Aperture of Light

Aperture of Light

Seeking Freedom

posted by cmartin

If I asked you if you’d rather be free or bound up, what would you say?  If you had the choice to be completely yourself, free from persecution in any way OR tied down and burdened under a law, what would be your answer?  This seems pretty obvious, right?  So why is this decision so hard for us to make?  You may be thinking, uhh it’s not.  Well what I am saying is, we are faced with a lot of false pictures of freedom everyday.  We have a lot of false “teachers” out there painting pictures of life in ways that appear beautiful on the outside but in reality there is a lot of ugliness that actually lies beneath.  But don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely a beautiful life out there, we just have to be careful where we look for it.

Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” – John 8:32.

“Good feelings will not free us.  Ecstatic experiences will not free us.  Getting “high on Jesus” will not free us.  Without a knowledge of the truth, we will not be set free.” – Richard J. Foster.

We will inevitably be seekers of things that give us temporary “freedom” until we understand the freedom that Jesus freely gives us.  The only way to understand is to study his word.  If you want to know more about Chemistry, you study it right?  If you want to learn how to do anything better that is beneficial to yourself, you research it, ask questions about it, practice it; basically study it until you understand and can apply what you learned.

For example, say you have always wanted to be a doctor.  ”Why do you want to be a doctor?” someone asks.  ”Well, because I really want to help people to feel better.”

So, you want to be a doctor.  Now what?  Do you just say you want to be one and then you are one?  No, of course not!  You have to study medicine for a very long time before you are prepared to take care of people in the ways that being a doctor requires.  What I am trying to say is that the only way that we can truly be transformed into the person we long to be is by letting Jesus come into our hearts and show us the truth.  He gave us his words in the Bible for us to study, not to burden us or to bound us in laws.  He came to do the opposite.  To set us free.  The more we study his word, the more we are transformed and we start to taste real freedom.  But with anything, to understand and learn, we must take time and study.

I wanted to share an excerpt from a book called “Harvest” that I am reading.  This book has absolutely amazing stories about how people have been transformed by Christ.  If you want to understand the power of Jesus, this book has some amazing testimonies of just what I was talking about.  People literally seeking freedom in every way they thought possible, which never fulfilled their deepest needs, and then coming to Christ and realizing what they had been missing for so long.

A man named Skip, now a pastor in New Mexico, grew up in Southern California, was a surfer, did drugs, and basically sought the temporary pleasures that he thought would bring him happiness.  ”Skip had tried everything–all the thrills of Southern California, from drugs to surfing to rock and roll–and it left him bored and frustrated.  None of these things gave him their promised happiness.  Skip could find no clear hold on what he should do.”  He had also experimented with other forms of spirituality and psychic powers.  He goes on to say, “And the psychic channels were like a minefield…For every item of value he came up with, he had to sort through heaps of garbage that came along with it”

Skip finally gave up.  One day after stumbling upon Billy Graham on TV and listening to him talk about the freedom that can only be found in Christ, he gave his life to Christ.  He had never wanted to commit and remembers thinking. “Lord, you’re getting a rotten deal.  I’m giving you all this crudeness and meaninglessness in me.  And you’re giving me eternal life in return and blessing me.  I would have to be an idiot to turn this down.”  ”He was kneeling and praying.  In a mere moment, what seemed like a million-pound weight was removed from him.”

I wish you could read this whole story.  It is amazing how God changed his life for the better.  As much as we think we have it all figured out and we know what will make us happy, ultimately God is the only one who can truly set us free.  We can be free to be ourselves, we won’t have to carry all the weight of past hurts, fears, rejections, etc. and we can have faith that God will lead us to the place of most joy (that is real and everlasting).

I don’t want religion, I want you, God.

posted by cmartin

God,

How can I be more like you?  I don’t want to try so hard to be Christian.  I just want you to transform me.  I want to give without expecting anything in return.  I want to forgive without a second thought.  I want to let you lead me because you know me better than I know myself.  I want to be me and nobody else.  I want to love people the right way.  I want to stop talking so much about the way things should be and just let them be that way.  I want to give it all up to you.  I don’t want religion, I want a life like Christ.  I want to see myself through your eyes and not the eyes of anyone else or even my own because those eyes can lie and they can deceive.  I want to just let you love me and heal me.  I want the truth, which is only found in you.  I want to show the world who you are and what you stand for because you are love and we are surrounded by false idols and lies everyday when we know in our hearts what is right, we just don’t have the eyes to see it.  But every now and then we see a glimmer of what is true and we know it.  Just a little piece of that hope shining through the darkness.  That’s what I hunger for.  More of that; more of you.  Open my eyes everyday because I so easily fall asleep or get distracted.  Thank you for the ones who hunger for this to.  To know something real and true.  To be fulfilled in the only way we can truly be.  It’s so simple so why so hard?  Surrender everyday and we’ll find life.  For some it’s harder than others.  We have grown up different ways with different experiences but we all want the same thing, we just don’t know how to let go and receive it.  It seems so easy so why so hard?  It’s a transformation, but one that leads to absolute freedom.  That is what I want.

