We Are More Free When We Are More Whole

I’ve taken a tiny hiatus from writing on the blog while I read through the Bible. Last week, my husband was out of town working on his DMin and one of my children tested positive for Covid.

My four kiddos and I were quarantined for a bit.

Thankfully, my Covid positive child only had a low-grade fever for less than twenty-four hours and it was a sweet opportunity to have a five-day-long pajama party! [Also] a nice time to read through the gospels by the fireplace in the mornings—just not enough quiet head-space to synthesize my notes in my journal and turn them into coherent sentences in the afternoons.

My heart has struggled in letting the writing piece go—but I had to return to my rules and boundaries for reading through the entire Bible and remember there is grace and space to let the writing piece go!

As I have pondered over ten days of notes, something stuck out to me from while I was reading Matthew. “Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears for they hear,” (Matt. 13:16). The simple truth which reminds me that it is a gift to see who Jesus is in the Scriptures and a blessing to have ears to hear the hope of the gospel.

But the weeds will be with us (Matt. 13:30). Those united to Christ through the Holy Spirit have eyes to see and ears to hear, but in the now and the not yet we will live with the thorns and thistles of this world.

As we walk amongst thorns and thistles, we have eyes to see and ears to hear the Savior’s love for us! The kingdom of God is already here—although not yet whole—the kingdom is here. Christ dwells in the hearts of those whom He set apart before the fullness of time. There are glimpses of the kingdom all around us. We just need kingdom-focused eyes and kingdom-hearing ears to remember because as humans, we so easily get distracted by the thorns and thistles and we forget.

As we draw near to God through His word, we become more in tune with our kingdom-centered senses. This makes us more whole; our kingdom-centered senses produce in us a heavenly-wholeness to see and hear the foreshadowing of the glorious kingdom that is yet to come.

The heavenly wholeness frees us to live confidently amongst the thorns and the thistles. We are more free and more whole because we are tightly tethered to the Savior.

As we live in the now and the not yet—amongst the thorns and thistles— God sharpens our kingdom-centered senses as we overcome difficulties and hardships. This is how He bears gospel fruit in our lives. Those prickly “thorn and thistle” seasons grow us up (and out of) who we were—helping us to become what we already are in Christ. We need eyes to see and ears to hear {loudly} who we are in Christ. Our tethering to Him is strong and secure.

When we draw near to Him with the blessing which is ours in Christ—eyes to see and ears to hear—we are more free to live as His people amongst the thorns and thistles and more heavenly-whole.

Matthew Readings

For the next few days, I will be reading on in the book of Matthew. At the end of the book, I will jot something new down here on the blog. (Shooting for January 13th). I am celebrating my first born this weekend who is turning 13. I cannot believe it! My focus will be on my family and I will save my writing time for while they are at school.

Today I read the first five chapters in Matthew.

It was lovely to read about the genealogy of Jesus, how He was born and fulfilled so many Old Testament prophecies as a baby and child, how Joesph was led to protect Jesus by following instruction from the angel of the Lord, and reading about John the Baptist and Jesus’s early ministry.

I love the Beatitudes. I did a Kay McArthur Beatitudes study when Michael was in seminary. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted is always an encouragement for my heart. Have a great weekend! ❤


What A Glorious Savior

Day Four

January 6, 2022

John 16-21


Catch up on what I am doing HERE


John 16:33

BASIC OBSERVATIONS FROM JOHN 16-21

Who is Jesus? He comes from the Father, He haas to leave the world, He is not alone, He has oneness with the Father, He overcomes the world, He prays, He glorifies the Father, He longs to do the Father’s will, longs for the oneness of those who believe, love is in Him (17:26), He knows all that will happen to Him and submits to the will of the Father, He was arrested, He was bound, He was struck, He was flogged, He was betrayed, He was denied, He was mocked, His kingdom is not of this world, He bears witness about the truth, He was crucified, He died, He was stabbed with a spear in His side, He finished the work He came to accomplish, He rose from the dead, He visits the disciples, and teaches the disciples

What was His ministry on earth about? He taught to keep us from falling away, he has to go away so The Helper (The Holy Spirit) can come, He wants His followers to be sanctified in Word and Truth, He has oneness with the Father, He is obedient to death on the cross, His life was a ransom for many, He sends the disciples out so others will believe (Discipleship), He provides fish where the disciples were fishing, He reveals His resurrected body to the disciples three times, He commands Simon Peter to feed His lambs, tend to His sheep, and feed His sheep, He commands the disciples to follow.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME IN THE PRESENT DAY? 

