What makes a “good and faithful servant”?

“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,” (1 Timothy 1:12)

“Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

Being a faithful servant does not come from striving for greater faithfulness in our Christian lives. It comes from God’s declaration over us as “faithful” because of Christ’s striving on our behalf.

Left to ourselves we will be blasphemers, persecutors, and insolent opponents to the cross and church of Christ. Our actions will betray us just as they did Abraham who lied, Moses who murdered, David who committed adultery, and Paul who persecuted Christ.

But God looked at the faith of Abraham and said, “Righteous” (Genesis 15:6) and “servant” (Genesis 26:24).

God looked at the life of Moses and declared him “a servant faithful in all my house” (Numbers 12:7).

God looked at David and called him “a man after my own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). God said that David “walked with integrity of heart and uprightness” (1 Kings 9:4).

Christ Jesus looked at Paul and judged him “faithful” (1 Timothy 1:12).

Even as believers our faith here on this earth is weak, faltering, impatient, and mixed with sin and unbelief. BUT, according to the record book of God in heaven there stands stamped over our account in letters of red “Faithful” (Colossians 2:13-14).

How can this be?

Jesus Christ was faithful on our behalf.

When we place our faith in Christ he not only saves us by grace through faith, but he sanctifies us by his grace through faith.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1–4)

Did you catch that? “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.” We no longer stand under any condemnation, not because of what we do, but because of what God did!

Through Christ we fulfill all the righteous requirement of the law, not because we do a better job at keeping the law, but because Christ kept it all for us.

“Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be loosing.”

We often see clearly that when we are saved we are only made alive by grace through faith. We must also see that we grow in maturity by grace through faith in Christ Jesus as well.

We grow in maturity through Christ, not through striving, but through knowing him (Philippians 3:8).

When we are finally glorified it will be because we “see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). We will know him truly and upon seeing him we will be transformed.

At the judgment whenever God will say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant” he will not be looking at our record of good works for him. He will be looking at the record of good works that Christ appointed, purchased, and accomplished through us by his power (Colossians 1:29), grace (Ephesians 2:10), mercy (2 Corinthians 4:1), and love (Ephesians 3:17-19).

What do we do now?

Now we live in freedom from being slaves to our own expectations and the expectations of others (Romans 8:2, 1 Corinthians 4:2-3).

Now we serve God and obey him without fear and share in his sufferings by his power (2 Timothy 1:7-9).

Now we grow up in every way into him who is our head through love (Ephesians 4:15-16).

Now we walk by the Spirit, bear the fruit of the Spirit, and crucify the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:16, 22-24).

Now we rejoice though we live as exiles and we are grieved for a short time by various trials (1 Peter 1:8).

Now we stand firm in Christ and look forward to our future home in heaven where we live as citizens (Philippians 3:20-4:1).

Now we truly live and give all praise to the one who saves us and sanctifies us by the blood of Christ.

Are you a limping, mutant Christian?

“The avoidance of pain is the beginning of all unhealthy behavior.”  ~M. Scott Peck

Guest post by Julie Warner

Pain is God’s tool

If M. Scott Peck’s statement above is true, and I absolutely believe that it is, we must learn to embrace pain.

We can embrace the painful circumstances, conversations, or issues in our lives with confidence and hope that looks to God to heal and free us from our unhealthy and unwise behaviors. If we are in Christ we can do this because we know that God never brings pain to destroy us.

Pain is the tool God uses to heal us and set us free.

Say what?! Pain as a tool to heal? Yes! He uses pain to strip away the dull, sick and lifeless parts of us, to put in its place life, health, and healing.

He sets us free to greater obedience and deeper faith in Him. This is how God works.

Look in Isaiah:
Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil. – Isaiah 1:5-6

Do you see how this works in Isaiah? There is sickness, brokenness and rebellion. If we don’t submit ourselves to the pain that comes when we deal with these issues – the sickness, brokenness and rebellion in our own hearts – we will not be healed.

When we avoid pain, conflict, or hard issues we don’t get better.

When we avoid pain, conflict, or hard issues we don’t get better. Things don’t get better when we ignore them and hope they go away. Healing doesn’t happen magically.