Love in its truest, purest form

posted by cmartin

A few thoughts on love and what it was truly made to be.  From the article, The Greatest Love of All.

“The strongest thematic message in the Bible, which contains the Word of God, is God’s love. Everything revolves around God’s love. God, who created the universe by His Word, is the source of love, which is love in its truest, purest and perfect form.

In the love of God, let us come to an understanding of His Word. When asked what the Bible is about, many people could not readily respond. What is the Bible about? The Bible is about God’s love. While it is true that the Bible speaks about sin and forgiveness or death and salvation, this is because of one Biblical truth: God’s love.”

We cannot truly experience what love is supposed to be until we know Jesus.  I know that I have searched many places, trying to find what love really is.  Sometimes we try to depend on other people for that fulfillment.  The simple fact is, people, because they are human beings, will disappoint us.  I absolutely believe in falling in love.  I have been in love and know how amazing that can be.  But I also learned the hard lesson, that putting the one you love above God will ultimately fail.  And putting God above all can only let you love others more deeply.  As we grow in our understanding of Him, we grow in love.

When you enter into a relationship centered around God, you no longer depend on that person to be everything that you need.  Yes of course we can love each other deeply, sacrifice for each other, learn from each other and carry each others burdens, but we also have to remember that we are not perfect and neither is the other person.  If we rely on that person to be things that he or she is not physically, emotionally or spiritually able to be, we end up frustrated and disappointed, which so many times leads to hard breaks.  We end up taking until we can’t take anymore, not so much out of selfishness, but out of the aching for love and meaning that lies in the depths of every person’s heart.  Having God at the center allows a relief of these expectations and ultimately allows us to freely love each other the way that we were designed to.

I am not married but I have a lot of friends who are.  I have been there through their meeting, dating, engagement and now marriage.  I have learned so much from a lot of them and it has been so encouraging to see God at the center of their relationships.  I can see their love for each other, how they have developed patience and trust.  A friend of mine who recently got married said something to me that really changed my way of thinking about a Godly relationship.  I don’t even remember how we got on the topic, but she told me that she and (her boyfriend at the time, now husband) loved each other very much and she very much wanted to marry him, but she didn’t depend on his love and he didn’t depend on hers.  She said that because they had built their relationship with God in the center, if the relationship were to end, it would be ok.  I was like, “Wait, what??  You would be okay with it ending?”  She said again that she absolutely wanted to be with him but having God at the center meant that she would be ok if things didn’t work out because they didn’t depend on each other (for their happiness, etc).  That ultimate fulfillment came from God and only God.

This was hard for me to grasp at first.  I had come out of a relationship with a guy that I loved very deeply, but I realized we had been depending on each other way too much for the kinds of fulfillments that only Christ can bring.  Things often come about that are beyond our (humanly) control and if we are expecting our significant other to fix the problem, we are mistaken.  When we cross those boundaries that Jesus has for us, we fall.  We are to be there for each other and love each other, but again, a relationship without Jesus is not built on stone.  I think it is important to understand this in relationships.  Praying with each other, growing spiritually and being honest about where we are with our walk with God is crucial, in my opinion.  But don’t be afraid to be yourself.  Finding freedom in Christ allows you to be you to fullest and to share that love with him or her and the world!  We are not cookie-cutters.  We are unique human beings and we want to be loved for everything that we are.

“Let your love for each other be a reflection of Jesus’ love and an example of how we are to love one another.”

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity in him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth”  - I John 3:16-18

.Jesus said: “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching” (John 14:23-24)

Paul described love this way. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” -I Corinthians 13:4-8.

I do what to re-emphasize that people are not perfect.  We give each other grace and we are not expected to be perfect.  That is why we need Jesus.  He has abounding love and grace.  We will never run dry.

Walking through the Desert

posted by cmartin

“Do we stay Christians because of the feeling of fellowship we have with the Lord or is it because we trust in Jesus?”

I read an article this morning that related to what many of my friends are going through right now, as well as described times in my life of what seemed like “dryness” with God.  We need to be careful though, and not be caught up thinking that in order to be close to God, we must “feel” him there or be overwhelmed by a “feeling” of rightness, if that makes sense.  For example, if you have ever been to a worship service, you may have had feelings of overwhelming joy and closeness to God.  It is important to differentiate between a “feeling” that we may have because of the music and environment, and actually knowing that we are encountering God.  Honestly, that may be a hard difference to see, at first.  I am not at all saying that every time you have an overwhelming joy, that you should write it off as a feeling.  Absolutely not.  I would just ask you to consider more deeply what is really going on in your heart when this occurs.  Ultimately, you will know when it is the Lord.  When we fix our eyes and our thoughts on Him, we will see Him.