Plenty of deeply meaningful truth in John 16-21. So much that it has taken me the entire day to process through it. For now I have decided to finish all of the gospels before moving onto the major prophets.

Coming off of a difficult season, probably the most difficult eighteen months of life as a Christ-follower, it has been refreshing to come back to the basic truths of who Christ is and His ministry. This book of John, the same book of the Bible I read as a new believer, has once again reminded me of the basic truth of who Christ is and what He came to do. When I didn’t know Him nor was looking for Him and stuck in my sin in 2004, He radically changed my heart—not because of my works—but simply because He chose me before the foundation of the world. Eighteen years later, coming off the hardest season of my Christian life, and very vulnerable to the lies of the deceiver, this truth is still the same.

Today, what really struck me was The Helper. The Helper, the promised Holy Spirit comes to guide, convict, speak (and the Holy Spirit speaks the language of scripture), to reflect Christ’s glory to us, and to declare the truth. Back in 2004 when I first believed I was going through a difficult time. There were spiritual truths I needed to hear, but God was slow and gracious to allow the Spirit to slowly convict me of the things I needed to let go. At this time in my life, God used His people, but it was His Word that ended up truly probing my heart.

I remember coming to a certain verse, the certain discipline I needed, and The Spirit gave me eyes to see and ears to hear exactly what I needed to see and hear to let a certain something go. And I remember coming to my mentors about my newly discovered conviction and them saying, “Well, we have been telling you to do that for about six months now, Rachel.” It always amazes me to come back to that story. Our mentors usually know what we need and can give us advice. But it is the promised Helper, the Holy Spirit, that can only bring about a true spiritual heart change.

Here I am eighteen years later, still learning the same lesson. I have been sharing and asking mentors what I should do and how I should handle my situation. I deeply desired an instant-pot remedy for a slow-cooker problem. I wanted to outrun the Holy Spirit in my healing process. But I simply needed to sit in the darkness and wait on The Helper to teach me and probe my heart. I had to stop fixing and trying to make my situation better (or figure it out) and just wait on The Holy Spirit to show me what I needed to let go and guide me through the the words of Scripture. I needed a heart change that could only come from The Spirit who has made a permanent dwelling in my heart.

Both of these situations, eighteen years apart, have brought me to places where I needed to make a big change, let go, and trust God in the new chapter He is writing. Letting go is always painful and scary, but the One Who holds me is a glorious Savior. He has overcome the world. Why do I still fear?

PRAYER (ACTS Model: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication)

Lord, You are a glorious Savior, I confess that I do not always fully trust and I am not comfortable when I feel out of control. Thank you for sending the Promised Helper, The Holy Spirit to guide, convict, and sanctify me in the truth. Give me the grace to trust you in the next chapter you are writing for our family. In Your Name, Amen.

Joy in Obedience

Day Three—January 5, 2022

John 11-15


John 14:17


Free indeed and joy in obedience. To some, these two ideas may be in juxtaposition to one another. Admittedly, when I hit publish on my post yesterday, writing about freedom without joy in obedience felt like antinomianism.

In gospel living, freedom and joy in obedience are like peanut butter and jelly, Lexington and Wildcat hoops, or Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Freedom and joy in obedience exist together in Jesus. It was God’s plan before the fullness of time to send His Son (Jesus) so His (God the Father) people would be loved freely—not based on a human record but on the substitutional record of Christ—and find joy in following Christ and His teachings (obedience).

As I was reading on in John today, I was grateful for the words of Jesus when He says to His disciples, “that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be full,” (15:11). Jesus is speaking to His disciples right before His crucifixion, He knew He was leaving His friends (15:13) but promising them joy as they serve Him after His departure—life for the disciples after Jesus’s departure was not a day at the beach—but He promises them complete joy as they serve Him.

How can we have joy in obedience? Well, in John 14, Jesus promised His Spirit would be given, He would leave His Word, and He would leave His peace. The Spirit enables those who believe to have joy in obedience. This happens because those redeemed by Jesus now have union with Christ through an indwelling of a Spirit that is not of this world. And this brings us back to freedom—it is the Spirit who gives us joy in obedience. It’s not about us and our desires, those redeemed by Jesus live a life fueled by Jesus and His desires through the Spirit.

Whoa. I know. Way cooler than Lexington and Wildcat hoops (I write that to tease my Lexington native husband a bit.)

