5 Smooth Stones

There is a standoff in the Valley of Elah.  Two armies stand prepared to fight – on one side stands the Philistine giants and on the other stands God’s people Israel.  And knowing they had God’s favor, you would think Israel would charge in and claim their victory.  But no.

 

Israel stands “dismayed and greatly afraid” (1 Samuel 17:11), refusing to go forth and fight.  They are ready to fight physically, dressed in full “battle array” (1 Samuel 17:21).  But mentally they are discouraged by the enormous size and excessive armor of their challengers.  And this continues for “forty days, morning and evening” (1 Samuel 17:16).  Until a young shepherd boy shows up at the request of his father to check on his brothers (1 Samuel 17:18).

 

And as David comes on the mountain, he hears the taunt (1 Samuel 17:23) and sees Israel flee (1 Samuel 17:24).  So how does the young shepherd respond?  Does David cower as the Israelite army?  No.  David is outraged that someone would speak against his God (1 Samuel 17:26).  And he is ready to fight.  He goes to King Saul and asks for the opportunity to defeat the haughty Philistine Goliath.

 

Saul takes an assessment – David is inexperienced, ill-equipped, and in no way able to win.  But David will not be dissuaded.  He has fought battles in the sheep fields with wild animals (1 Samuel 17:34-36a), and he is fully convinced wholeheartedly that he can win today (1 Samuel 17:36b).

 

So Saul figures David’s only chance to win is to dress him for battle, like his opponent.  Goliath “had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail … bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders” (1 Samuel 17:5-6).  So David is given “[Saul’s] armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail” (1 Samuel 17:38).

 

But when David tries to walk away, the armor is too heavy, too awkward, and too ill-fitting.  “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them” (1 Samuel 17:39b).

 

David cannot move in Saul’s armor.  But more than that, David is uncomfortable in Saul’s armor.  He is a simple shepherd.  What use would he have had for battle armor?  He has spent his days with the sheep, his staff as his main defense.  What good would heavy armor have done if he needed to quickly chase a wandering sheep?

 

He can’t move, therefore he can’t fight.  So he has two options – do like the Israelite army and give up or find another way.

 

And David doesn’t hesitate.  “So David took them off” (1 Samuel 17:39c) and allowed himself to be who God created him to be.  A shepherd whose mobility could not be burdened by heavy armor and artillery, with little at his disposal.  And I wonder how good David had gotten with small stones he found on the ground of the sheep fields.  Obviously pretty good, because “… he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, …” (1 Samuel 17:40).

 

A whole army’s worth of armor and weapons at his disposal.  And David bypasses them all for five simple stones and his shepherd’s gear.

5 Smooth Stones

And we know how the story ends.  He only needed a simple stone and great faith to beat the giant (1 Samuel 17:49-51).

 

David was victorious because he did not let the circumstances overwhelm him and he did not bow down to the status quo.  He didn’t care about the size of his opponent because he knew the power of His God.  He didn’t try to make the awkward armor work because he knew it would be nothing but failure.  He knew who he was, he knew his strengths, and he knew how he had been successful.  And none of that included Saul’s armor.

 

So how does this apply to you?

 

Are you trying to be someone God did not create you to be?  Are you putting on the ill-fitted expectations of your parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, coworkers, boss, or children?  Are you living an awkward life wearing someone else’s ideology of success, happiness, and goodness?  Are you burdened by the heaviness of shame, pain, or fear?

 

Today is the day to take it all off.  To remove whatever awkward, ill-fitting, and heavy expectations, feelings, and relationships don’t fit you.

 

Because the advice, direction, and influence of people don’t always agree with the purposes, plans, and personality [within us] of God.  These people mean well, but they could be steering away from the person God is calling us to be and purposes God is calling us to.  So we have to go back to who we know we are through Christ, to be our authentic self and walk in the gifts and talents from God.  Because when we fight them, we will be miserable.

 

And David got this.  David knew if he tried to wear the armor not designed or comfortable for him, defeat would have been inevitable.  So he took it off.

 

What armor do you need to take off today?

 

Marie Fremin.  5/5/18, 5/10/18, 6/6-8/18.

