Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Providence (page 1 of 2)

You’re Not the First Person to Ask

Faith Doubt QuestionsWe’ve All Got Questions

We all have questions we’d like answers to. But sometimes the questions we have of God can be the scariest to ask: we want to be reverential, not blasphemous. What if the question offends God?

More than that, deep-down we can be kind of afraid that there is no answer. What would that mean for our faith?

For some, the persistent presence of questions unasked has been a catalyst to their rejecting or abandoning of the Christian faith all together. That need not be so. In fact, the people in the Bible — those God uses to write his very word! — often asked the toughest questions of all.

Have you read them?

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9/11 Aftermath and the Providence of God

This morning I read through Joe Carter’s 9 Things You Should Know about the 9/11 Attack Aftermath. Remembering that day certainly brings back something of the shock and horror of that terrible event. I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. I remember gathering with friends around the TV, watching the news as everyone (newscasters included) were trying to figure out what was going on.

Making Sense of It All

Making sense of that day was hard, even from a distance. We don’t live in New York — we don’t even live in the USA — but the events of that day still felt like they struck very close to home.

One of the things I remember about the immediate aftermath was the heightened tensions in even-more-present religious conversations. Some people blamed God; other people looked for him. Some people blamed Islam; others blamed fundamentalism in all its forms.

Among Christians, many went to work seeking to defend God, his providence, and his plan. Some said it was his judgement on America for sin. Some said it was merely the result of human free will — that God had no part in it at all. And while both of those answers, in some sense may have some grounding in truth, it’s hard to think anyone would find those things, on their own, to be emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually satisfying answers. Those answers wouldn’t (and still won’t) satisfy because they don’t rightly reflect the biblical God who loves justice and mercy, who decrees all things — including his creation of humans who will choose to rebel against him.

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The Cesspit and the Perfume

You don’t have to spend too much time with me before you’ll find out that one of my heroes in the faith is Aurelius Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo. He is a brilliant thinker, a captivating writer, and a theologian who stirs souls as well as minds.

A couple of weeks ago he would have celebrated his 1658th birthday (he lived 354-430AD). In other words, he lived a long time ago. A lot has changed in the world, but his writings continue to remain both relevant and helpful. Recently I’ve been reading his City of God.

Here are some of his thoughts on the good & evil that befalls both righteous and unrighteous people.

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And Then There Was Progress

The Background

Many of you who follow this blog will be well familiar with the situation our church is facing with the Toronto District School Board. Since you’ve been praying for us, I wanted to post an update — we still need your prayers.

If you want to get caught up on the situation to this point, you can start by reading here.

The short version of the story is that our church was given 3 days’ notice on a 450% hike in our permit fees (we meet weekly in a public school). We have been petitioning the TDSB since the beginning of September for some changes and some relief. Though the changes affected other groups as well, the most drastic hikes were targeted specifically at ‘faith based organizations,’ who are now being charged the same rates as ‘for-profit businesses.’
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What God Is Doing

Yesterday I was able to blog about how through some troubles in our church life (specifically relating to our church rental situation), we have been able to see God work. He has consistently taken circumstances that people have meant for evil and worked them for good (Gen 50.20). We’ve seen it, and we’ve rejoiced.

Today I wanted to take a different look at what God is doing. Rather than seeing how God is working through the tough circumstances, I want to think about how God is continuing to work despite the circumstances.

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What is God Doing?

The past few weeks since our problems began with the Toronto District School Board have been pretty hectic. On top of all the usual work that needs to be done in the life of a church, Paul McDonald and I have been busy appealing the decision, speaking out about the issue as God gives opportunity, praying, and searching for a new meeting place for our congregation.

There’s a very real sense in which someone could ask with all of this, ‘Why?’ In the middle of all of this, the question of ‘What is God doing here?’ is pressing.

Perhaps the coolest thing through all of this situation is that we have never had opportunity to doubt, even for a moment, that God is at work. For the sake of God’s glory, today and tomorrow I want to highlight a few ways we’ve seen God at work lately. Today I’ll write about the ways we’ve seen God working through the troubles with the TDSB. Tomorrow I’ll write about how we’ve seen God work despite the situation.

What is God Doing Through This Situation?

An Unexpected Audience

When the situation first broke and I knew we would need to end our relationship with the school one of my first thoughts was to approach the caretaker who has served us at our school. I wanted him to be informed and to know that we still love him and are not leaving because of anything he’s done.

When I went in to speak with him I actually ended up meeting the school’s other caretaker. Over the course of the conversation it came out that he had actually been listening to some of our church’s sermons online! How amazing is that? Just because our church had been meeting in that particular school that particular caretaker was moved to go online and hear the preaching of God’s word!

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The Wisdom of God

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

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It may sound overly self-deprecating, but if I’m being entirely honest I’ll tell you that I’m not that smart. Really, truly. Time and time again I have thought life situations through, made plans, budgeted, strategized, plotted… only to see my plans go up in smoke.

My foolishness is not limited to planning. How about praying? As I look back over my life I’m utterly horrified to think of some of the things I have actually prayed for. In retrospect, I simply cannot believe some of the things that I really thought it would be a good idea to ask God to give me. Hindsight being what it is, I can see how many of my requests that I brought to God were totally foolish.

Sometimes the things I have wanted were silly. Other times they were evil. Sometimes I was honestly misled and disillusioned. Other times I think I knew subconsciously that what I wanted was wrong, but still wanted it bad enough that I thought maybe if I prayed, God could figure out a way to give it to me in a way that would be good. Whether I realized it in the moment or not, that’s dumb.

Sometimes God has given me the foolish things I sought; other times not. Sometimes this has been his discipline; other times it has been his gracious condescending benevolence overcoming my near-sighted selfishness.

As I look back now over all my life and all the things God has given and all the things God has withheld, the only thought I’m left with is this: he is wise, I am not. He acts for a purpose, and his ways are good. In all the dispensations of his providence in my life, no matter how they felt in the moment, I have always consistently seen his wisdom. My wife, my kids, my sin, my growth, my church, my house, my van, my family, the divorce of my parents, the weather: in everything I have seen his wisdom. His thoughts are not mine; I don’t know them ahead of time, and often I don’t know them in retrospect, but what I do know is that what I see is wisdom.

Of course, I’m thankful for that because it highlights the gospel for me again. Who would think of honour through shame? Who would imagine a king who is exalted to his throne by way of a cross? Who could fathom the one sinned against becoming the sin so that the sinner might become the righteousness of God? Who could look ahead, declaring the end from the beginning, announcing the victory of Jesus at very moment of humanity’s fall? Who could use rebellious enemies to accomplish his perfect plan? Who would send his Son to die so that he might redeem from death his now adopted sons & daughters?

His ways are not my ways, and his thoughts are not my thoughts. I’ve seen this in my life; I’ve seen it in the gospel. Now I pray that if God gives me another 30 years on this planet, that I would live like I believe he is wise. I pray that he would give me grace to not lean on my own understanding, but to acknowledge him in all my ways, believing that he will make my paths straight. I cannot understand him, this I know; but I can trust him, because I know he is wise.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom 11.33-36, ESV)

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