste Your Life February 14, 2012

Filed under: Faith — songofjoy88 @ 8:08 pm
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About a year ago, I read a book by John Piper titled “Don’t Waste Your Life.”  I just wrote a book review for a church newsletter, so I thought I’d share my comments on the book with you:

John Piper opens the book with the story of an old man who accepts Christ at the end of his life and laments through tears about his life saying, “I’ve wasted it!  I’ve wasted it!”  The impact of this story on Piper’s life led him to consider what it really means to live a life that is not wasted.

 

In a world of subjectivity, he emphasizes the importance of reading God’s word to know His will.  And as he studied the Bible, Piper came to the conclusion that the aim of our life is the glorify God and delight in Him.  He expounds on what Paul meant in Galatians when he wrote about boasting only in the cross.  The book also details the implications of living out the Gospel in our relationships and at work.  Moreover, Piper exhorts his readers to treasure Christ above all else.

 

While the content of the book is challenging, the 1-2 page sections within each chapter make it easier to digest.  Throughout the book, Piper quotes and references Scripture and quotes teaching of well-known authors, like C.S. Lewis.  The solid theological foundation and applicability of this book guarantee that your time spent reading it will not be a waste of your life.

 

And even if you’re not a big fan of rap… give this high energy song by Lecrae a listen- the title is the same as the book: Don’t Waste Your Life.

 

How thankful are we, really? November 28, 2011

Filed under: Faith — songofjoy88 @ 8:51 pm
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Thanksgiving has come and gone and a post is long overdue.  I was blessed to be able to travel to the east coast to spend some time with relatives (I like them a lot, so spending time with relatives is a good thing for me 🙂 ) during my 5 day break!

 

Then yesterday I went to my old church downtown which is always refreshing.  The sermon was about the ten lepers who were healed.  It’s a short passage, so I’ll just post it.  It’s from Luke 17:11-19.

 

 “On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed.  Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”  And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

 

The pastor emphasized how people with the disease of leprosy were ostracized.  Once the healed men were declared clean by the priest, they were free to go home.  (Before that, they were not allowed to come within 150 feet of anyone!)  But, instead of going home to his family (who he had not seen in who knows how long?!), this one Samaritan makes the trek from the priest back to Jesus so he could thank and praise Him. 

 

In this passage, the disease of leprosy is an image of sin (though not a result of sin!).  It is an image of sin because it is a relationship killing disease that only Jesus can heal.  We are all lepers.  Our disease has distanced us from others and God.  Only if we realize how big of a deal it is that those who believe are healed will we run to Jesus, fall at his feet and give him thanks. 

 

In a society that dives head first into Black Friday with the mentality of “we were thankful yesterday, but today we need more stuff!”, may we not be like one of the ungrateful nine!  May we be the one that leaves everything else behind to give thanks and praise to our Savior! 

 

And, here’s a great Mary Mary/ Kirk Franklin song… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9HTXT7TPnI

 

The Answer September 10, 2011

Filed under: Faith,Relationships — songofjoy88 @ 10:15 pm
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Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher- and a math teacher, at that!  I think that I have to know the answer and that there is only one.  If I can only think through the situation logically, I can make sense of it.  Just give me all the information about the problem and I’ll find a way to solve it.  I’ll plug it into a formula or into my calculator and come up with the answer.  I just need to figure out what I need to do, and then I’ll do it.  It’s that simple-

…or is it?  My students would certainly agree with me that sometimes numbers can be messy… but I’m coming to realize more fully that they are not nearly as messy and complicated as our lives.  When our foundations crumble, we want answers.  We need answers!  Now that I’m back at school, I’m seeing this truth played out in students’ lives.  The rubble of their broken lives clutters the floor of my classroom and I’m left standing there with the disheartening realization that I am not an architect.  I cannot draft the design to rebuild their lives.  And even if I could, I wouldn’t have the skills or tools to build it!  I have nothing to offer them…

…with one exception- I can offer them Jesus.  And He is everything they need.  All I can offer is the truth of what He has done in my life and the promise that He desires all people to come to Him in repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  He cares about them more than I ever could and He showed them his great love by giving his life!

So, I will carry you to Jesus, because He is the answer!

“Carry You to Jesus” by Steven Curits Chapman

 

Jesus, Priceless Treasure August 11, 2011

Filed under: Faith — songofjoy88 @ 12:59 pm
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Last night, we had worship night for my community group at church.  It was a good time… I even played bassoon for a couple songs. 🙂  During the quiet reflection time, I flipped to a random hymn called “Jesus, Priceless Treasure” by Johann Franck.  Here are the lyrics:

 

Jesus, priceless treasure; Source of purest pleasure, Truest friend to me:

Long my heart hath panted, Till it well-nigh fainted, Thirsting after thee. 

Thine I am, O spotless Lamb,

I will suffer nought to hide thee, Ask for nought beside thee.

 

In thine arm I rest me; Foes who would molest me Cannot reach me here. 

Though the earth be shaking, Ev’ry heart be quaking, God dispels our fear. 

Sin and hell in conflict fell

With their heaviest storm assail us; Jesus will not fail us.

