Heart Freedom Isn't Free Either

As we celebrate Veterans Day today, it’s rather easy to look around life and pick out the men and women who I know that have served me and my country through military service. I’m sure I’d miss some of them, but I can certainly name a few, and I thank them.

But what about freedom of the heart? Who has paid THAT price? Certainly, Jesus did. The sacrifice he made for me on the cross completely paid the price for my Salvation, Freedom, and Life. But is that it? Is freedom of the heart like freedom of speech, where once it’s paid for I can just walk out the door and exercise it to my heart’s content? I don’t think so.

I’m thinking today of three other places where the price for freedom must be paid. First is all the men and women who have fought for my freedom without even knowing my name. Missionaries, authors, speakers, and those random people you see on the street who make you think, “what do they have that I don’t?” Those people have paid a price to become the people God made them to be. They’ve let themselves go so that they can be used for good in others life, without having a clue as to the impact their lives will made. Anonymity. That costs something.

The second is those people who do know me and are fighting for my freedom. They may know me well, or they may know me just in a moment of life, but they know I am in need of Life, and they have some Life to offer. People like the man I went to this weekend and asked  for prayer, even before he knew my name. In fact, now that I think back to it, I don’t even know if I told him my name. I went up to him, as the guide for a small group through a 3 day men’s retreat, and shared my heart about a concern I had for a man in my group. He was having a hard time “letting go,” and it was obvious, at least to me. So I brought in a man who’d taken up the cross of praying for others throughout this retreat, and asked him to pray with me over it. He brought in another man, and there we stood, huddled around a tile on the floor, praying for breakthrough in a situation I had no idea how breakthrough would come. Later on that weekend that prayer would come back to remind and reassure me that I was on the right track, even though the guy in my group blew up, stomped off, and we honestly didn’t know if he’d be coming back. I knew we had taken his hurt before the throne, and released that sense of control that comes from being “in charge.” I found out later my prayer warrior had been watching over my group, continuing to pray for us, and was right there to guide, counsel, and build me up as I shared what was going on with him later. It’s great, and humbling, to have those who know something about you step into your life and say, “take some of my strength.” They are being Jesus to me.

The last person who must pay the price of my heart’s freedom is sadly the hardest. It’s me. I love letting to, but I hate it at the same time. It would be so much easier to rest in the assurance of the false truths that come into my life every day such as “you’re a failure,” “you won’t make it,” and “there you go, you let THAT person down again… you’re such a disappointment!” Those lies from the pit of hell ring as true as a bell in my life sometimes, and yet they are as far removed from the truth as light is from darkness itself. So often I combat those lies with cardboard and rubber weapons, such as grabbing the nearest snack, zoning out for an hour of TV, passing the buck (and the pain) to someone else, or coming up with a lame response such as “no I’m not.”

This battle is much more serious than can be waged simply with defensive weapons. Yes, that is what makes up most of what we call the armor of God. And that’s probably good, because we’re slammed with it every day and night. But we have also been given a sword to take back ground. To reclaim what was lost. To achieve victory over sin, death, and the Enemy. That victory only comes as we fight and put to death those things that would rather kill us. These are the things that are waging war against my freedom. I must fight back false accusations with true affirmations. I must fight harsh criticism with gentle truth. I must fight subliminal messages of disappointment with the true words my Father tells me. I am not a disappointment. My Father made me in his very image. I am the apple of His eye. He has made me a full fledged son, despite any shortcoming my flesh may have. That is who I am.

But that’s not who I was. And that’s where the price for freedom becomes the most costly. I must die to my old self. I must let it go completely, and claim no right over myself or my life at all, because I have been bought, and am now “in Him,” as the Bible says.

No, freedom isn’t free. It never is. That’s as true in my soul as it is on a sandy battlefield halfway across the world. But freedom is worth the price. Always.

Night Vision

This is an extended excerpt from a newsletter I received yesterday from The Noble Heart. It’s an excellent picture of walking with God through the dark times.

