YA bonus – Freedom in friendship without fear

Have you ever had a friendship you wish you could get back?

Sometimes friendships are for a season, and that’s ok. Sometimes friendships go the long haul and see us through the hardest sorrows and the most special days. Then there are friendships that slip out of your hands. There, and then missing. You might notice the void right away, or it may take years until you suddenly realize – “I let go of something that I should have held on tight to with all my strength.”

When I was in elementary school I had a very best friend. We performed musicals in her living room with homemade costumes and everything. We stayed up too late talking and laughing. We played Jeopardy and the Oregon Trail on this tiny computer screen that was like a square box and had a green cursor. I loved her. She loved me. I was a part of her family and she was a part of mine.

Then, we began to grow up. Suddenly, boys and studies and new friendships seemed so much more important and glamorous…to me. I’m the one who gave up on a friendship. I watched it fade to black and acted callous, like it didn’t matter. But it did.

There are few people in this life who love you just for who you are. People you’ve shared every fear with and they love you more for it. I traded trust for what looked good at the moment. And trust is where real freedom resides in a relationship.

This week, we aim for more freedom in our friendships as we look at Galatians 2:4-7 to understand the difference between false and real brothers, and holding on to what really matters.

Discerning friendship is rarely easy, but God’s Word gives us guidance, Christ’s love offers constant forgiveness, and trust begins and ends with a real and active, living God in our lives.

Dropping the yoke of fake friendship, freedom in trust and being real…

Question of the Week:

Is this friendship offering freedom or fear? Am I offering freedom or fear in friendship?

Did you download this week’s Dear 52 Chasing Freedom card yet? It’s free! 😉 Click on the link to find it and connect in friendship today.

Freedom from Identity: Swings, Freedom, and Touching the Sky

When I was 8 years old, all I wanted to do was swing.

I ran to the swings on the playground when the recess bell rang. I spent hours seeing how high I could go on my swing set at home. When I was sad, I let the swing rock me gently.  When I was happy, I imagined I could swing to reach up and touch a cloud and grab it, just for the joy of it. When I was bored, I imagined that the swing was an airplane, taking me on travels far and wide.

When I sat on a swing, I was free.

When I sat on a swing, the world was lovely.

Then I started to grow up, and there was less recess and more responsibilities.

I looked around the world and instead of seeing lovely, I saw loneliness. I saw disconnection. Worse than anything, I saw prejudice and I saw hate. I saw people excluded because of their race, or because of what part of town they lived in. I had friends who were talked down to, or who talked down to others, because they weren’t part of “the cool kids.”

The swing couldn’t bring the same relief. Hate, in particular prejudice, is a weight too heavy for any child’s heart to bear.

Paul felt the weight of prejudice, on behalf of the Galatians too.

Read Galatians 2:1-6 and see if you can identify all the “players” in the story Paul recounts:

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 

Except that this account was all too real. Imagine Paul’s struggle. Notice how many times he uses the words we, us, and our. These were people he was deeply connected to.

Sometimes,  because many of us live in a free country, we often forget that we are easily enslaved. We become so entrapped by our “identities”- the particular groups we are in, the heritage we have, our personal individuality – that we miss that these things can wrap themselves around our throats and choke the life out of us.

The Judaizers wanted the Gentile believers to be circumcised, to be branded with Israel as Jewish converts, before they could be considered “real believers.”

Notice how many things I have put in quotation marks so far in this study post! One of Paul’s lessons throughout the book of Galatians is this:

These aren’t even real things! They are just things we throw our identities in. They may look and feel real to us, but at best they are abstract ideas, race, cultural heritage, cliques, and groups, and at worst they only stand to separate us from who we are together…

Created Children of God.

That is our identity.

We have one identity and one identity alone worth reporting – who the Gospel of Christ Jesus has made us.

Free. Loved. Alive. Worthy. Held.

And as Paul says, now we go about preserving that Gospel so that everyone would know that freedom. Christ Jesus came to save sinners. The last time I checked, that was every single one of us.

Our hearts would burst out of us if we didn’t get to tell them about His great love – whether circumcised or uncircumcised, wearing boxer briefs or girly underwear, eating burgers or grape leaves, black, white, or pink with flamingo wings. I say that tongue in cheek, but

who, who would we want to miss Him?

Not one.

Knowing Jesus – it’s like sitting on a swing, as the wind rushes through your ears, hair flying, heart pounding, feet almost touching the skies where the Most High dwells, catching a cloud, thanking Him for every day we can live a little bit freer than the last, because of His cross.

#lifetogether – Connect and send someone this week’s free downloadable Dear 52 card or order the whole set here

Discussion questions:

What was your favorite thing to do at recess when you were a kid?

What “identities” have you claimed or wanted in your life- ethnic, racial, team related, groups, etc.?

What is it about our identities in Christ that surpasses all that other stuff? Why is the impact so huge?

How have you seen Christ cross ethnic, cultural, racial, and other divides?


A Chasing Freedom Bonus: Connection

Connection is important.

In fact, we know from research that connection is one of our most basic needs.

As children of God, in a family of God, we may already know this, but the scientific community is uncovering amazing research that (not shockingly) supports the way God designed us from the beginning.

Here’s two of my favorite TedTalks about connection the impact of connection on our lives:

Johann Hari TedTalk: Connection’s impact on addiction

Brene Brown TedTalk: Vulnerability and Human Connection

We need connection like rain needs drops and bagels need cream cheese, no even more than that. We were made to connect to God, and also people.

In Genesis, God walked with Adam and Eve, and we crave that kind of connection to Him, whether we know it or not. In Christ, we are free to draw near to God once again and we wait for eternity for all the singing and dancing with Him face to face.

At the creation of the New Testament church we see connection revealed even deeper- one body, one baptism, one Lord. This is more than nice ideas. It’s a way of life. We reach others with hope by – you’ve got it – connecting with them, friendship, care, fighting against isolation and the lie that it’s easier on our own.

So, this fall, with our online Bible study Chasing Freedom, we’re going to add a layer of connection we haven’t had before. A connection challenge, if you will.
We’re partnering with the Dear 52 Project and the talented Anna Noble, to offer a free downloadable mini-set of Dear 52 cards.

There will be one card for each week of study. You print it and you send it to someone. Here are some samples to get you excited:

Connection. It’s that easy.

Who in your life could use a handwritten note that says,

“I thought of you.”

“I’m praying for you.”

“It’s been awhile. How have you been? ”

“Hey, we’re talking about freedom in this Bible study and I just really appreciate that you let me be myself.”

Two lines, four lines, or a small journal entry…no matter the length of the letter, the connection is created; friendships, relationships, or family care and concern grows and encouragement builds up.

Here’s all the Chasing Freedom components, pick and choose what works for you:

  • six easy-to-read weeks of study, to connect you to our God and His great love for you
  • a card, each week, to connect you with someone who also needs to know that they are treasured and loved. It’s a beautiful thing
  • Thursday night Facebook Live studies to connect us to one another
  • Fridays and Saturdays – there will be Chasing Freedom podcasts for those of you who are audio people, and to hear a voice sharing freedom rather than words on a page

Stretching our hearts wider for Christ and those He puts in our path…together.

Find the cards and the study, beginning September 18th, right here, at ilovemyshepherd.com.