Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Love (page 1 of 3)

Satan Loves Our Self-Loathing

Sometimes we do the things we hate. And sometimes we get confused and begin to hate ourselves for the things we’ve done.

There is a world of difference between ‘walking in the light’ while confessing our sins (1 John 1.7-10) and letting our sins define our identity. While it is appropriate to mourn our sin (Matthew 5.4), it is not appropriate to hate ourselves.

In the heat of the moment of regret and shame, we can almost think that self-loathing is good and right and biblical (after all, we have offended a Holy God and become unclean!). But in truth, God never calls us to hate ourselves.

The truth is that God loves us (John 3.16, 1 John 4.10). And the only one who loves our self-loathing is Satan.

Why?

1. Because when I loathe myself I loathe someone created in the image of God

Proverbs 17.5 says ‘whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker.’ James writes that the tongue ‘is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so’ (James 3.8-10).

What I say about people, I say about God. This is true whether I am demeaning other humans or myself. Even inward, self-loathing insults my Maker, in whose image I was created.

2. Because it diminishes my joy

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Ways to Love the Church More

Let me say this plainly: I love the people of Grace Fellowship Church. I totally felt what John Piper was saying in a recent interview on his experience as a pastor at Bethlehem:

I never felt that I was the church’s privilege, but that she is mine. To be at Bethlehem was gift, all gift.

I have felt that to be my reality in increasing measure since we planted, almost three years ago now. And I know that Paul, my fellow pastor, feels the same way.

That being said, I have known enough churches and enough pastors over the years to realize that the relationship between pastor and congregation isn’t always exclusively a love-in. Even in the privileged ministry that the Lord has given me, there have been opportunities for anger, strife, malice, bitterness, and all the rest of that to take root.

So how do we fight those temptations when they come? Here are some ways I’ve found helpful to grow in love for the members of the church:

1. Eat with Them

Erik Raymond wrote an excellent post last year commending the practice of eating lunch regularly with members from the church. Here’s some of the benefit:

This is your opportunity to hear them. Ask them questions that help you to better know them. Ask them about their families, hobbies, jobs, etc. Ask them about how they met their wife, where they are from, what they do for work, what their extended family dynamic is like. Ask good questions and just listen.

I would add my ‘amen’ to that. When you hear about someone’s life and get into their world, you can’t help but find your love and compassion for them increasing.
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A Neglected Way to Love

Today I read 1 Thessalonians 4.11. My first thought was, ‘I wonder if this is the most forgotten-about command of the New Testament?’ This is how it reads:

… aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you…

How many church conflicts, how many rumours, how many hurt feelings would have been prevented if we listened to this command? How many times have we pursued busyness, noisiness, and in our boredomophobia-driven society pursued activity at all costs? And what is the net result? More stress, more tiredness, more strenuous relationships.

When I consider the cost of not trying to live quietly, of not minding my own affairs, and not being content to simply do my job, I see that it’s clear how Paul connects this to brotherly love. Immediately before these commands, Paul says,

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another… . But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly…

In other words, this command to live quietly, to mind your own business, and to work hard at the job God has given you is an enactment of brotherly love. When you keep your nose out of someone else’s business, you’re loving them. When you are not a back-biter or a gossip, you are loving other people. When you stick to your job and stop being a busy-body (in the church and out of it), you are loving others.

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Eight Years of God’s Goodness

Today Stacey and I are celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary. It is a great day for me to reflect on God’s goodness and kindness to us as a couple and as a family over these past several years.

In God’s Mercy I Got a Wife

I have frequently quoted Don Carson’s distinction between mercy and grace: ‘Grace is a loving response when love is undeserved, and mercy is a loving response prompted by the misery and helplessness of the one on whom the love is to be showered. Grace answers the undeserving; mercy answers the miserable’ (from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and Confrontation with the World, 24-25).

God clearly gave me a wife in mercy. I was miserable, pitiable, and helpless. I was eating A&W far too often to survive past the age of 30 till she came along. I was so reclusive that I probably would have made a better mortician (and I had thought about it!) than a pastor, but now our house is a happening place. Her strengths clearly complement my weaknesses.

God, in his mercy gave me not just any wife, but my wife in particular.

By God’s Grace I Still Have a Wife

Since our wedding day I have shown myself again and again to be undeserving of Stacey’s kindness and favour. And that’s not just humble-talk. I mean honestly and truly, I have sinned against her in horrible acts and words of selfishness that I had never envisioned saying to my wife (or to anyone!). But time and again she has embodied God’s grace and forgiven me.