We have to submit ourselves to the one who made us, the Great Physician. God’s word is the light that shines grace and truth on our painful circumstance, conflict, or hurt so that we can see reality.

God wants us to live in reality and deal with the truth of what has happened to us or what we have done to others. If we avoid pain and conflict, we live in a lie. We pretend that the truth of the pain does not exist. We can’t live our Christian lives like this!!

God is truth! He works in truth. We must walk in truth and live in truth as He is in the truth. (Psalm 15:2, 86:11, 119:160, John 17:17, 1 John 1:6, 3 John 1:4)

How do we face the pain?

  • We look up.
  • We look to Jesus.
  • We get quiet before God.
  • We ask Him to show us our sin. (Psalm 51)
  • We get help from other Godly, mature Christ followers and we let them speak into our lives.
  • We wait on God for conviction.
  • We don’t rush ahead of God and throw ourselves into work, projects, or ministry.
  • We ask for grace to see the truth of our circumstance.
  • We deal with our own sin.
  • We don’t try to control or manipulate other people.
  • We don’t run away from the truth of pain. We let God use the pain to tell us where he is at work.
  • We open our Bibles and we ask God to show us how to deal with the pain we have.
  • We get help in understanding God’s word and how it relates to ourselves and our situations.

If we walk in the truth in these ways God will absolutely help us! He will bring the healing. He is the Great Physician who sets our broken bones back into place.

He is the one who comes with the oil of his Spirit through his Word to convict, comfort, and restore us. He frees us to follow Him and walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:4)

If we reject God’s offer of healing by avoiding reality, living in denial, or avoiding pain, we will live in a lie. Healing will not come. Growth, if any, will be stunted at best.

We will be limping, mutant Christians, dwarfed by our pride and unbelief. We don’t have to live this way!

Look up and look to Jesus. Live in reality. Press into the pain in your life. Ask Jesus to change and heal you. Wait for Him in expectant hope.

How to Defend the Authority of Scripture

Photo credit: Nick Kenrick. via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: Nick Kenrick. via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!” (Psalm 34:8-9)

Our culture does not need more information

that the Bible is reliable and authoritative,

why the Bible is reliable and authoritative,

or how the Bible is reliable and authoritative,

in order to know that the Bible is reliable and authoritative.

Our culture needs to taste and see that the Lord is good as they come into contact with the transformed the lives of those who actually live under the authority of the Bible.

More information about God will not ultimately save anyone. Knowing God by grace through faith saves all who will call on him.

We do not know that God is real merely because we have a mental awareness of his existence. We know that God is real when we actually taste and see that the Lord is good.

Yes, truth about the Bible needs to be communicated with words. Just as importantly, the truth about the Bible needs to be communicated with love on display in the lives of those who say they follow Jesus.

Peter says it this way,

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;” (1 Peter 1:22-23)

The “living and abiding word of God” makes us alive by grace through faith in the gospel for a specific reason — love.

Our souls are made holy so that we would “love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” (1 Peter 1:22) Not so that we would merely confront the “unholy” with information about the truth they need to submit to.

The Bible was not given to us simply to reveal information about God. The Bible is God’s word given to us to reveal God himself.

God gives us new life through his word,

in order for us to be holy,

in order for us to love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

in order for us to put away all the sinful behaviors that keep us from loving others well (e.g. malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander),

in order for us to continue to desire God’s word like a newborn desires milk,

in order for us to grow up into our salvation,

Because we have tasted that the Lord is good.

Knowing information about God is not the same as knowing God himself. Knowing information about God may give us a good list of things to believe and rules to obey, but mere information will not change our desires.

Information about God without transformed desires leading to transformed lives is merely a pretense of religion that denies the power of the Holy Spirit.

If we know God himself we will delight in him, because he is truly delightful.

You cannot have a taste of the transforming grace of God and walk away without a desire for more. Just as you cannot have a taste of a great meal, a fine wine, an exciting finish to a ball game, or a fantastic getaway with your spouse, and not desire more of those things.

If we don’t know God we will not delight in him. What we desire will reflect that.

Our desires reveal what our hearts delight in.

Delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires your heart ought to have. Delight in the Lord, and you will “long for the pure spiritual milk” of God and his word. (1 Peter 2:2-3)

How do you defend the authority of scripture?

