Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Blessing

What if God Blessed You?

One of the many questions Christians face (especially young Christians) is, ‘What career path should I take?’ Or, ‘What kind of work should I get into?’

There are lots of good ways to think about that and lots has already been written. One of the more helpful thoughts is an old one from St Augustine: ‘Love God and do as you please.’ Surely, if true love for God is the root, he argues, whatever comes as fruit cannot be evil.

There is one more consideration, however, that I think should be a part of the conversation. And it is this: What if God really blessed your work?

I mean, what if God actually did abundantly beyond what you could ask or imagine and your work prospered wildly? If everything you started finished well and everything attempted was successful, what would it look like?

If God blessed your labour beyond your wildest dreams with fruit a hundredfold, what would be the benefit to the world? What would the blessing be? Would the world be better off? How so?

As God’s children, we’re called to be his agents of blessing. We’re called to be salt and light. We should be leaving the world a better place than we found it. So why not let that be part of the conversation when we’re considering our career choice?

If we are going to be doing something five days a week (or more!) for the rest of our lives, why not at least ask if the end result we’re labouring for actually blesses God’s world?

Photo Credits.

How Much Do You Love Your Saviour?

I love thinking about the God who saves, the miracle of salvation, and the unimaginable blessings that are ours in him. Reading things like this makes me love him more. Here D.A. Carson comments on ‘the riches of his glory’ (Eph 3.16; Phil 4.19) that are available to us in God because of Christ.

From Paul’s perspective, everything that is coming to us from God comes through Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus has won our pardon; he has reconciled us to God; he has canceled our sin; he has secured the gift of the Spirit for us; he has granted eternal life to us and promises the life of the consummation; he has made us children of the new covenant; his righteousness has been accounted as ours; he has risen from the dead, and all of God’s sovereignty is mediated through him and directed to our good and to God’s glory. This is the Son whom God sent to redeem us. In God’s all-wise plan and all-powerful action, all these blessing have been won by his [S]on’s odious death and triumphant resurrection. All the blessings God has for us are tied up with the work of Christ.  (A Call to Spiritual Reformation, 189).

How awesome is our Saviour?

My Kids

** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

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I love my children. I absolutely delight in them. There are so many reasons why; I thought I’d list just a few.

1. They Reflect Me

Okay, this sounds really bad. But I see myself in my kids, and that makes me love them. That’s natural. That’s what all parents love to see. To be honest, I think that’s why parents often think their own kids are the cutest… because they look like the parents! I’ve always thought to myself, ‘How narcissistic is that!

But then I got to thinking about that. Why do parents take so much delight in having children who look like them? Because our heavenly Father delights in having children who look like him. And because we bear his image (even now in a distorted way) we have his heart-impulses. When I see myself in my kids or my wife in my kids and my heart warms toward them, now it doesn’t make me think I’m narcissistic so much as it turns my mind to my God who created me in his image and who finds delight in me resembling him (really, this is at the heart of the gospel!). And it makes me hope I can train my kids to reflect their heavenly Father… not just their earthly one.

2. They Don’t Reflect Me

Here’s the funny thing about kids. Even though they’re fallen and depraved, there is still a sense of innocence and purity about them; they are willing to receive and believe what they hear with all their hearts. They trust. They forgive. They are willing to be comforted by words of truth. They believe the best about people and love with all their unbroken hearts. That doesn’t reflect me. I’m stubborn and heart-hearted, slow to forgive, slow to believe, slow to respond to truth. I’m jaded when it comes to people; it is easier to look at other people as ‘sinners’ than it is ‘image-bearers.’ Jesus commended children as those to whom we should look to know how to receive his kingdom. It’s not hard to see why. My kids are not perfect — far from it. But they do show me how I should love and trust my God and love and trust others.

3. They Give Me An Excuse to Be a Kid

I often ‘joke’ about this, but it’s true. I love being a kid. Playing, running, climbing trees, telling crazy imaginary stories… I love it! But if I did that on my own, people would think I’m weird — even more so than they already do! So I’m glad my kids give me an excuse to still be a kid. I love playing with them.

4. They Show Me My Weaknesses

Inasmuch as God calls me to father like he is a father to me, my children provide me with ample opportunities to show the world that I am not my heavenly Father. I fall so far short. He is so patient with me; my impulse is to chastise right away. He is so loving with me; my impulse is to be harsh with them. He is so wise in the dispensations of his providence, leading me in ways that I will grow; I give so little foresight to the ways I lead my children. He sacrificed his most treasured possession for me; I ask my four year-old when she’ll get a job and start helping to pay some bills. He is endlessly kind; I get grouchy at the drop of a hat when my kids won’t eat, sleep, or jump right when I say. He is always available; I’m so often distracted. There is no doubt about it: my kids show me my need for grace every single day.

