Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Who's Got Your Back?

Who are the people in your life you've allowed to see your weak places? Who you've trusted to get close in the places where you're most vulnerable?

Who had permission to ask you the tough questions? To help you see what you're not seeing?

Who will stand for you when you're under attack and can't stand? Who will help you stand when you can't alone?

Who will guard you weak or vulnerable places from attack?

Those are challenging questions. They've been running through my mind for the last few weeks. I've been wrestling with my answer to them.

The answers may not come easily, but I'm starting to think that the answers do need to come. We need these people in our lives. And we need to be these people for others.

Really, these questions can be summed up in a couple:

Who's got your back?
Who's back have you got?

We have an enemy who is looking for the places he can attack to destroy us. He's looking for the places where we're unprotected, because he knows he has a good chance of getting in those places to defeat and destroy us.

This means we need each other. We all have places we can't see our vulnerability to attack, where we need someone else to com alongside us. We all ahve places where we know our vulnerability, but don't yet know how to protect ourselves, where we need someone to come alongside us.

Who's got your back?

Who's back have you got?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Unique Stories of Faith

"The Bible makes it clear that every time there is a story of faith, it is completely original. God's creative genius is endless. He never, fatigued and unable to maintain the rigors of creativity, resorts to mass-producing copies. Each life is a fresh canvas on which He uses lines and colors, shades and lights, textures and proportions that He has never used before."
                                         (Eugene Peterson, Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at its Best)

I've spent a lot of time pondering this quote recently. It really stuck with me when I first heard it and I haven't been able to leave it behind since.

Stories of faith . . .
                    . . . in the Bible.
                    . . . in the history of the church.
                    . . . in the lives of those around us today.
                    . . . in our own lives.

We read some stories of faith. We listen to some. We live our own. And we may play a role in the stories of others.

They're the same only in that we are writing them with God by the choices we make.

But, our stories will never be the same as someone else's story of faith. Our story of faith is uniquely ours. Even our experiences of the same event or struggle as another person will be different.

And that's how God intended it to be. He has a different story of faith He wants to write for each one of us. And He's not going to run our of material or ideas for any one of us.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Carrying Burdens

"Carry each other's burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)

". . . for everyone should carry their own load." (Galatians 6:5)

Two verses in the same passage that almost seem to be contradicting each other.

. . . Or maybe not . . .

How can both of these be true at the same time?

As I've wrestled with these ideas - carrying each other's burdens and carrying our own loads - I've realized Paul is actually talking about two different, although related, things here. English makes them look and sound the same at a glance.

In Galatians 6:5 when he talks about each person carrying their own load, Paul is talking about being responsible for your own life - for what you have. It's about living your life in such a way that you are looking after yourself, not choosing to be  unreasonably dependent on others because of laziness or unwillingness. This is a key part of living well in community with others.

When Paul talks about carrying each other's burdens in Galatians 6:2, he is talking about those times in life when it gets really hard and those things outside "normal" life burdens. These are the times when the storms come and we might be overwhelmed. It's in these times that we need other Christians in our community to come alongside and help us carry the extra burden.

Having people be able to help us carry the extra burden is only possible if we're each carrying our own load. If we've been refusing to carry our own load, we'll likely find that others are unable of unwilling to help us now.

Unable because they're already carrying something for us that we should be carrying. Unwilling because they've watched us refuse to carry what we should. Either way, if we've placed ourselves in this position, we're in trouble. That's why Paul is so clear that we need to carry our own load, so that we can also help carry each other's burdens when necessary.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Called to be Free

How do you live free?

What impact does it have on how we live in relationship with others?

"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to live free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command, 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' If you bite and devour one another, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." (Galatians 5:13-15)

We were called to live free. That's a pretty big thing to try to grasp. In many ways, it's a bit of an abstract concept to try to wrap our brains around. Paul takes the time to teach us what it looks like to live this way, to show us how this means we should live.

Paul knew the importance if how we treat one another. He calls his readers to a radically different way of living than the world around them in these verses as he begins to teach them what it means to live the free life we've been called to.

Paul is calling Christians to humbly serve one another in love, rather than indulge in their own fleshly desires. At a glance, these two things seem unrelated, but I think they're more related than we realize. If we're indulging our own desires, then humbly serving others in love is not going to be something that even crosses our mind.

Most of our fleshly desires are selfish, self-serving, not serving or loving towards others. Paul is reminding his original readers and us about what should be different about us. When we're humbly serving others in love, we're looking for ways to put other people first, to be intentional in our actions toward them. This is impossible to do if we;re using our freedom in Christ to indulge our flesh.

These verses end with a warning about what happens if we choose to bite and devour one another. Treating one another this way is how we destroy each other. It doesn't bring good for us or them; it brings destruction to all involved.

So, to answer the questions I began this post with:

How do you live free?

What impact does it have on how we live in relationship with others?

It all goes back to what Jesus said when He was on earth. We love God with everything we have, and then we love our neighbours as we love ourselves. It's as simple and as difficult as that. The answer is simple, but sometimes living it out is much more difficult.