Refusing slavery, acting like sons

Slavery is a real thing.

It’s disgusting and it needs to end.

We fancy it up with complex names like human trafficking, but it is the same horrible system which existed before the American Civil War, before William Wilberforce boldly spoke out in England, and during the Roman Empire at the time of Paul.

Galatians Chapter Four opens with Paul’s well-known argument against slavery, not on the massive oppressive scale, but individually, the kind we submit ourselves to. Slavery is devastating and we should fight with all our might against it. The devil’s brand of slavery is eternally devastating, and it requires a fight too. We need a Savior in this, more than ever.

Paul uses the language of slavery because, I think, one of his main points throughout Galatians is a very simple:

“Why would you want that?!”

Given the option, real options, no one chooses slavery. Would you ever want to be a slave? No.

Read Galatians 4:1-7 and ask yourself this question:

Where in my life am I submitting to slavery that God did not intend for me?

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principleof the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

You are not a slave, but a son.

Through the Word, through Sunday School, through the Body of Christ, and through the Holy Spirit we know this. God lifts the scales from our eyes, and we know about Jesus. We know what He gives us. Praise the Lord! Now…

it’s time to grow up.

I mean this in love.

Paul means this in love.

This is sweet Gospel, friend. This is not the weight of law the Judaizers were handing out.

We need Christ and we need one another. We can know something so well that we become a slave to the knowledge of it. We let knowledge rule and forget that we were meant to grow. We let knowledge take the place of real and true intimate relationship with God. We stop at elementary principles (v.3), content to be a slave, rather than sitting in our true role as heir, son, letting God mold and shape us in back-and-forth relationship, conversing with Him in His Love and Truth each day.

This may seem far removed from human trafficking, but it unfortunately isn’t. Satan uses our desire to remain children in the faith, in so many ways in life.

When my faith remains only as knowledge, it is difficult for my soul to be touched by the struggle around me. My eyes remain closed to people, including modern slavery, broken marriages, and all hurting faces of different griefs.

The beauty is, God loves children too. He doesn’t love us less when we’re immature or more when we’re grown.

God through Paul assures us that we do have relationship with God, no matter what Satan would say. We can cry out –

“Abba! Father!”

It doesn’t completely make sense, this growing up, this moving past elementary principles and into deep and meaningful relationship with God, but it’s not necessarily supposed to. There’s the freedom in that too.

“Abba! Father!”

You take the reins, dear Savior. I am no longer a slave, but Your child, I give You control to maneuver this ship that is my life. Free me a little more each day, to continue living in this growing relationship with You. 

And in relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, our Savior, we rest in our salvation, our relationship with Him, just enough to care about everyone else’s.

Freedom from slavery, freedom as children, freedom to grow.

I want all the freedom in Christ.

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

Discussion questions:

What do growth and knowledge have in common? What differences exist between growth and knowledge?

In what ways do you think knowledge of Christ gets in the way of relationship with Christ?

What “Abba, Father” concerns would you bring before God today in freedom?

Silencing my own white noise


The world is noisy.

I like noise for the most part. I like energy and life running around me. Small children wailing means they are fighting to be heard, protests for injustice are right up my alley, and concerts with giant speakers and loud praise do not offend me in the least. What I don’t like is white noise. I don’t like prittle prattle, grumbling, and listening to the sound of my own voice for too long. My children know that 18 (out of 75) is a completely reasonable TV volume setting and not a notch higher. I don’t need to hear Star Wars for the 100+ time blasting at full volume. My phone alarm is barely audible, and Dave once bought one of those gurgling rock fountains at a yard sale and I wanted to throw it out the window. He took it to his office instead. Marriage saved. Have you been there?

So much of the noise in our world is meaningless. It sounds harsh of me, even judgmental, but please hear me differently: we can only take so much.

So many opinions to behold, so much FoxNews v. CNN babble, so much buy our stuff, you’re only cool if you, aren’t you hungry…eat this, do this, look like this.