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Grace: God vs. Man

I have been thinking a lot about grace recently.  Apparently, a (big) life change will lead you down that road.

 

Three weeks ago, I was dealt an unexpected blow.  No, I didn’t see it coming.  No, I didn’t know it was being planned.  No, I didn’t expect it.  But did it break me?  No!  Because as I sat across from someone who defined me by a self-proclaimed stereotype a long time ago and refused to let it go, I was overwhelmed by God’s grace.  I immediately saw the hand of God on my life and realized God was at work to remove me – with blessings – from a situation that had never been healthy for me.  And internally I smiled and praised, because God’s grace produced such peace in me.  I was good – no, I was great – in the middle of this sudden life twist.  How?  Because God reassured me He is with me (always) and was closing out this season according to His purpose.  And I have the hope that He was already working out the new season of His plans for me.

 

God’s grace was at it always is – present, peace-full, and perpetual.

 

Man’s grace, however, once again showed up for what it often is – judgmental, contrary, and specifically limited.

 

And as I think about my recent days and ponder people versus God when it comes to grace, it becomes abundantly clear that while God’s grace is readily available, man’s is not.  And rarely will man be so carefree with his grace as God is.

Grace - God vs Man

Because we as humans feel like we cannot freely give grace.

We have to hoard it.

We have to withhold it.

We refuse to give it.

We dole it out in portions that satisfy us and our stereotypes.

 

So freely we take grace from God.  Yet so easily we refuse to give it to others.

 

But WHY?

 

Why do we choose to be caustic, cautious, careful, and casual about giving grace?  Is it because we sit in judgment of people based on our goodness and standards?  Is it because we are fearful God will punish us or won’t “refill” us for giving away what He gave us?  Or is it because we are drawn to disobedience and going our own way?

 

Ouch!

 

And then I wonder.  I wonder how someone can look you in the eye and call you worthless, no matter how hard you work.  Judge you as trouble, no matter what the evidence says to the contrary.  Allow someone to yell at and revile you publicly (and loudly) without consequence.  And all the while unapologetically demanding respect – and grace – in return.

 

And through it all, I am really expected to extend grace?  YES.  Because God extends grace to me.  When I least deserve it.  When I’m at my worst.  When I could care less who I hurt.

 

God is never like man with grace.  He’s never cautious or hesitant.  He’s never careful.  He’s never casual.  He’s never caustic.

 

He gives grace freely and fully.

When we ask.

 

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

 

We can come without hesitation, without fear, and without shame to His “throne of grace”, to find the freedom and healing we need – whether we have withheld grace or had grace withheld.

 

So will you be humble enough today to seek and ask God for the grace you need?

 

Marie Fremin.  5/19/18 and 6/7/18

Come to the Altar

“O come to the altar / The Father’s arms are open wide / Forgiveness was bought with / The precious blood of Jesus Christ” (Elevation Worship)

 

We all have an altar in the center of our hearts.

 

We all have the place from which we give our affection, our attention, and our appreciation.

We all have the core of our beliefs – if God is real, if forgiveness is necessary, and if joy is possible.

We all have the driving force of our thoughts, our actions, our words, and our feelings.

Come to the Altar

What’s on your altar?

 

Is it self-righteousness, the feeling of being better than others at life and faith?

Is it self-importance, knowing you have the right name brand stuff or social media “friends”?

Is it shame, a feeling of being dirty and unworthy because of bad choices?

Is it fear, the overwhelming anxiety of not being in total control?

Is it lust, the all-consuming passion for things not meant for you?

Is it anger, the rage and frustration that overwhelms kindness?

Is it jealousy, the deep-seeded desire for blessings you see in other people’s lives?

Is it greed, a selfishness that keeps you from acts of generosity?

 

Or …

Is it God’s love, which is bigger than any situation you will face?

Is it God’s grace, which can redeem any situation for His glory?

Is it God’s hope, which reminds you daily of His purposes for you?

 

God wants whatever is on the altar of your heart.

And if it isn’t His best for you, He wants to burn it up.

Because He wants to place His grace there instead.

He wants to overflow you with forgiveness and freedom.

He wants to generously give you life, joy, and peace.

