Responsible Freedom

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. (1 Peter 2:16)

It’s the great paradox of Christian freedom that those who are most free, choose to live as obedient slaves of God. Understanding this is critical to a rich and expanding faith.

We are truly free. We have been released from spiritual ignorance and darkness. All our sins forgiven. All debts to God cancelled. Our future in Christ’s kingdom assured. We have received the Holy Spirt as a sign and seal of that freedom.

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Dealing with Shame

The witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man name Saul. . . . And as they were stoning Stephen. . . Saul approved of his execution. (Acts 8:1)

It’s hard to imagine anything more vicious. As a hail of rocks, thrown in hate, smashed life from Stephen’s body, the young man Saul stood by giving his approval. 

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Faith at the Door of the Fiery Furnace

Furious with rage, Nebuchadnzzar said, “If you do not worship the image I have made, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. (Daniel 3:13-16)

Picture three men about to be thrown into a furnace. Fire roars in their ears and waves of superheated air flow toward them. Pain!

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Is Donald Trump God’s “Cyrus”?

There is a claim, some even call it “a prophecy,” that Donald Trump is a leader appointed by God to rescue America.  He has, it is said, the “Cyrus anointing.” If this were just a case of suggestive comparison, it could perhaps be justified. Unfortunately and too often it is used as the basis for claiming divine blessing on the Trump presidency.

In Isaiah Cyrus is summoned “by name” to fulfill the Lord’s purposes in a specific situation. It is a basic principle of biblical interpretation that none of what is said there can validly be applied to the President of the United States in 2019, and there is, in any case, no similarity “by name” to “Trump.” But there are other more important biblical reasons for doubting the link between Trump and Cyrus.

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When Servant Leaders MUST Fire Someone

There is no better way to help people achieve at their highest potential than servant leadership. Servant leaders, committed to the mission, the organization, and their people, work to find more effective means to achieve, strengthen their organization, and build up their people. When the leader’s concern for people is sincere and trusted, expectations can be discussed openly and problems corrected. Occasions when someone has to separated from the organization and the team are few.

An Inescapable Responsibility
However, there are situations where a servant leader must take action to remove someone. Some of these situations are — or should be — easy decisions.

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Confession Meets Forgiveness

I  am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt. . . .
Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept.
Genesis 45.4,14

When sincere confession meets deep forgiveness, amazing things can happen. Consider one, truly amazing case. The case of Judah.

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Crossing the River of Fear


 

In three days, you will cross the Jordan River. This is my command—
be strong and courageous! 
For the Lord your God is with
you wherever you go.”  
Joshua 1:9-11

The river was dark with fear: hesitations, doubts, timidity. On this side the people of Israel. On the other, the land of God’s promise. Just step in. Walk across. Easy! Right?

Wrong!

There were two problems: the first physical, the second spiritual. The Jordan was at flood stage: wide, deep, fast, dangerous. God worked a miracle. The waters stopped. The river dried up. Problem one solved.

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Break Free from Your “List”

Just as Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so human
desire is never satisfied. Proverbs 27:20

As a boy, I had a painful longing for a certain baseball glove. When my father gave it to me, I was ecstatic, but a week later I discovered that I wanted a new bat. After that is was a certain pocket knife. And then more. It seemed that taking one thing off the list inevitably meant one more thing—usually several more—were added.

Sometimes shorter, most often longer, the list of things I wanted was never empty. Sixty years later what I want has changed, but my list still is not empty. You have a list too, and it’s not empty. It never will be.

“Human desire is never satisfied,” the Scripture says. Why? The answer may surprise you.

Our desires and longings were never meant to be fully satisfied by things or relationships or anything else within the circle of this earth. We are incomplete. We long for more and always will, because only the joys of heaven will fully and finally satisfy our deepest needs.

Really? Are we inescapably chained to unsatisfied longings that will forever gnaw at us? No!

Full satisfaction of our desires awaits arrival in our forever home. It is a promise for the future and hope for today, but we do not have to trapped in our desires.  “Rejoice always,” the Apostle Paul writes, “gives thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

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Courage to Continue

We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold
our original confidence firm to the end.
(Hebrews 12:12-13)

175 meters from the finish, searing pain shot down Derek Redmond’s right leg. He fell in agony to the ground, his Olympic dream over. To everyone’s amazement, he struggled to his feet, determined to finish the race. On one leg, he began to hop forward.

Suddenly, a man jumped from the stands. Pushing past the security guards, he ran to Derek and put his arm around the injured athlete. They crossed the finish line together. 65,000 fans stood and roared approval. Courage!

The man who helped him across the finish line? It was his father.

This Scripture encourages us to hold fast to confidence in Christ. Along the course of our race there are many obstacle, not the least is what Hebrews calls “the sin that clings so closely” (Hebrews 12.1).

It takes two things to continue. The first is courage. We may stumble, fall, suffer hurt and setback, but then we must get up again. If we can’t run, we can hop. Can’t hop? We crawl. Can’t crawl? God carries us.

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Spread It Out Before the Lord!

After Hezekiah received the letter, he spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed. (Isaiah 37:14-15)

One day your life is running along in its normal way, and then, without warning, arrives a worry, a demand, a threat, perhaps frightening, possibly overwhelming. What do you do?

Hezekiah had a day like that. He received a letter from the King of Assyria. The scroll contained a demand and a threat. If the demand was frightening, the threat was terrifying. Hezekiah would either surrender Jerusalem to the Assyrian king or he and its entire population would be destroyed.

Today we unfold letters. In the ancient world scrolls had to be spread out flat. Hezekiah took the threatening scroll up to the temple and “spread it out before the Lord.”

Can you picture Hezekiah hands moving from side to side as he unrolls the scroll on the altar? As Isaiah says, he “spreads it out before the Lord,” placing the entire situation into God’s hands.

This is a powerful moment we can learn from. Faced with death and destruction, Hezekiah’s immediately goes before God and spreads it out before the Lord in prayer.

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Guy Saffold

I’ve observed leaders for many years, always asking the question, “What should a person do to lead in more Christian ways?” It’s often not an easy question to answer in the midst of the day-to-day events that whirl around a leader. Here I explore some of the dilemmas and answers. I also post some devotional thoughts about the application of biblical teaching.