God talks about trying to get our attention in the middle of all this in Isaiah 65. This passage may be familiar to some of you, from when we studied He Calls Me Rebel in our Live video. Let’s look at verses 1 and 2 from another vantage point- What to do with all the white noise?

Isaiah 65:1-2 –

I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me;
    I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
    to a nation that was not called by my name.
I spread out my hands all the day
    to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
    following their own devices;

God doesn’t just seek us. He fights for us. He’s jumping up and down with the neon signs of creation and the miracle of life and the gift of restoration, while we give all of our attention to fuzzy tv screens and more white noise.

He says, “Here am I, Here am I.”

How often do we miss Him in the day to day of life because of all the other voices we are filtering through?

And then there is the internal white noise. This stuff is worse, in my opinion. The internal shame voice of “Not enough”, not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough. I think I repeat it over and over again and you might be tired of me saying it, but I am convinced we have to say it until our internal selves get it. That voice is not of God. That is the voice of the Devil telling you lies. The Father of lies, Himself, berating you for never living up, never reaching out, never saying it right.

In the same vent, there is the internal voice of selfishness – I need, I want, I deserve; of greed – they have more, I need more, how do I get more; of discontent – my life’s so mediocre, I’m not like them, why isn’t God intervening?

Even the church has it’s own white noise, external and internal voices that put aside the Truth of the Word, prefer rules over mercy, and make hierarchies for grace. There are a million distractions from the objective of loving our God and loving our neighbor, justice and love going out, and bringing the message of restoration to the world.

BE QUIET, voices!

The beautiful thing is that God addresses this battle, this battle against powers and principalities that looks a lot like static and distraction all around.

First, look up Ephesians 6:10-18 in your Bibles. I’ll highlight verses 10-13 below –

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Put on the whole armor. Strap it on. It’s all richly supplied by God. We have a different wardrobe from the world. We have a different vantage point through that Helmet of Salvation. We are given tools that block out the white noise, that provide a filter. Let’s use them! List below for me the tools that you have been given, these free gifts for every day, found in Ephesians 6:14-18.

4

Now, believing that Scripture interprets Scripture, look at Exodus 14:14 to find some wisdom in this battle, from above –

“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Be QUIET, voices! Be quiet…me.

We strap on the armor and He does the work. We still our hearts and turn to Him in prayer, ready to listen to His song of Truth and Saving Grace. We hold the Sword of the Spirit, the Word. We ingest it with the pages open and He fills us with all knowledge and understanding and trust. We stand still with our shield. The junk from the world bounces off our shield and into nothingness. It has no part in this Child of God, Redeemed and Made Holy.

I think I have forever thought that I needed to strap on the armor and go charging forth. It’s partly my personality, but I don’t think I’m alone either. The idea of strapping on armor makes most of us think we have this huge responsibility to undertake.

Isaiah felt the same way. Read Isaiah 6:4-7 –

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

I’m unclean. I can’t battle. I’m world-weary. I’m incapable.

White noise, my friend. White noise.

Our task is to stand and let the coal touch our lips. Our sins are atoned for, our imperfections, our weaknesses are God’s greatest glories when we stand ready for His touch.

You need only be silent. You need only be still.

White noise, you just met your worst enemy. I call Him Savior.

Thank you, Lord, for Your great faithfulness, for always, always being ready on our behalf. Calm my troubled spirit when the world reaches in. Refresh my soul with Your Word. Be in every day, every moment, and every heartbeat. In Jesus we pray, Amen. 

 

Exploration:

Chose one tool given to us by God as a gift of His grace, that we strap on daily in the Spirit, from the list in Ephesians 6:10-18. How does this tool serve you in your daily life, with you family, in your marriage, with friends, or in the church, or your community? Help us see some examples of the Armor of God at work in real life.

Who do you have in your life that helps you to filter out the noise, whether internal or external, and helps you discern Truth from untruth?