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Believe the Bible. Submit yourself to the authority of the Bible. Live holy lives. Love others well. Give all glory to God.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

The Tapestry of Truth is Beautiful


“Providence is like a curious piece of tapestry made of a thousand shreds, which, single, appear useless, but put together, they represent a beautiful history to the eye.”

~John Flavel

God is the master storyteller. He is weaving his story in a tapestry that extends from before the beginning of time until after the end of history.

This tapestry has light places and dark places. To look only at one place without looking at the other misses them for what they are. Light places and dark places are best recognized in contrast with each other.

Our own lives are a part of this story. Our lives are just tiny threads in the great tapestry of God’s grand narrative. In them we find themes of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. This is all by God’s design.

Sometimes the thread of our life is woven into God’s tapestry in a light place. Sometimes our thread passes through a dark place. No matter where we find ourselves the mystery of providence is that our lives are part of a larger story that makes all of it beautiful.

It certainly doesn’t feel like a beautiful story when we are in the dark. But, if we belong to Christ, when we look back over the entirety of our lives we’ll see the dark places of our lives in contrast with the light and agree with God that it is beautiful.

The promise of scripture is that Jesus meets us in the light as well as in the dark — perhaps most profoundly, he meets us in the dark.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

When we are in the dark our lives are best judged, not by our surroundings but by the larger picture of God’s story. If we look only at our thread we could never see it in its proper place. God’s story is true and bigger than us. It is God’s truth that gives our life experience meaning.

The grand story of God is far greater than we could ever imagine. As we interact with it we realize that we are not the only ones to experience light and dark times. God himself in the person of Jesus Christ experienced light and dark times.

Jesus walked on earth. He left the light in order to walk in our darkness. He “learned obedience through what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8) He was forsaken in order to rescue all who would place their faith in him.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)

Jesus, the Son of God, went to the darkest place imaginable. He suffered the hell of the full wrath of God poured out on him on the cross. He was alone and utterly forsaken.

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

What do you do when you are in the dark? Let the light of the word of God be a lamp for your soul. Let it bathe you in its glow.

If your journey through the dark is a long one, and the light of the lamp is dim, understand that Jesus went there before you and will be with you now through your faith and obedience. It is a sign of his steadfast love.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. (Psalm 107:13-14)


Hope can grow anywhere

Hope grows

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.  ~ The Apostle Paul to his  disciple Timothy (1 Timothy 1:15)

Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”  ~ Jesus to the religious leaders of his day (Matthew 9:13)

It takes an intentional act of faith and mercy to step into someone else’s world and actually stay there to help them.

We have to be willing to lay aside our desires, our priorities, our time, and even our solutions in order to enter into those of another.

Entering into someone else’s world means that we cannot remain unchanged. We take on someone else’s hurts, difficulties, deficiencies, and mindset.

If we do not take on a part of those around us we will never fully become a part of the help they may need. We will also never open ourselves up to the help we may need from them.

At best we will be giving partial solutions to problems that don’t belong to us. At worst we will actually become a part of the problem we intended to help.

We must take the lives of others into ourselves in order to give of ourselves to them.  Both parties are changed in this process. Through this exchange what was once a wasteland of despair can become rich soil for the seeds of hope to be planted.

Christ came into this world to save sinners. He did not stay out of this world to save sinners. He did not stay in heaven and pull them up to him. He came down, took on flesh, felt our sorrow, felt our limitations, felt our pain, and felt our deepest desires.

The author of Hebrews says that Christ learned obedience through what he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8) It was suffering for Jesus to leave his eternal home, to lay aside his divine rights, to take on flesh, and become obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

When it says that Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered” it doesn’t mean that Jesus did not know what obedience was, or that he was disobedient to the Father prior to this.

Through entering into our suffering Jesus learned the experience of obedience to the Father in the context of adopting our humanity. He took on our flesh, our limitations, our weaknesses, our pain.

Jesus related to the Father as a human being. Only by taking on our flesh was he able to provide the hope of our salvation.

Jesus saved us not by riding in on his white horse (though one day he will do this), but by becoming small, weak, and human. Through entering into our world Jesus changed it forever, and now bears the scars to prove it.