 

Hence, all thoughts of sadness!  For the Lord of gladness, Jesus, enters in. 

Those who love the Father, Though the storm may gather, Still have peace within.

Yea, whate’er we must here bear,

Still in thee lies purest pleasure, Jesus priceless treasure.

 

The words of this hymn written over 300 years ago stirred me up.  Do I really view Jesus as a priceless treasure, source of purest pleasure, and my very best friend?  Maybe one of those… on a good day!  I am challenged by the writer’s longing for God, his surrender, and his contentment with God alone.  I focused in on the last 5 words of the second verse: “Jesus will not fail us.”  What a great comfort to know that in the chaos of life, He is constant and He cares for us… a lot!  I love the way the 3rd verse exhorts me to look to the God of my circumstances instead of making my circumstances a god.  Jesus, alone, is worthy to be valued above all else, whether our current situation is great or miserable.  True peace does not come from what may be happening in our life; peace comes from the One who has promised to never leave you on this adventure called life.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.   John 14:27

 

Hard Rock Café August 4, 2011

Filed under: Faith,Relationships — songofjoy88 @ 4:27 pm
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I wrote this about two and a half years ago and just stumbled on it.  Hope you like it!

 

The message was simple enough, but it was in the most unexpected place.  A brown paper bag from the Hard Rock Café- really?  Below the store’s name, there it was, simply stated: “Love all.  Serve all.”

How could it be that a plain paper bag communicates part of Christ’s message more clearly than the church?  Sometimes we’re all too eager- I’m all too eager- to revert to our “highlighter Bible,” in which we’ve underlined all the passages that we like.  We focus on the verses that speak to us, while inadvertently neglecting everything else.  But, Jesus’ message is not for us to edit.  He meant what he said and we had better start living like we believe that.  Yes, we need to narrow our focus on specific aspects of following God throughout our lives, and in that sense our “highlighter Bible” serves us well.  However, we cannot turn our eyes from the all-encompassing nature of Jesus’ message.

Love All

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expounds on the Old Testament teaching to “love your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:18) by instructing the crowds to “love your enemies” (Matthew 9:43).  Jesus explains that loving the people who love you is not remarkable because anybody can do that.  But what will make people take notice is the way Christians love all– especially our enemies.

Rather than preaching Christ’s message to love all, sometimes it seems as if the church communicates a message of “scrutinize all.”  We are hesitant to love all, because some people just aren’t too loveable (at least by our messed up human evaluation of them).  So, we look for reasons why we maybe don’t really have to love everyone.  We condescendingly look down on people who are gay or women who even consider abortion.  We vocally oppose homosexuality and rally against abortion with cries of pro-life.  But where are our cries for pro-love?  We toss around the cliché of “love the sinner, hate the sin,” but we’re looking so intently at the sin that we can’t even see the sinner!!  Jesus acknowledges our tendency to scrutinize others in the Sermon on the Mount when he told the crowd: “do not judge.”  He seems to express that this tendency comes from our eagerness to ignore the plank in our own eye, by pointing the finger at someone else.  Perhaps we need to “take the plank out of [our] own eye” so that the sin of our brothers appears as only a speck and we can see the person for who he or she really is (Matthew 7:1-5).  Only when we can see people, not just their sin, will we be able to love them.

Serve All

In most cases, serving others is not viewed as a desirable thing to do.  Sure it might be cute to visit people at a nursing home or serve at a soup kitchen once or twice.  But in those situations, we’re serving on our own terms.  We choose a date on our calendar that fits conveniently with our schedule.  We decide where and who we want to serve.  We clock in for our two hours of service, serve, and then we’re done.  And then we give service awards to people to commend them for serving, communicating that we view service as an exception rather than the norm.

Even as we serve others, we want people to take notice.  So, we total up the hours we’ve put in or accumulate a list of different organizations we’ve volunteered with.  It’s ironic that our efforts to serve others all too often turn into an issue of pride.  Simply serving others is not enough; we want to be recognized and commended.  We want to be great.

It’s somewhat reassuring to know that we’re not the first to desire greatness.  The Bible tells us that Jesus’ disciples argued with each other about who was the greatest.  To this, Jesus replied, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).  Perhaps part of the problem with our view of service is that we have separated it from humility.  To us, service has become about being noticed and making ourselves feel good.  But the words of Jesus convey that we must humble ourselves.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he urges them to humbly consider others better than themselves and to look to the interests of others.  Then, Paul provides the perfect model of humble service in Jesus Christ.  Though he was God, he “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant… he humbled himself and became obedient to death –even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:3-8).  Bringing it back to Jesus, we see how humility and service are closely intertwined.

Furthermore, when we embrace humility, we will be better able to serve all.  Not just the people we like.  Not just the people who are easy to serve.  Not just the people who are convenient to serve.  Humbly, we can undertake Christ’s non-discriminatory instruction to “serve all.”

So, maybe Hard Rock Café has more to offer than decent food and a montage of music memorabilia.  Perhaps we would do well to heed the 4 simple words printed on that brown paper bag: “Love all.  Serve all.”