Night vision.  It feels like night vision is required when looking into our own life or the life of another.  We can make out the shape of some things that seem to be significant in the discovery of who we are, but they remain fairly dim and undefined or can disappear altogether.
 
I remember several late evenings (actually early mornings) getting up and walking into the kitchen to get a pain reliever for a headache.  I would leave the lights off hoping not to wake my wife and avoiding any other reasons for my head to hurt.
 
As I would walk through the dark living room, I would sometimes catch a glimpse of a pair of shoes or the vacuum cleaner with my peripheral vision.  As I tried to focus directly on it, it would often disappear.  As soon as I looked straight ahead, I would see it once again.  Why?

The retina is composed of two different types of cells – cone cells and rod cells.  The cone cells are your “day eyes” because they require a great deal of light to activate them and they are blind during periods of low-illumination.   These cells enable you to see color, shape, and contrast. 
 
Your “night eyes” are your rod cells.  They produce a chemical substance called visual purple, which makes them active in darkness or periods of low-illumination.  They enable you to distinguish black, white, and shades of gray, and to distinguish general outlines.

Alright, here is where I’m going with all of this – the principles of night vision.
 
First, we must give our eyes time to adapt to low levels of illumination.  It takes approximately 20-30 minutes for the rod cells to produce enough visual purple to activate and enable you to distinguish objects in dim light.
 
Too often we want instant clarity and when it doesn’t come, we stop looking – we walk away from our search.  Clarity always come in degrees and over time.  It takes time for the eyes of our heart (Eph. 1:18-19) to adjust to the often dim light over our story.   “People’s thoughts can be like a deep well, but someone with understanding can find the wisdom there.”  (Prov. 20:5 NCV)  Deep wells are always dark.
 
Secondly; in dim light, we must keep our attention on an object without looking directly at it.  Looking directly at an object focuses the image on the cone region which isn’t sensitive at night.  To form the image on the rod cells we need to look slightly to the right, left, below or above an object.  The visual purple in the rod cells blacks out in four to ten seconds and you lose sight of the object, so we must move our eyes swiftly so fresh rod cells are used.  We must pause for a moment at each point because our eyes can’t see while in motion.
 
The human heart and the work of God is vast, complex and mysterious.  When we focus on one aspect of our heart or life for a long period of time to the exclusion of others, it often becomes imperceptible.  Looking around an issue, question or desire often allows it to come into focus.  We must continue to scan the landscape of our life and God’s heart.
 
Thirdly, confidence plays a very important role in our use of night vision.  Normally we use our eyes when there is plenty of light and we see sharp outlines and bright colors.  When we are in darkness, objects are faint, have no sharp outlines and have little or no color.  We must believe what our eyes tell us.  We gain confidence by practicing these principles of night vision.
 
As we are willing to delve into the dimly lit recesses of a person’s story and glory, offering what we see, we will become more comfortable and skilled with our night vision.
 
“Now we see a dim reflection… All that I know now is partial and incomplete…” (1 Cor. 13:12) 
 

A New Heart – Life, Freedom, and a New Name

These are notes & scripture from a lesson I’m leading tonight with my church youth group. I put them here for later and whoever else might get something from them

I. Sing

II. Prayer Requests

III. Ice Breaker

IV. Review

a. Father / son relationship on earth

b. Father / child relationship with God

i. John 3:16

1. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

ii. Romans 8:15-17:

1. You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,”

iii. Galatians 4:4-6:

1. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

V. Let’s start off with some introductory questions.

a. When does eternal life begin?

b. Are you living an eternal life right now? Is that silly to think about?

c. Is Christianity just something about the future? About dying and going to heaven?

d. Or is there something for us, right here, right now?

VI. The offer is…

a. FREEDOM

b. LIFE

c. A NEW HEART

d. A NEW NAME

VII. Freedom

a. What does freedom mean to you?

b. Think about how life was designed to be. Were Adam and Eve “free?”

c. Were they designed to be free?

d. What did that mean?

e. Are you designed to be free?

i. Yes, you are.

ii. Are you?

iii. Why or why not?

f. We live in bondage.

i. To ourselves.

ii. To others.