Many of us have or will have seasons in life that feel like we are walking through the desert.  We feel distant from God, maybe that there is nobody there who understands what we are going through or even that life is just stuck in a depressing hole.  If you have ever experienced this or may be experiencing it now, let me tell you, there is so much hope.

I love the way that Matt Slick put it in his article, “Feeling Spiritually dry” He said, “Most every major person in the Bible that was used mightily of God had to go through a desert time.  This includes Moses, Elijah, Jesus, and Paul.  Being in a place where we are dry, waiting, wanting, praying, examining, etc., is often the proving ground of strength and refinement.  Then, after this time is completed, the thing that we have been prepared for comes upon us.  Sometimes this preparation is for hardship, sorrow, and pain.  Other times it is for blessing, reward, and ministry.  Remember, the Lord has not saved us to be trophies on a shelf.  We are instruments in His hands to be used in the world.  This usage requires that we be able to be used, able to be sent, able to trust the Lord in spite of what we see and feel! ”

I want to personally vouch for this:  I went through a time in college where things seemed absolutely amazing.  I had awesome friends whom I did everything with.  We understood each other and always had a blast.  I also had a great boyfriend who I loved and who loved me.  I was certain we were going to get married someday.  Things were pretty perfect.  But what I hadn’t realized was that I was putting all of these people in my life above God and I had really stopped listening to Him fully.

I ended up having a huge falling out with my 2 friends and about a month later my boyfriend and I also broke up.  I had already been feeling low from what happened with my friends and then the break up added even more heartache.  I had never felt that low.  That was my rock bottom and I didn’t know who to turn to.  As much as they tried to understand, I felt that nobody could fathom what I was going through.  I ended up basically retreating (as much as you can retreat while still being a student).  Other than classes, I spent much of the time alone.  I wanted to be with people, but I couldn’t find joy in it and nobody I talked to understood the pain I was going through.  I was blessed to have had the support of my family through that time.  Their encouragement helped me so much.  But I was at school and far away from the people I was closest too.  I knew that after losing the people I built my world around, I would now have to start over, and I just didn’t have the strength.

It is hard looking back on this time now, because it was the most painful season in my life.  But amazingly now, I can thank God for it.  Having lost and been betrayed by so many people whom I felt so close to, I had no other choice but to look to God.  I started really diving into my Bible (honestly for the first time, even though I had been a believer for 4 years).  Through my readings, I found peace in knowing that God knew exactly what I was going through and it was comforting to know that He was with me when all that happened and still was then.  I started reading a lot about suffering as well and why God allows that to happen.

It took a very long time to understand why on earth God would allow this in my life, but looking back now, I would not have gained the invaluable wisdom and compassion that I now have for people.  I just simply would not have understood so much pain that is going on in people’s lives.  Through that time I started meeting with a girl from my small group.  She was going through even more than I was and so I decided to reach out to her.  I thought, wow, we are going through so much of the same thing, maybe it would help her to know that I am too.  That relationship was such a blessing.  We really helped each other a lot and came to a deeper understanding of why this was happening to us.

I truly believe that God perfects His power in us through our weaknesses.  Like 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

This verse can be interpreted in other ways as well.  For example, the things that we are uncomfortable doing or don’t particularly think we are goo at, God can use those things in such powerful ways.  Like introverted pastors.  Most are not comfortable in front of large groups and find it hard to do the social aspect of the job.  Yet, for all of those introverted people out there, like me, we so appreciate them.  We can relate so well to the workings of their minds.  What a world it would be for us if all pastors were extroverts!

But I guess what I am getting at is, God builds us into who we were made to be through our sufferings, depressing times and times of absolute lonliness.  We know that we deserve more.  And so does He.  And he promises to bless us abundantly.  But we have to let Him mold us.  We let Jesus into our hearts and let the Holy Spirit do it’s work within us, changing us from the inside out.  There is not a more glorious experience in all the earth, to know that the creator of the heavens and earth is using us for his glorious purposes.  Fighting him and trying to do things our own way or to make ourselves more comfortable can only hurt us.  God knows what we need and he has promised to provide it.  Like the verses in Matthew 6:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I was so trying to fight the lonely time that I was going through, and trying to get back “on track”, so I thought.  But God had a bigger plan and once I let go of my pride, it was revealed to me.  God has used me to reach out and love people in ways I never thought possible.  Ways that wouldn’t have been possible, had I not gone through the hard times.  I know that there are probably more to come as well, but I know that my wisdom and love can only deepen through these experiences.  Let God mold your soul, for he is the love we seek.  Let Him sharpen you and make you (for everything you are) even more of a river of living water.

 

 

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