5. They Are Ever-Present Accountability

And not just because they’ll point out every single thing you do that they’re not allowed to do (‘Daddy, “stupid” is a bad word!’; ‘Daddy, how come you are having two bowls of ice cream?’ ‘Daddy, we’re not allowed to climb up there like that!’). They’re also a source of accountability because everything I do and say now is filtered through the grid of, ‘What example am I setting for them?’ and ‘Is this the kind of husband I want my girls to look for?’ That little check keeps me on the straight-and-narrow many times.

6. They Make Me Laugh Like Crazy

People have actually commented to me that being in my house is like living in a sitcom. A lot of days I can’t disagree. I laugh pretty hard in my home. It is full of joy and I have my children to thank for that.

7. They Help Me Understand Women

I had no sisters growing up. As a young man I clearly had no idea how to understand the first thing about women. So God made me live with four of them. One of the things I’ve learned about girls is that they’re definitely female from the time they’re born on up. I’ve had to grow in my understanding of how the fairer sex thinks, learns, interacts, expresses love, receives love, hears correction, processes reality, experiences the world… the list goes on and on. My girls have (I think) helped me to understand women better. I love them for that.

8. They Bring Me to My Knees

They make me pray. My heart is immediately broken before my God when I think of those three tender little souls. I am quickly moved to pray, casting all my cares on my Father, casting all my hope for their protection, for their future, for their little hearts on him. They make me desperate, which makes me pray, which makes me love them more.

9. They Make Me Love More

I could go on all day, but I’ll end here. They make me love my them: their smiles, their joys, the way they look to me for care and guidance, their little quirks. They make me love my wife: as I watch her care for them and treasure them and bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, I grow in my love for her. They make me love my God: Who am I that I should be blessed with such wonderful little blessings as them? I am a man too blessed for words. They increase my love a hundredfold.

Thankfulness for Everything

** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

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Recently we moved east. I’ve always been a west-end guy, so this is totally new for me. But I’ve enjoyed getting to know the area. The other night I was out roller-blading on a path near our new home. I stopped at one point by the lake and sat for a while to gaze out over Lake Ontario.

beachAs I looked down the shoreline to the right and to the left, as far as my eye could see, all that I could see was beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous. The beauty of God’s creation preserved through the fall and the curse, now available for me to experience right near our new house. And the wonder of it is that I didn’t even know this place was there when we bought the house.

That got me to thinking: Isn’t this just like my whole life?

I’ve never known where to go, what to do, who to meet, or what to look for in any given situation. But God has always led me to ‘green pastures’ despite my ignorance. My life has been and continues to be full of blessing.

That night I thought about my life: my beautiful wife, precious daughters, good health, new home, amazing church, wonderful extended family… the list goes on and on. In every realm of my life, God has richly blessed me. Not because I deserve it. Not for a second. I’ve never felt less worthy than I do right now. But I’m freshly humbled, and thankful.

I’m thankful for my family who always steered me in the right direction; for friends current and past; for the good schools I was able to attend to get an education; for random people who have blessed me by helping me get and keep jobs; for living in Canada; for living in the 20th & 21st centuries; for growing up in a family where I learned the Bible from a young age; the list goes on and on.

When I think about all that I have to be thankful for, I’m amazed that I ever complain about anything. I’m amazed that I would ever be proud about anything. I’m amazed that I’m not more thankful. When I think about all that I have to be thankful for, I realize the truth of the saying, ‘Thankfulness is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.’

When I pause to give thanks for thirty years of God’s abundant kindness to me–first and foremost in the gospel, but then over-flowing to all of my life–I’m reminded that it is good to be thankful. Thankfulness makes less of me, more of God, and more of his goodness to me through the people he has given me in my life.

I pray that after thirty more years (God willing), I’ll be able to look back and see that I’ve grown in my quickness to give thanks. I want to know more and more what the apostle Paul knew: That being filled with the Holy Spirit means living a life that is full of ‘giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Eph 5.18-20).

A Blessing

It’s been one of my habits for some time now to give my children each a blessing before they go to sleep each night. As their father and spiritual head, I view it as my responsibility to teach, to discipline, to pray for, and to bless my kids. I want all of God’s blessing for them. First I sing them an old hymn or two, then I pray for them, with them, and then I bless them.