Some time ago, when I was younger, I heard from someone that it would be foolish to marry a girl / guy whose parents are divorced. History repeats, as the logic goes. Well, happily, Stacey and I both ignored that advice and married each other. God’s grace overcomes such foolish human notions. The fact that we, as children from divorced families, can live together faithfully and happily is a testimony to God’s grace.

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75 Sundays

January 16, 2011 was a monumental day for us at Grace Fellowship Church. It was our first Sunday together officially holding a Sunday worship service. As of this past Sunday, June 17, 2012, we have met on 75 Sundays now.  I simply cannot believe how gracious God has been to us.

Here are some of my reflections.

God clearly loves his church …

He must. He continues to build it. We have seen slow, but steady growth through the entire time. And almost every person that comes has a story that makes me think, ‘Wow, God must be in this.’ We’ve had young people, single people, married people, young families, middle-aged people, and even retired people, from all different races join us. God is building this church as only he can.

I can’t describe or quantify what God has done or what we have felt in planting this church other than saying that we have sensed the divine smile every step of the way. Even when we’ve had to do hard things. And it’s not that we’ve done everything right; it’s just because he loves his church and he wants to prove it over and over.
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In a Perfect (Blog) World

Lately, as we’ve been working our way through Genesis 1-2 at church, I’ve been thinking about life in a perfect world. What would it be like to work without ‘thorns and thistles’? What would it be like to be married without conflict? What would it be like to know the physical manifestation of the presence of God as the whole of creation becomes his dwelling place?

Those types of questions can seem be very hard to answer; they seem so far from reality that it’s hard to even imagine.

Here’s something else that’s hard to imagine: What would it be like in a perfectly Christian blog world? To try to conceive of such a thing, I think we’d have to develop a framework from the basics. What is the main business that Christians are to be about in general? If we know that, we can apply it to blogs.
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How to Love More

Last night in our small group we were talking about the ever-present problem in the Christian life of not being affected enough by the truth that we know. It’s the gap between knowing the gospel of grace and feeling the grace of the gospel. We want to be humbled by the gospel. We want to love God more. But how do we do that?

This got me thinking about a post I put up here about 4 years ago and so I decided to repost it.

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Wise Words from James

Even though we’ve moved on to chapter 5 in our study on James at GFC, I’m still marvelling at many of the things my Lord has been teaching me from his word.

Preaching big passages like I’ve had to do is great for seeing the big picture and covering more of God’s word, but it necessarily means that there are lots of stones left unturned in each passage. Particularly, I’ve been thinking through James’s promise in chapter 4: ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.’

One thing that amazed me the other night as I sat and thought this through is the similarity between this saying and that declaration of Jesus that the one who is forgiven most loves most. On the surface, they don’t seem that connected, but I think there is a profound connection.

Our Desire is to Love

Every Christian wants to know how to love God more. The first and greatest commandment we have is this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.’ The reason why we still sin, why we become discouraged, or why we fall back into old patterns of living is because our love for God falls short of our love for ourselves.

Our Enemy Wants to Hinder Our Love

The devil is our enemy. His greatest goal is to stop us from achieving our greatest goal, which is love for God, resulting in joy in God. We want to love God, but he’ll do anything to stop that. Every Christian wants to love God more; but how do you practically increase your love for God?

James connects resisting the devil’s work with drawing near to God. In response to our drawing near to God, God draws near to us. What kind of drawing near does James have in mind? He clarifies for us in the next couple of sentences, where he describes radical repentance, open confession of sin and sinfulness, and proper humility. In other words, draw near to God in humility, repentance, and brokenness, acknowledging the greatness of your sin.

Connect the Dots

We can begin to connect the dots here a little with Jesus’ saying. We will love God more if we acknowledge more readily the reality of what we’ve been forgiven. But our enemy will have none of that–which is why we need to resist him. How do you resist Satan? By confessing your sins and drawing near to God.

It is the work of Satan to get you to think little of your sins. He desires that you not confess specific sins, that you not be heart-broken over the ways you’ve denied God. He wants you to just ignore sin in your life and not confess to brothers and sisters. The smaller you think your sin is, the less your love for God will grow, and the happier your enemy will be. ‘He who is forgiven little, loves little.’

If your love for God has grown cold, you can probably draw a straight line back to your lack of confession of sin in your own heart, to God, and to others. When you don’t realize what you’ve been forgiven, you don’t love.

How do you grow to love more? Draw near to God in repentance. Acknowledge how horrible and ugly your sin is, and be specific in your confession. What at the things you have rejected him for? What are the things you’ve loved more than him? What are the lies you’ve believed instead of his truth? Confess to him that you deserve death and hell. The more you draw near to him, the worse you’ll see your sin is, the more you’ll see how much you’ve been forgiven and the more you’ll love — which will overflow into a life of God-glorifying joy in obedience.

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