When we enter into the world of another to live there with them, to experience their life, their pains, their struggles, and even their hopes and joys, a supernatural thing happens. This experience changes us in ways we might never expect, and this plants seeds of hope in the most unlikely places.

If we wish to see our families, our communities, our cities, and our world change we must first be changed ourselves. We must change how we think, how we live, and how we give by laying down our own lives for the good of another.

We cannot remain outside. We cannot remain proud. We cannot remain unaffected. We cannot remain indifferent.

If we desire to make a difference for someone else we must enter into their world. As this process changes us and them we find that hope can grow anywhere—even in our own hearts.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)

Reconciliation, Hope, Community, and The Dream Campaign


Dream_campaign“When this fire is lit every Monday night for the man cave Bible study the drug sales on the street stop, the solicitation stops, and men from their teens to their nineties gather to study and pray.”    ~Glenn Paddock

 “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”― Edmund Burke 

“Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” – the Apostle Paul

I would like to tell you a little bit about my friends Glenn and Morgan Paddock. I don’t know many people who have larger hearts for their community, and are more committed to giving back to making Savannah a better place to live.

It is this heart for Savannah and a Christlike love for people that drove them to move into their house at 34th and Reynolds in order to help make a difference in this midtown Savannah neighborhood.

Community presence

One thing that the Paddocks have recognized is that it is very hard to make a difference in the community without being a presence in the community. Living here helps them to identify with the burdens and struggles of the local neighborhood.

However, living here also allows them to experience it’s many surprising Joys. Here are just a few joys that I know of:

  • Hopscotch at 9:30 pm with children who are still out playing in the street.
  • Neighborhood movie nights outside with a big white sheet and a projector.
  • Crafts and projects on the back deck.
  • Trips to local baseball games.
  • Watching a young man learn how to use a drill for the first time or learning some other useful around-the-house project.
  • Helping girls get the experience of designing their own clothes and putting on a fashion show for the community.
  • Helping a single mom find a place of her own to call home.

This is just a very, very short list of things that the Paddocks are able to experience because of their commitment to being a presence in the neighborhood.

The basketball pad gives the neighborhood kids a place to play. The back deck gives the kids a place to learn, hang out, and sometimes eat hot dogs. The fire in the fire pit every Monday night lets the neighborhood know that somebody is home and they care about people.

Building relationships

The Dream Campaign house is a place that people in the neighborhood know they can get help. If they cannot find the help they need at the Dream Campaign they know that Glenn and Morgan can get them connected to people who can.

In a time when it seems that relationships, especially between ethnic groups, police, and communities are only breaking down or disintegrating completely this two-story house may as well be a lighthouse in a dark and stormy sea of tension, fear, and anger.

Children may show up at the door at any hour of the night needing someone to listen, basic household items, or protection from gunshots.

Whatever the need, their previous experience in relationship with Glenn and Morgan have told them that the Dream Campaign is a safe place.

Relationships are the glue that hold a community together. When relationships break down so do communities. The Paddocks, by being a presence in the neighborhood and working to build relationships here, have gone a long way to restoring this community to health.

Giving not taking . . .

. . .Unless it means taking kids to summer camp.

When children and families get connected with the Dream Campaign they are able to have experiences that they normally would not be able to take part in. This is because Glenn and Morgan are givers not takers.

They are giving back to this community in ways that are largely unrecognized. But, when you know what to look for, they are plainly evident.

Two major ways that I think the Dream Campaign is blessing this community by giving back is through giving time and opportunity.

By simply living here and giving of their time to the families and especially the children in their neighborhood the neighborhood is changing little by little. Time spent here and there at meals, learning activities, small groups, movie nights, late night emergencies, going to baseball games, and in many other ways slowly adds up.

Hope that was once small or, most likely, nonexistent begins to grow like a tiny plant rooted in the hearts that the Paddocks touch. You might say that God has given them the blessing of a green thumb for the cure of hurting souls. This major blessing grows out of the simple gift of giving of their time.

However, I’m sure if you were to ask them they would just simply say they’re doing what they feel called to do, and anyone can care for people.