Pronouncing a benediction over them is a means of teaching them the word (I try to memorize biblical benedictions and use those), and invoking God’s blessing on them. It’s a joy to see how my girls have come to love it and expect it. Tonight I thought Caitie (my two year old) was asleep so I said her blessing silently–but then as I went to walk away, she sat up and asked me in her sleepy voice, ‘Daddy, do my blessing!’ How precious! I love how Susannah (my three year old) will regularly say the blessing along with me as well. Simply by the repetition, she has now learned a Bible verse that contains precious truths about who God is and what he does for his people.

While there are tremendous benefits of using the biblical benedictions, I’ve enjoyed modifying them to fit my growing understanding of who God is and what he says he’ll do. For example, when John Piper blesses his daughter, he says the Numbers 6 benediction (‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace’) he adds ‘… and someday, a godly husband.’ I love that! It reflects an understanding of God, his blessing, and what a father earnestly desires for his daughter.

When I do that same blessing, I’ll often fill out the blessing with some of the most glorious elements of the New Covenant that I’ve personally been overwhelmed to discover. So for me, it will often be, ‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance on you and give you peace and life, and hope, and joy.’

Recently, however, as I’ve been greatly encouraged by reading through the opening books of the Bible I’ve been freshly reminded of the faithfulness and covenant-keeping nature of God. I’ve found my heart warmed by thinking about the fact that we are children of the promise to Abraham. I’ve been challenged by the faithfulness of God through all generations; he never changes!

I was also challenged recently by the testimony of William Kiffin who wrote a memoir not for publication (though he could have easily had it published) but simply as a testimony of God’s grace in his life for his children and grandchildren. He wanted them to know who his God was and what he’d done for him.

With those truths in mind, I created a new benediction for my children based on God’s self-revelation in Genesis and Exodus, Psalm 103 (which we’ve been memorizing at church), and the example of Kiffin. I’m still trying to work it exactly as I would like it, but here it is so far:

May the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God of your father
be merciful and gracious to you
and bless you with abounding steadfast love and faithfulness
so that by the power of his Spirit
you might know peace and life and hope and joy.
In Jesus’ name, amen.

How about you? Are benedictions a part of your family worship? How do you use them? What are your favourites?

We Value What Costs Us

This week at GFC is our Winter Week of Prayer. My buddy Joshua taught us about why prayer matters last night to kick us off, and now we’ve got special prayer meetings planned for each day of the week. I love gathering with God’s people to pray!

One thing I’ve learned about prayer already this week is a lesson I learned about life around the time I got my first job: You value something more when it costs you something to obtain it

The summer I turned 17 I worked my first full-time job for $7.50 per hour (or something like that). I couldn’t afford much, but what I could afford I cherished; I knew how hard I had to work to get that money! For the first time, I really understood what it meant to have to work for something that I wanted.

This reality is true about prayer too. And, of course, no one puts it better than Spurgeon. Here he compares Jacob’s wrestling with God to the Christian’s prayer life.

Now, when the church begins to pray, it may be at first that the Lord will act as though He would go further (see Luke 24.28), and we may fear that no answer will be given. Hold on, dear friends. ‘Be steadfast, immovable’ (1 Cor 15.58), despite all. By and by, it may be, there will come discouragements where we looked for a flowing success. We will find friends hindering; some will be slumbering and others sinning. Backsliders and impenitent souls will abound. But let us not be turned aside. Let us be all the more eager.

 

And if it should happen that we ourselves become distressed and de-spirited, and we feel we never were so weak as we are now, never mind friends; still hold on. For when the sinew is shrunk, the victory is near. Grasp with a tighter grip than ever. Let this be our resolution: ‘I will not let you go, until you bless me.’ Remember, the longer the blessing is in coming, the richer it will be when it arrives. That which is gained speedily by a single prayer is sometimes only a second-rate blessing; but that which is gained after many a desperate tug, and many an awful struggle, is a full-weighted and precious blessing.

 

The children of persistence are always fair to look upon. The blessing that costs us the most prayer will be worth the most. Only let us be persevering in supplication, and we will gain a broad, far-reaching blessing for ourselves, the churches, and the world.

Here is grand encouragement for us to pray! We know the Father loves to give good gifts to his children who ask, seek, and knock (Matt 7.7-11), and we know that we will be changed and conformed to his image as we ask. Now we also know that in the struggle to attain the blessing we will grow in our appreciation for the blessing itself.

Our Lord is teaching us to value what is right and good by teaching us to fight for it… even when it costs us.

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