1. Expectations

2. Disappointments

iii. To sin

1. Habits

2. Desires

3. Flesh / World / Satan

g. Galatians 5:1,13

i. It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. … For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

h. 1 Peter 2:16

i. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.

VIII. LIFE

a. John 10:7-11

i. “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them 9 “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture 10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly 11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

b. Why did Christ come?

i. That they might have life.

c. How did he accomplish this?

i. By laying down his life for us.

d. Why was this necessary?

e. How bad does God want you back?

IX. A NEW HEART

a. Do you feel like you have a naturally clean heart? Are you pure?

i. No, we are not

ii. Jeremiah 17:9

1. “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Je 17:9). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

iii. Jeremiah 32:37-40

1. 37 “Behold, I will gather them out of all the lands to which I have driven them in My anger, in My wrath and in great indignation; and I will bring them back to this place and make them dwell in safety. 38 “They shall be My people, and I will be their God; 39 and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them. 40 “I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Je 32:37-40). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

b. CAN your heart be clean?

i. Psalm 51:10

1. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Ps 51:10). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

ii. Matthew 5:8

1. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Mt 5:8). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

c. HOW can we get a clean heart?

i. Ezek 11:19

1. “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,

ii. Ezek 36:26-28

1. 26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. 28 “You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.

iii. Hebrews 8:8-10

1. 8 But when God found fault with the people, he said: “The day is coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 9 This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt.They did not remain faithful to my covenant,so I turned my back on them, says the Lord.10 But this is the new covenant I will makewith the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:I will put my laws in their minds,and I will write them on their hearts.I will be their God,and they will be my people. Tyndale House Publishers. (2004). Holy Bible : New Living Translation. “Text edition”–Spine. (2nd ed.) (Heb 8:8-10). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.

iv. Hebrews 10:15-18

1. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, And on their mind I will write them,” He then says, 17 “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Heb 10:15-18). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

v. Hebrews 10:22

1. let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Heb 10:22). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

X. A NEW NAME

a. Isaiah 62:2-4

i. 2 The nations will see your righteousness, And all kings your glory; And you will be called by a new name Which the mouth of the Lord will designate. 3 You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, And a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4 It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,” Nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate”; But you will be called, “My delight is in her,” And your land, “Married”; For the Lord delights in you, And to Him your land will be married.

b. Gen 35:10

i. God said to him,

ii. “Your name is Jacob;

iii. You shall no longer be called Jacob,

iv. But Israel shall be your name.”

v. Thus He called him Israel.

vi. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Ge 35:10). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

c. Rev 2:17

i. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’

ii. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Re 2:17). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

d. Rev 3:12

i. ‘He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.

ii. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Re 3:12). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

XI. Watch Video

a. Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King

i. Elrond (Elf)

ii. Arwen (Love)

iii. Aragorn (Ranger / King)

b. Chapter 22 (1:14:40 – )

c. Pause after “I take my leave”

d. Background on this guy…

e. Continue

f. Quote:

i. “It is time to put down the ranger and become who you were born to be”

ii. Who have you been told that you should be?

1. A good boy?

2. A young woman?

3. A nice Christian?

4. Someone who avoids this and does that.

iii. What were you born to be?

1. Me? I have a story. It’s a story that only makes sense to me. I’ll share it if you want, though.

2. All of us have been told who we should be and a lot of us have accepted lesser roles than God intended. Aragorn was the KING, but other things kept him from accepting.

iv. What is your role in the Kingdom? You may not know yet. That is fine. That is normal. But let me tell you, the lives you live RIGHT NOW are affecting that. I can speak from my life. I’m not who I thought I would be 10-15 years ago when I was your age, but the things on my heart back then, the things I really, deeply, cared about… they still affect me.

g. Now… what brought Aragorn to recognize who he was?

i. Recognition?

ii. The swoard?

1. They will answer to the king of Gondor.

h. 1:18:55 – put aside the ranger, become who you were born to be.

i. Stop at 1:19:21

j. John 10:10-11

i. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly 11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.