Of the many opportunities they give, their major goal is to give students the opportunity to achieve their dreams. Boys and girls have the opportunity to learn basic life skills such as: learning how to ride a bike, fish, cook, sew, take care of a house, and help others through community service.

Students who come to the Dream Campaign begin to develop a bigger vision for their lives because they see that someone was willing to invest in who they are as people. This is both inspiring and empowering.

Taking part in simple opportunities to go to camp, learn a skill, help others, or give back to the community in which they live teaches these students that their lives matter and that they can make a difference for good in their families, with their friends, and in their community.

These students learn to give more than they take and everyone benefits.

Leaving things better than when you found them

It is a simple rule of the kindergarten class, clean up your mess, and leave your spot better than when you found it.

The Dream Campaign goes above and beyond in one simple yet profound way.

They adopted a spot that was not even theirs.

This neighborhood didn’t have to be theirs, but they had a vision to make a better place for some people. As a result all of Savannah is better off.

Now, instead of a back yard (which students were happy to play in before) they have a basketball goal, a fire pit, and a deck where relationships, hope, and dreams continue to develop.

Dream Campaign students helped to raise the money for the fire pit and the basketball pad that now impacts the community in far greater ways than they could have anticipated.

These things not only provide a place to gather and play, but because of the Bible study around the fire on Monday nights men in the community are being built up and equipped to take better care of themselves, their families, and their neighborhood.

The light from the fire grows as light from the Word reaches hearts and changes lives. The joy from the game grows as joy from relationships moves from house to house to help people see themselves and their neighbors from a different perspective—that of a friend.

How you can help

You have an important role to play here as well. What dreams have you been holding back on? Let the Dream Campaign inspire you to take action in your own sphere of influence.

You can have an influence in the lives of the people around you in the same simple ways. It may not be easy, but it can be as simple as meeting the needs of a neighbor.

Secondly, consider getting involved with the Dream Campaign. They have one project you can be involved with this week.

A Garden of Hope.

They need a few people to help provide the following items for a raised bed garden:

  • Top soil
  • Cedar planks and stakes
  • Plants
  • Mulch

The Dream Campaign students will be able to help care for the plants and beautify the neighborhood at the same time.

What we learned from the fire pit is that when people have ownership over their space it instills hope, pride, and care for a place they call home.

What will you do to care for the place you call home? Would you like to give someone else the opportunity to dream for theirs?

find out more at: www.helpmedream.org


Optimism vs. Hope

fighter_Martin Knize

“The optimists died of a broken heart.” ~ ADM. James Stockdale

The difference between optimism and hope is kind of like the difference between flattery and encouragement.

Flattery (for the most part) is only concerned with things on the surface level and is usually used as a way to get something from someone else.

Encouragement, on the other hand, can take into account the good, the bad, and the ugly, but still find a way to speak a genuine compliment into the life of another.

Encouragement is not given with the expectation of receiving something in return. Encouragement is not self-serving, but seeks the personal good of another.

Encouragement fully recognizes negative traits about someone or some situation, but will intentionally choose to focus on the positive or some way to constructively help the negative.

Encouragement finds hope even in the darkest situation.

In Psalm 12 David laments that “the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from the children of man. Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.”

It seems like a pretty bleak situation. It would be very difficult to maintain hope when there seems to be no one around you who is ready to do what is right.

There is no escape from those who want to do you harm. Instead of being genuine and truthful they only flatter you with their lips and betray you with a double heart.

How would you survive in such a situation?

You could choose to be optimistic or you could choose to be hopeful. What is the difference?

Optimism is positivity without acknowledging reality. Hope is full of faith regarding the future, but also fully realistic regarding what is happening right now.

Optimism says that everything will be OK because everything is OK. Hope says that everything will be OK, but only if you confront the most brutal facts facing your reality right now.

For the believer to overcome a bleak situation she has to survive with hope not mere optimism.

David knew that the Lord “will place the poor and needy in the safety for which he longs.” In contrast to the flatterers who spoke with a double heart, the words of the Lord could be trusted. “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace.” (Psalm 12:5-6)

Flattery is optimistic. Flattery ignores brutal facts and does not speak honestly to its hearers. It glosses over reality and boasts only in words. Flatterers make great boasts and say, “with our tongue we will prevail, our lips are over us; who is master over us?” (Psalm 12:3-4)

Encouragement is hopeful. Encouragement faces brutal facts head on and still finds the courage to speak honestly to its hearers. It fully acknowledges reality, but chooses to make its boast in what will truly prevail in the end.