 

He wants to change who you are so you best reflect Him.

And it starts with our altars.

And what is influencing us.

 

He warned Old Testament Israel repeatedly about the altars they would encounter in the Promised Land – “But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images)” (Exodus 34:13).  Because My children Israel, these altars represent all the things I, Your God, want to protect you from – greed, lust, selfishness, idolatry, and pagan sacrifice.  Stay far away from such things.  Destroy the ones you come near.  Do not let them persuade you or distract you.  Remove them as obstacles, because they will ultimately hinder our relationship and stop the blessings I want to give you.

 

Instead, be like Abraham in Genesis 22.  Lay your most precious things on the altar of His love.  Give Him all you have – especially those things of highest value and biggest sacrifice.  Trust Him with the outcome of your offering.  And like Abraham, He will bless you with more than you could expect.

 

So I will ask again – what is on your altar?

 

God wants to take anything that isn’t His fruit or His best and redeem it for your good and His glory.  Like He did for Israel with Elijah – 1 Kings 18:38-39 – “38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!

 

He will replace your self-righteousness with compassion, self-importance with humility, shame with freedom, fear with courage, lust with self-control, anger with forgiveness, jealousy with contentment, and greed with generosity.

 

Then your altar becomes “El Bethel” (Genesis 35:7) – of the glory of God.

 

So will you answer God’s invitation to “O come to the altar”?  Be like David and run with loud praises and great affection “to the altar of God”, where you will find unending grace and unwavering mercy leading to “exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4).

 

Marie Fremin.  1/28/18.  2/3/18.  2/18/18.  3/10/18.  5/22/18.  6/7/18.

Great Vacation

God blesses.

Bountifully.

And it could so easily be missed.

Because we choose not to look up from our bubble of self.

 

But thank God I did not miss the blessing of one perfect week.

 

Because I lost a job that ate up all my time and energy and kept me chained to a desk.  And because I was free, I finally had the time needed to take a long overdue vacation.

 

And that vacation was great, even though there were no big adventures or tourist attractions.

 

Because that week, all of our family was in town.  So we got to visit throughout the week with everyone who lives there.

 

Because that week, there was no predicted – or actual – rain.  Which is unusual for where we were.  Not one day of rain to ruin plans or worry grandmothers.

 

Because that week, there was no congested traffic or major accidents on our side of the interstates.  A slow down or two, but no shut down or outright stop.  So we could cruise right through our 500 miles in good time.

 

Because that week, there were no medical emergencies or issues.  So we were able to visit at home and just relax, casually doing nothing more than enjoying each other’s company.

 

Because that week, I got to hug a person who has been a special part of my life and talk to her face-to-face.  A former mentor who has been encouraging through my last twenty years.  Someone who made me laugh and feel better about myself while looking at each other face-to-face.

 

Because that week, I disconnected from the internet.  Our “hotel” has never been connected, so I could only check email from my phone.  And I intentionally did not do any job hunting or respond to any emails, choosing to be in the moment instead of at the coffee house using their free internet.  Because responses keep – relationships don’t.

 

And when I look at it, all I can say is wow!  It all lines up into one big ongoing blessing.  And I smile as I realize that yes, “[He] is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).  Because I would have never dreamed that everything would have lined up to be as much as it did.  I expected great food (and definitely got a lot of it).  But I got so much more.  Including getting to kiss my almost 95 year old grandmother every night before she went to bed.  Precious memories that cannot be taken away.  Thank You God for being so generous and good to this girl!

granny 05-2018

 

Marie Fremin.  5/5/18 and 6/6/18

Reckless Love

Reckless Love

This new popular Cory Asbury song has really gotten me thinking about what it means to be reckless.  In our simple human spectrum, to be reckless is to be careless, thoughtless, hasty, impulsive, or irresponsible (Google dictionary).

 

But in God’s realm, reckless takes on a totally new meaning and significance.  God is all about the audacious – with His love, His compassion, His care, His forgiveness, His grace, and His mercy.

 

He gives in abundance.

He gives continually.

He gives unconditionally.

Without question, without qualm, without quibble.

