Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Growing (page 2 of 5)

Good / Better / Best

I haven’t posted in a while. Well, I’m no Tim Challies, but I didn’t need a post-count to figure that out.

But really, I haven’t posted because of the usual culprit: The Tyranny of the Urgent. Busy-ness has come to town again, and things get dropped. That stinks, but it appears at this point to be life.

In some ways I’m envious of Martha’s situation (read the story). The text says she was ‘distracted with much serving,’ while her sister ‘sat at Jesus’ feet.’ Serving is good. Sitting at Jesus’ feet is better.

I’m envious of Martha because Jesus was there, and he could tell her. She may have wasted a day in distraction, but she was able to learn what was best for her in a moment. Jesus made it clear what she should have done; what her priorities should have been.

From talking to several brothers and sisters from GFC over the past couple weeks I’ve been overwhelmed by this reality: life is full of good things. People are busy. They are ‘distracted with much serving’ as they do everything good… even things that are commanded.

But the reality is that some things are good, some things are better, and some things are best. Martha learned that, and so must we I.

So what should I be doing? What should my priorities be? When things get busy, what should get dropped? Our culture lies to us: it says that busy-ness and productiveness determine worth. If you want to be important, you must be busy. Busy=important. Our flesh lies to us: it says that we are able to get everything done. There is no need to prioritize or put limits on what we take on, since busy=important and I want to be important, therefore I should be busy and get everything done. No wonder we drink lots of coffee. We believe that nothing should ever get dropped, because we’re sufficient.

I believe the lie far too often. I need to learn to drop things–even good things–for the sake of what is best. The first step there is humility to actually say, ‘I can’t get everything done.’

How do I determine what is best? I read the Word and let God’s truth determine priorities. So first of all, I need discernment: how do I prioritize being a Christian husband, father, pastor, friend, son, grandson, brother, etc. But, I would argue, that’s definitely doable. The part that’s even harder still is actually creating–and sticking to–a schedule that reflects these priorities and doesn’t create sinful anxiety. I’ve got a long way to go.

This Week’s Fighter Verse

I’ve been re-impressed over the last few weeks in particular by how important it is to be memorizing Scripture. Our Fighter Verse programme at Grace Fellowship Church has been a huge help to me in my own walk. This week’s verse is one each of us would do really well to memorize as we seek to live other-worldly in a culture of materialism, that finds life, joy, peace, and security in credit cards and chequing accounts.

Here’s our Fighter Verse for this week. You should memorize it too:

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’
— Hebrews 13:5-6 

On Momming, part 2

My brother (over at his newly up-and-running blog) has a rather comical (and incredibly geeky) version of my ‘on momming’ post. You can read it here.

Maybe it’s just funnier for me because I can actually envision the whole thing. Or maybe I can just envision it because it could very well have been a description of life in my house instead of his!

Rejoicing in Four Years of Grace

Today I am rejoicing. Stacey and I are celebrating our fourth anniversary this very day. As I look back over the four years, I have to marvel at God’s grace… in so many ways!

On this anniversary I’m rejoicing in God’s grace in these three ways in particular:

  1. God looked at me, liked he looked at Adam, and said, ‘It is not good for that guy to be alone.’ I could not possibly agree more! The Lord provided a bride for me–out of all men, the most undeserving. Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. She has become one with me. She is my partner, my friend, my lover, my helper, my companion, my counsellor. She listens, she shares, she opens herself up to me, and she lets me open up my heart to her. I am grateful for God’s grace in giving me my wife. I couldn’t do 10% of what I do if I didn’t have her.
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  3. God has preserved our marriage through his love and by his grace. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love hopes and believes all things. That’s God’s love… and it’s been poured out into our hearts and into our marriage by the Holy Spirit through the example and work of Christ. This is amazing… and so needed! Maybe other husbands are just better husbands than me, but I don’t see how any marriage could last without the love of Christ, present and active. I have needed my wife to forgive me countless times. I have needed her to continue to open her heart to me time after time when I’ve hurt her or let her down. She’s never failed, because of God’s grace. Her love for Christ is powerfully evident in her faithful love for me, no matter how many times I mess up. I am thankful to God that my wifes ‘hopes all things’ and ‘believes all things’ for me now, even more than she did four years ago today. That is evidence of God’s grace, and so I’m thankful to God for my bride.
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  5. My wife has grown in beauty. Over the five years that I have known her, I have watched Stacey grow in remarkable ways as she seeks to live in ‘respectable and pure’ ways. She has worked hard to make sure that her adorning is not external, but is an ‘imperishable beauty’ of the inner person, which is precious in God’s sight–and a husband’s! She has been a faithful testimony to me of God’s Spirit active and working in the heart of a woman… and that is a beautiful thing indeed. And on top of all that, she has flourished in external beauty as well. How could I have imagined that? I don’t know… but it sure makes me look forward with great anticipation to our fiftieth anniversary!