Hope in God is truthful in the same way. Hope in God is faith in the sure promise that God will arise and will defend those who are in need of his help. However, you may need to face some brutal facts regarding your current reality.

That your life still contains hardship and difficulty doesn’t mean that God has abandoned you. It just means that he has not finished working his plan yet. In the end, salvation will come to all who have unwavering faith in him.

That your life still contains hardship and difficulty doesn’t mean that God has abandoned you. It just means that he has not finished working his plan yet. In the end, salvation will come to all who have unwavering faith in him.

David understood that hope must exist in the middle of hardship. He finishes his psalm with a discordant note. He knew the Lord would guard him from the wicked generation. However, he had to recognize “on every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of man.” (Psalm 12:7-8)

The question for us is, when life is difficult and there seems to be no reason for hope which path will we choose? Mere optimism won’t cut it. But, we do have a sure hope.

If we place our hope in Christ he becomes our anchor to ultimate reality and our living hope before God almighty. We can live at peace in the midst of the storms of life. This might seem like a paradox to many, but it will be an encouragement that all can believe in.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:19-20)

Below is the testimony of a real life example of living with hope. Jim Collins author of “Good to Great” relates the story of James Stockdale and what Stockdale learned from his experience in the “Hanoi Hilton” during the Vietnam War.



In Christ, you really are free

sparkler_girlSo Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-2)

In Christ you really are free. But Christ gets the right to define what he means by “freedom.”

Freedom is not the opportunity to do whatever we want, but the opportunity to do what we were created for.

Freedom comes from repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Freedom is a divine gift that makes us able to listen and respond to our creator.

When we are free we do not have the liberty to hurt or take advantage of others, to work for our own self-promotion or advancement, or to disobey God.

In Christ, true freedom means that we now have the opportunity and the ability to love God and love others. This is what we were made for.

Paul says to the Galatian church:

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)

We who have been set free in Christ are also free to own up to all our mistakes, failures, and sins. Christ gives us the grace to overcome them, the mercy not to be punished for them, and the peace of a reconciled relationship with God. (Colossains 1:19-20)

Christ’s death on the cross provides satisfaction to God for all our sins. We are now free to own them, confess them before him, repent, and run back to him for the forgiveness that he offers when we fall.

This is true freedom, because we now have the opportunity to break free from what once enslaved us — our sin and all the condemnation that comes with it.

We now have the freedom not to listen to the voices of condemnation because the voice of God sings over us.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

We don’t have to submit to voices that tell us, “You’re not good enough!” “You’ll never amount to anything!” “No one could save you after the things you’ve done!” “You’re a failure . . . bad mom . . . bad dad . . . bad student . . . bad kid . . . bad employee . . . bad son . . . bad daughter . . . bad _____”

The voice of the Lord says, “You are my child! You belong to me. The blood of Christ pleads your case before my throne and I listen to him. No one else.”

As believers in Christ maturing in our faith means training our ears to listen to God’s voice above anyone else’s. God’s voice comes to us through his word.

He may use a faithful brother or sister to direct us to the word. He may use a sermon, podcast, blog, social media post, or any other means, but he will always bring life and growth through his word. (John 8:31; 15:7-8)

So, whose word are you listening to? Is that voice speaking freedom to you? Is that voice directing you to Christ? Is that voice taking you to the word of God that brings life?

If you are a believer in Christ or if you are not, you can have great freedom today. You can have God’s word abiding in you. You can have life! Just believe the words of the one whom he has sent. (John 5:37-40)

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)


Silence from God

silence from God Many times when our life is not going how we think it ought to it feels to us that God is silent or far away.

Just because this is what it feels like, it doesn’t mean it is true.

The Psalmists also had many times where they felt like God was silent. They were in trouble, and it seemed to them that God was not listening.

God was not paying attention.

God was not acting on behalf of their cause.

For example:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” – Psalm 22:1-2

How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever? Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them! – Psalm 74:10-11

“Be not silent, O God of my praise! For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues.” – Psalm 109:1-2

However, when God feels silent we cannot blame God for not speaking. We have to examine ourselves to find out why or how we are not listening.