Final thought on this reading today. As I was teasing this out on my bike ride, I came back to Christ’s full humanity and full deity. Christ can give us assurance of His peace and joy in obedience as we live on earth because He was fully human. John 11 when John writes about the death of Lazarus. We see Jesus’s humanity through the telling of this story. Jesus was deeply moved, His soul was troubled, and He wept—also He knows He is going to be betrayed by those He called friends. We are promised peace in this world and joy in obedience by a Savior who dwelt in this world and experienced real emotions. He understands what it means to be deeply moved, troubled, and He understands mourning, weeping, loss, and betrayal.

What a glorious Savior.


These Chapters were so rich, and I am trying to discipline myself to only write for thirty minutes.

In addition to who Christ is from Day One and Day Two, in John 11-15 there were some big statements about who Christ is: the resurrection and the life, called King of Israel, the way, the truth, and the life, the true vine, a friend of the disciples which is greater than a master or a teacher.

Tomorrow will be my last day in John, I am cautiously and optimistically thinking about Isaiah for my next stop on this journey.

I have given you a forest level view of these chapters. For a closer look at the trees, check out this resource from CDM. I had the joy and privilege to write two entries for this devotional alongside the very talented women on CDM’s National Women’s Ministry Team: Abide In Me

Free Indeed

January 4, 2022

Day Two

John 6-10


Catch up on what I am doing HERE


Basic Observations from John 6-10

Who is Jesus? He is the bread of life, He came from above, He abides in us and we in Him, He knows the hearts of men (He knew Judas would betray Him), He is the light of the world, He sets us free, He has existed from eternity past (before Abraham was, I am), He is light, He makes the blind see, He walks on water, He commands the disciples to not fear, He is the good shepherd who lays His life down for His flock, He is the Son of God, He is not of this world, He knows His sheep.

What was His ministry on earth about? He fed the 5,000 men (most likely 20,000 people total), He was with the disciples, He went away to be alone, He walked on water, He is from the Father, He did not condemn the adulterous woman although the religious leaders wanted Him to do so, He came to set people free, He healed the blind man, He is the light that helps people see, He is the shepherd of one flock and He knows His sheep.

What does this mean to me in the present day?

There is something comforting about being deeply known and truly loved by God. In my earthly relationships, most people who know my personal warts and wrinkles—my weaknesses, flaws, sins, the moments I am stubborn and don’t believe—do not truly love me. In my earthly life, I am used to love that is transactional. A love that is given when I am behaving properly, when I am earning love, or when I am setting the right example. Unmerited love makes the gospel radical—inside out and upside down. It’s a concept which I have not even begun to scratch the surface. Even this side of heaven, to be completely known by an omniscient God, to be fully seen and exposed as I am, and still deeply loved is a heavenly idea I do not think I will ever fully comprehend. But because I can’t fully understand it, doesn’t make this upside down and inside out love any less true.

If Jesus is who He says He is in John 6-10, and I believe He is who He says He is, than He is my good shepherd who knows me and brings me in—even when I wander away—He brings me back, because He loves me so much He desires for me to remain close to Him and the flock. He doesn’t love me and bring me back based on what I do or don’t do, He loves me simply because I am His and because of who He is.

The Good Shepherd doesn’t just bring me in alone, He brings me into one flock (10:16). This reminds me of more community language. Faith is not something to live out alone—even though I have been in a lonely place, I am a member of one flock. My heavenly status should move me toward others—no matter how scary moving toward others may be. If He is the Good Shepherd, He will guide me and protect me.

These are not new truths to me, but difficult truths to synthesize as I walk in the now and the not yet. The now—the fact that I know who Jesus is and the Spirit gives me union with Him in the heavenly places—and the not yet—living out a heavenly status in a world that is fallen while also battling my own fallen heart.

If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. Today, I want to embrace this truth. I am free indeed because Jesus has set me free. I am deeply known by the Good Shepherd, and dearly loved. I am no longer bound to my former understanding of transactional love—I am free to rest in the radical, unmerited love of the Good Shepherd. This is a layer of faith I need to grow up into in the now and the not yet. I am free indeed because of Jesus. That is a deeply comforting truth.

Prayer

Lord, You are the Good Shepherd and You deeply know the hearts of Your sheep. You set people free from the earthly patterns that keep them in hiding and You bring them into one flock. Give me the confidence to rest in Your radical love. Move me toward others and teach me to love radically as You love radically. Give me the grace be content with where I am today and give me opportunities to pursue others as I work out what I believe is true in the now and the not yet.