So, Stacey, thanks for four wonderful years. Here’s to many, many more!

Randoms

It’s hard to know sometimes what to blog about when there are so many different things going on in life. Here’s a few things I’ve been thinking about.

Humility
I’ve thought about this on this blog before, but I was blessed with the opportunity to teach on it recently at a men’s meeting at our church. The more I look into my heart, the more it seems the Lord is pleased to reveal to me the hideousness of my own pride-filled, arrogant heart. You can download the pdf of the handout and application questions I gave to the guys here, if you like.

Letting Others Serve
It’s a funny thing, but you’d think that not wanting others to serve you would be a sign of humility. As I’ve been noticing in my own heart lately, though, it’s more a sign of pride. Why don’t I want others to help? For one thing, because I don’t want anyone to think I need help. CJ says part of pride is refusing to acknowledge our absolute dependence on God. I like to think I’m self-sufficient. That’s pride.

Another thing I’ve been confronted with a few times now is other people wanting to take over jobs for me, since I’ve become an elder at church. They want to employ biblical wisdom and free their elders up from other tasks so that we can focus on the word and prayer. But I don’t want to give these things up. Why? Because somewhere in my heart I feel like I do a good job at what I do and if someone else were to do it, they wouldn’t do it just the way I like it. Well that’s a load of hoogly. Just because something’s the way I like it doesn’t mean it’s best. And in reality, they’d probably do it way better than me anyway! What’s best for the kingdom is me moving aside and letting others serve.

Leadership Can Be Nerve-Wracking
We’re in what’s probably the busiest time of year for the leadership of GFC–annual meeting time. We’re looking at numbers, praying through plans, and discussing endless possibilities for future directions. This is my first year as an elder working through these things. Whenever I begin to think that any of these things–and therefore the welfare of the church–depends on us, as humans, I get stressed, worried, and fretful. This has been a good exercise for me in learning to pray things through, and trust Christ to build his church. I am learning (painfully slowly, but learning nonetheless) to trust in the Spirit to give wisdom. I am learning to trust the Father’s providence. He has given us much responsibility, and we will be held accountable for our leadership, but the worst mistake we can make is thinking that it all depends on us and our wisdom, and then forge ahead un-prayerfully.

On Momming

The things in life that we are most prone to take for granted are generally not the things we should take for granted. The things we presume on are usually not those things which are ordinary, but rather, the things which we most regularly see.

The funny thing about what we most regularly see is that it becomes what we actually notice the least. When you see a friend’s kids everyday, you don’t notice how much they’re growing and changing, but when you don’t see them for a long time, you notice every little change. What I see the most is what I tend to notice the least.

In my life, the place I spend most of my time is at home. As a student, I do most of my work from my desk at home. Since our church has no official office, my desk functions as my office for my job as well. All this combines to make me a genuine homebody (though I’m not as bad as Tim Challies… rumour has it he was born with quite a dark complexion, but has only turned pasty over the past 185,342 consecutive days of blogging).

In my world, then, the things that I am most likely to not notice are the things that happen at home, since it’s where I spend most of my time.

Here’s one thing I take for granted all the time, that I never should: my wife works hard.