 

He has great care for us, wanting to touch and transform our hearts.  He has much thought for us, allowing us to use the gifts He has given us to be part of His purposes.  Nothing He does or allows is impulsive or without consideration of the consequences.  Everything is filtered through His grace to bring glory to His name.  He is a guardian of our hearts, never irresponsible with our soul.  He knows what we will allow to touch it, and He will use everything to refine us in the image of Jesus and reform us by amazing measures of grace.

 

He gives to us, and it will be without measure and with great pleasure as long as we allow it.

 

So much different from us simple humans.

 

I keep thinking how we are reckless – but usually not in the same unconditional and forgiving ways as God.

 

Because we tend toward selfishness instead of selflessness.  We often do what will help us advance or succeed instead of loving like Jesus did (perhaps at personal cost).  We often speak to help our agenda or defend our “rightness” instead of listening, praying, or considering our impact.  We often think in terms of judgment, pity, or condemnation instead of seeing a beloved child of God who needs grace.

 

We are often people whose importance is “me”.  What have I earned?  What do I deserve?  What will you do for me?  We focus on ourselves.  We center on what we need and want.  We lean in only because it benefits us.

 

When God has called us to reckless – aka audacious – love and grace.  How can I help you?  How can I encourage you?  How can I show you that you are important?

 

And I readily admit that it is HARD for me to be so reckless.  To take my eyes, my heart, and my mind off me – at times it is almost impossible.  Because in those moments my flesh has taken control, demanding everything it thinks I am lacking and driving me constantly back to me, to make all I say, do, and think all about me.

 

And in those times it takes God’s audacious grace to pull me out of the quicksand of “me” and set me right again.

 

So now I stop and consider what I am audacious about.  Is it mostly me and my well-being?  Or am I on alert for opportunities of grace God surrounds me with?

 

Loving Father, thank You for Your audacious love toward us, which never gives up on us and always encourages more of You in our lives.  Help everyone reading this to become more reckless for and with You.  Help us to see each opportunity for audacious love and grace You put in front of us – and to recklessly go after it, for Your glory.  In Jesus’ almighty name.  AMEN!

 

 

An extra nugget:

Here’s the great irony: as much as I am for and about me, how much more is God!  He is reckless for me and with me and about me, wanting me to benefit and be blessed.  He wants me to experience the FULL measure of His love – in having abundant joy, peace, hope, healing, forgiveness, and contentment.

 

Marie Fremin.  5/19/18

Resentment Be Gone

I am going to tell on myself – my mind is a mess recently.  I have had thoughts so far from grace and truth that I could have easily lost myself in the mess.  They always came at work – and feeling unappreciated.  Watching other people get praised.  Seeing other people get raises.  Feeling overlooked and overwhelmed.

Resentment Be Gone

The thoughts would come, unexpected.  They tried to take root, wanting to undo any goodness that actually existed.  And as soon as I realized what was going on, I shook the thoughts out, laughed, and prayed for protection.

 

Because resentment wanted to become my master, the mistress of my heart.  And she is a harsh mistress.  She won’t go quietly away.  Once she has a hold on you, it can become a death grip.  She wants everything you have, and she will come for you until she has it.

 

She wants your relationships.  She wants to separate you from people who can encourage you and help you grow.  She wants to connect you with people who make you question God’s goodness and who steal God’s peace.  She wants to isolate you from His light and integrate you into the darkness of the world.

 

She wants your mind.  She wants to steer your thinking in a direction away from God’s truth and love.  She wants to convince you that people think badly of you … and for good reasons.  She wants you to think about everything you aren’t – and how God stays away from such things.

 

She wants your affection.  She wants to take compassion and stomp it out with carelessness and caustic feelings.  She wants to suffocate goodness out of the picture completely.  She chooses anger, animosity, and anguish over acceptance, hospitality, and forgiveness.

 

She wants your words.  She wants you to speak rashly and quickly, without pause or consideration.  She wants knee-jerk reactions and thoughtless comebacks.  She wants harsh retorts and hard remarks without care or grace.

 

She wants your focus.  She wants to be the center of your attention.  She wants to be the “comfort” you turn to when circumstances are rough and unfair.  She wants you to turn to her first to revel in all the wrongs in your life.

