Friday, June 12, 2015

Freedom's Paradox

I feel as though I'm walking in a dream.  After a whirlwind three weeks with my oldest daughter, she has now returned to Ohio where I will not see her again for some time.  I'm thankful she made it okay, driving alone to the other side of the country.  But now I feel somewhat dazed wondering, what just happened?  But one thing I do know.  She challenged me to embrace freedom.

Before she left, I was rushing to finish reading a book of hers, The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges.  She will be using it as a launching pad to teach the student leaders of Bible study discipleship classes at her school.   I was intrigued by the book because it addresses a struggle I've been going through in my own life. 

Last year I finally realized that God's strength in my weakness does not mean I do nothing.  Actually, I knew that before, but it finally sunk through in my practical living.  All my life I've been taught to surrender to God and watch Him work.  While true, it is only one wing on the plane.  The other wing consists of my obedience through action, yes, simply put, my doing . . . discipline.  Herein lies the paradox.  While relying on God's strength, I move. 

However, it is easy to fall into the thought that 'my' discipline places me in greater favor with God, when, in fact, God is not impressed.  My only merit before Him is His own grace lavished on me.  This is His stamp of approval, nothing else.  

I've been weighed down with made up rules, otherwise known as legalism.  I've had experience at being both the offended and the offender.  Yet, one thing is true for both; all the fussing is exhausting and becomes a spring board for pride.  Many of the rules we make up are to accommodate what is most comfortable for us, our preferences rather than God's standard.   Is it really a hill to die on?  Is love not the better goal? 

Walking through a canyon at dusk we found all these little creatures.  I'm not kidding you, the frogs' croaks literally sounded like goats bleating.  What a noise they made, their voices echoing off stone walls and across still ponds!  And as it got dark, they became even louder. 

Such a racket from such small creatures!  Much like us.  I long to rise above the squabbles and simply worship God with wholehearted devotion.

The last few weeks I have been everywhere.  To the mighty Pacific, across vast deserts, and near tallest mountains. Seeing and experiencing these sights has opened my eyes to the grandeur and splendor of my Creator.  How can I dawdle in mud holes of my own agenda and lists of what's proper when there is all this!

The God who made and sustains all creation calls me His own!  I am His and nothing I do or do not do will change the fact that He loves me.  My life might seem in the shadows or on the shelf, but that does not mean He has forgotten or withheld good from me. 

Once His, I am always held by grace.  How could I ever murmur or complain?  This calls for worship! 

As I've been reading through the book of Jeremiah, I've seen Babylon in a different light.  Not only as a nation which was used by God to discipline His people, but as a picture of my own resistance.  God has been asking me, "What is your Babylon?" 

I've seen some areas of my life that are the discipline of God and I have been fighting against it rather than embracing and living among it, yes, even settling there.  I'm learning that though something is not my preference or even my conviction, God would have me humbled and simply submit to what He brings into my life.  In a word . . . love. 

Love and obedience is what God requires.  I cannot make up my own rules to fit my disciplines so I might feel closer to God.  Furthermore, when I fail, when I disobey, God still loves just as tenaciously.  It's a hard concept for me to really grasp. 

Then why obey?  Why go to the trouble of loving others?  Because righteousness is the best place for me.  The greatest joy is found in surrender to God and what He brings into my life.  And perhaps the pat answer despised by children is reason enough.  Because God said so. 

I plan to buy this book of Heather's that I recently rushed through.  I want to have my own copy to mark and read at a slower pace.  Most of all, I want to live in Christ where I am free of legalism and yet, thriving in true holiness. 

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