Stay-at-home moms get a bad reputation in lots of circles, but let me tell you, it is a hard job. All the worst aspects of all the worst jobs are combined in this one. Low (no) pay. Repetitive tasks. Very little by way of immediate results. Everything you do needs to be redone in a few hours, tomorrow, or next week. You’re forced to multi-task in ways that no human should ever be able to multi-task. No one appreciates you. No one sees the work you do. There is very little by way of intriguing conversation over the course of a day. Loud noises and crying that would drive anyone else nuts in about five minutes are your background music. There is almost no imposed structure on your day (which is bad for scatter-brained people like myself who need order). The hours are long and irregular. When everyone else takes vacation, it only means more work for you. Your job is literally never done. Then a husband wants dinner, time together, and then romance at night when you’re ready to fall over you’re so tired.

Then whenever you’re at dinner parties or meeting someone new they ask, ‘What do you do?’ You answer, and they say, ‘Oh…’. Who has it harder than all this?

I see it everyday, but how often do I notice it? More often than not I take it for granted. I think my busy-ness means it’s okay to let her work hard and be busy too. I think it gives me an excuse to presume on her work. I think that she should be able to handle it… she always does, right? I end up taking for granted the very one whom God has given me to enable me to do my ministry. I could accomplish nothing without her, but how often do I stop to think about that and thank her? Or better yet, help her?

I am a slow learner. I hope that you men who read this are not as slow as me.

Honour your wife. Tell her how she’s a blessing to you. Explain to her how you see God’s grace active in her life. Point out the fruit that God is bringing about through her labours. Encourage her with a note or a written prayer for her. Speak highly of her ministry to others. Look for new ways to help her with her job. Care for her as you would your own body. Kiss her, tell her you love her. Do something… do anything! Just don’t take her for granted.

In doing this, you’ll be valuing what God values, and thus, he will be honoured as you honour the one who is your glory.

Parenting and My Heart

Sometimes it’s good to do what’s counter-intuitive. In fact, I’ve found that the longer I’ve been a Christian, the more I need to second-guess and examine every motive. Sure enough, there is deep-rooted sin in there somewhere. I’ve found God’s evaluation of humanity in Gen 8.21 (‘the inclination of their minds is evil from childhood on’) to be absolutely correct in my case every time I’m willing to consider for longer than 23 seconds.

This examining and cross-examining of motives and actions is almost nowhere more necessary than in parenting. What can on-first-blush appear to be ‘for the baby’ can really be simply for my immediate gratification (‘I made her feel nice, now I feel better about my ability to parent’). What is really sad about this, though, is that what is often for my immediate gratification as a parent will more often than not be to the child’s long-term harm.

So, for example, we’re in a store and Susie really wants something, but I already told her she can’t have it, I had not planned on buying it, we haven’t budgeted for it, and she doesn’t need it. What do I do as a parent? The ball is only $1.99 or something silly like that. She is sad if I don’t get it. She’s happy if I get it. Why not just ‘make her happy’ and get it? Wouldn’t it also make me happier to just buy something for my daughter that I know will make her happy?

Because we teach by example, I’m teaching Susie something in that situation when I give in and buy it. I’m teaching her that it’s okay to make unplanned purchases, on an impulse, whether you have the money or not. I’m teaching her that when you complain and fuss in life, you get want you want. I’m teaching her to look for happiness in ‘stuff’ that can be purchased. I’m teaching her that it is okay to strive against an authority. In all these ways I’m doing my daughter tremendous spiritual harm by ‘making her happy’ in that moment.

If that’s true–and I know it is–then why would I give in to her? Why would I cave when she has a fit? Why would I leave her undisciplined when she breaks rules? Why would I let her go to bed late, get up early, eat what she wants, etc., when I’ve thought it through and prayed it through ahead of time? Why would decisions that my trusted counsellor (my bride) and I have talked through at length be discarded in a moment?

Because I love my daughter? Far from it. That’s the opposite of love.

Why would I be willing to ‘do whatever it takes’ to stop our baby from crying and make her ‘happy’? Because the inclination of my heart is evil from my childhood on. Because my heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all else and I cannot understand it. Because my near-sighted selfishness is willing to sacrifice the long-term spiritual welfare of my child for the immediate gratification I get from feeling like a good parent; or maybe so that I can congratulate myself on how gracious I am.

I believe it. Now all I need to do is continue to preach it to myself as I make the moment-by-moment decisions I need to make in parenting. God give me grace to be faithful!

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