 

Again, she wants all you are and all you have.  And she will dig her fingernails in inch by painful inch into whatever area of flesh you give her.

 

So how do we combat her and her deadly influence?  It starts by recognizing her when she creeps in.  Hear her evil whisper.  See her harsh influence.  Realize she lurks to wage war against truth.

 

Then fight the good fight by being grateful.  Look at your blessings and count them.  Be thankful for how God has His hand on your life and is taking care of you.  Be content with the life, the gifts, and the blessings you have.

 

There is plenty of direction to help us:

  • Hebrews 13:5 – “Let yourconduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”
  • Luke 3:14 – “Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be contentwith your wages.’
  • Philippians 4:11 – “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be 
  • 1 Timothy 6:6-8 – “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
  • Jeremiah 31:14 – “I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance, And My people shall be satisfiedwith My goodness, says the Lord.
  • Jeremiah 31:25 – “For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.
  • Psalm 128:2 – “When you eat the labor of your hands, You shall be happy, and it shall bewell with you.
  • Proverbs 14:14 – “The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, But a good man will be satisfiedfrom above.

 

So how did I handle it?  As I sat at my desk and heard the words scroll through my brain, I began to recite the history of God’s goodness and the litany of God’s blessings in my life.  How can I be resentful when I think about how blessed I am?  I can’t.

 

So maybe today we can encourage each other to appreciate what we have and stop worrying about everything else.

 

Loving Father, thank You for everything You have given me.  Thank You for every blessing – those I see and those I have yet to see.  When I take my eyes off You and allow resentment to creep in, please help me to recognize it immediately and stop it!  I want to be content at all times and in all circumstances.  So help me to tune out every whisper that isn’t from You.  Help me to not be influenced away from Your goodness, Your grace, and Your generosity.  Help me to stand firm in my faith that what I have is more than enough.  In Jesus’ all-mighty name.  AMEN!

 

Marie Fremin.  5/1/18 and 5/4/18.

Lot’s Wife

When was the last time you had a big life change?

 

They can be tough.  Especially when they are unexpected.  When the solid ground beneath you suddenly opens up and swallows your security.

 

And you have to decide.

Trust God or freak out.

Settle into peace or pass out in fear.

Believe in something better or try to hang on to something not good for you.

 

And I believe God hopes we will settle into His grace and trust the unknown plans He is orchestrating.

 

Just like He hoped with Lot and his family.  When the city of Sodom and Gomorrah became too far gone with no remorse, God decided to destroy the city.  Except for one righteous man, Lot.  God asks that in exchange for their lives that they “Don’t look back …” (Genesis 19:17).

 

While I am drawing you away from danger and destruction, don’t wish to be back in your home or talking to your friends.  Don’t long to be part of that world anymore.  It has nothing of value, of substance, or of faith.  I am saving you from its destruction, so look ahead to the possibilities of the future.

 

But Lot’s wife could not let go.  That life had become more important to her than God.  So she “… looked back …” (Genesis 19:26), unable to believe the desert in front of her held any possibility.

 

And God saw where her heart was set.   So “… she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26).

Lot's Wife

It seems harsh and somewhat cruel.  I cannot begin to understand God’s purpose.

 

But I can see a valuable lesson – by grace she was saved, but she refused it.  She rejected all God offered her in the moment, believing He was stealing her from something better.

 

Even Jesus used her as an example – “32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it” (Luke 17:32-33).

 

Remember that wanting something outside of God’s best will eventually destroy you.

It will never bring lasting goodness or sustaining grace.

 

Don’t look back and long to be where you were scared, proud, insecure, or overly secure.

Don’t look back and want to stay in a rut that was keeping you from growing and changing.

Don’t look back and wish that you had the stress and joylessness that were destroying you piece by piece.

 

Trust God when He pulls you out of a job a relationship, a church, a house, or a city.  Believe with absolute confidence that He is going to take care of you as He brings you to something better.  Let your faith be grounded in His continuing goodness.

 

So consider where you are today.

Then consider where you were.

Now choose to believe God is at work for your good.

 

And you won’t want to look (go) back – except to thank Him for how far He’s brought you.

 

Marie Fremin.  4/29/18