You are never forsaken

Have you ever loaned out a book and never received it back? Or maybe you’ve been on the other end and stopped borrowing books from friends because a borrowed book is as good as lost in your house? What is it with loaned books? We return them to the library, but if a friend loans us a book it suddenly goes MIA overnight. I have been on both the receiving and the losing end of this strange book conundrum.

I have one book I loan out like candy. I hand it out like a grandma hands out butterscotch candies, just waiting for their rightful recipient in the bottom of her purse for a good three years. I don’t honestly care if I ever get this particular book back, it’s that important to me that people read it. (Shhhhh. Don’t tell anyone. It’ll be our secret.) I may keep Amazon in business with the number of copies I have bought and “lost” to people over the years. But in the end, who cares. The message of this book for me was so powerful, that I press it on people,

“You must read it.”

“It’s life changing.”

“Let me send it to you.”

What was the message? The same as our passage in Isaiah for today. Please read Isaiah 62:12.

And they shall be called The Holy People,
    The Redeemed of the Lord;
and you shall be called Sought Out,
    A City Not Forsaken.

Circle the titles listed below in your Bible, if you have it out.

Holy
Redeemed
Sought Out
Not Forsaken

My book, mentioned earlier, is a historical retelling of the message, life, and writings of the prophet Hosea, a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah. Their messages overlap and are in concordance with one another, but just as each of us have a different testimony of Christ written through our lives, so does the work and words of each prophet. It’s helpful to dig into them side by side when we get the opportunity.

Hosea has something to say about Sought Out. My personal opinion is that His message of sought out, of not forsaken, is stronger than any other Biblical book. But maybe that’s just because my book found me at just the right place, at the right time, with the message I needed to know more than any other:

You are sought out.
You are not forsaken.

You see, this is the message of redemption, of the Holy One not only coming to us in His Son and His Word, but seeking us out, searching our hearts and our lives until He gets ahold of us, literally chasing us down with His Son and His Word.

Read the following verses from Hosea to piece together his story. Rather, it’s the story of his family and God’s great forgiveness working in all of it:

Hosea 1:2-3

Hosea 3:1-3

Hosea 6:1-3

Sometimes, I need to know that at my worst, I am sought out. This message…this, is what brings me up from the ash heap. It brings me back from ugly sin and creating messes wherever I travel. It finally shuts my mouth when words are flying left and right and edification is far from my heart and mind. While we were still sinners, Christ Jesus died for us. He died for me and you and Gomer and Israel, at our worst.

Read Isaiah 62:12 again, adding 63:1 this time. Remember, there’s no chapter and verse numbers in the original Hebrew. It is a fluid passage.

And they shall be called The Holy People,
    The Redeemed of the Lord;
and you shall be called Sought Out,
    A City Not Forsaken.

Who is this who comes from Edom,
    in crimsoned garments from Bozrah,
he who is splendid in his apparel,
    marching in the greatness of his strength?
“It is I, speaking in righteousness,
    mighty to save.”

Mighty to Save.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

1 Timothy 1:15

Mighty to seek. Mighty to Save.

You are Sought Out is the message that you are worthy of saving, worthy of seeking, finding, and showering with Grace, not because you look like you have it together, but because you don’t.

Hosea loved in the hardest circumstances, in unimaginable grace and mercy, he sought out his wife because she was precious to him, because God seeks in places you and I wouldn’t even think of it going.

He is mighty to save.

You are Sought Out.

img_2309

Exploration:

In our culture, “I’m not worthwhile” or “I’m not enough” is a difficult lie of Satan for people to overcome. What message would you share with a friend struggling with not being good enough for Jesus? (May I suggest sharing our image for today as a message of hope, online or privately?)
What “least of these” people do you have a heart for?
When has God ministered to you and sought you out or hunted you down to show you His grace?

sought-out

Sought Out Scripture Engagement Tool

*My book = Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, check it out at your local library