God is not Silent

God is never silent because every day proclaims his name, and his Word declares his truth, promises, and character.

Psalm 19:1 tells us that the heavens declare the glory of God.

Psalm 19:7-11 tells us that God’s word is perfect, and that it gives us the help we need to bring discernment to our lives and live in the way he intended us to live.

God’s word revives us, makes us wise, rejoices our hearts, enlightens us, warns us, and brings the rewards of obedience.

A different perspective on God’s “Silence”

What if we let the feeling that God is silent be a reminder for us to believe his promises, instead of allowing it to be a temptation for us to be afraid, bitter, or angry?

The feeling of silence from God should prod us to ask him more fervently to open our ears so that we can hear him.

Many times God will allow us to feel silence from him so that we learn to seek him more diligently.

God tells us to seek him earnestly:

8 You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” 9 Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! – Psalm 27:8-9

The promise is that when God feels silent those who seek after God will receive the reward of finding him.

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. – Psalm 91:14-15

Why does God do it this way?

Because God, like any personal being, doesn’t just want us to know things about him he wants to know him.

God doesn’t just want us to know that he can save and he will save. God wants us to fully experience his salvation in the context of a relationship with him.

How do we position ourselves in the flow of grace that allows us to hear from God?

Two answers from the Psalms come to mind: Wait on the Lord; Look for the resolution.

Wait on the Lord!

Waiting on God is essential for living a faith-filled and godly life.

Waiting on the Lord doesn’t mean that we are passive or inactive.

Waiting on the Lord means that we continually seek God through his word and in prayer. By doing these things we express our faith that God is at work no matter how we feel about our life.

It is the difference between the way one might wait with a magazine in the doctor’s office, and the way a shortstop waits for the next play in the World Series.

The shortstop is practiced, prepared, and actively waiting to respond to what is about to happen.

When we wait on the Lord we are practiced in obedience, prepared by knowledge of his word, and actively waiting to respond when he moves.

Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. – Psalm 33:20-22

Look for the resolution

In the Psalms we have small scale examples of pressing forward in search of the Lord in faith until God brings the resolution.

Either God will provide the answer for us, or we will continue to trust God until he provides.

In Psalm 10 the author reminds himself that God does see everything. (Psalm 10:14) God actually has the entire picture that neither the righteous, nor the wicked can see.

The wicked cannot see that God will put an end to their wicked ways, and the righteous cannot fully see that God will bring about their desired salvation.

Our enemy may not be a person. Our enemy might be failed plans, getting fired, an angry spouse, a bitter spirit, internal struggles, family brokenness, church strife, a horrific accident, or any other daily hardship we endure.

All enemies to righteous living in a fallen world will one day be conquered by the God who sees all, knows all, has all wisdom, and all power to deal with every situation.

God hears the desire of the afflicted; he will strengthen their heart; He will incline his ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that every enemy that stands against us on this temporary earth will strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:17-18)

Obedience in the face of opposition


Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.”

And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.

But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”

Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.” (Nehemiah 2:17-20)

Nehemiah was wise because he expected that he would face opposition when he stepped out in faith to accomplish what God told him to do.

Nehemiah was faithful because he expected that he would obey for the glory of God’s name in spite of the opposition.

Nehemiah was obedient because he knew that he had the blessing of God and the resources of God to face the opposition.

Nehemiah was successful because he expected that God would make him to prosper and that God would overcome all opposition.

What apparent obstacle are you facing today? Is there something standing in the path between you and the successful completion of your task?

Maybe your obstacle is someone condemning you for your faith. Maybe it is a bad attitude of complaining and ingratitude. Maybe it is a physical limitation or disability. Maybe it is a wayward child. Maybe it is depression.

Whatever your obstacle, If you are a believer in Christ, the hand of God is with you to accomplish the task he has given you to do.

He may remove the obstacle from your path.


He may  give you the grace to sustain you through the obstacle so that you will come to a greater reliance on him for your daily needs. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

The greatest victory we have is trusting in God no matter what happens. God is the one who accomplishes the victory. We are the ones who overcome the world.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4)