There’s Freedom in Submission

We sure do love to spout off about our rights and freedoms in this country.  It’s the whole “freedom of this,” “freedom from that,” “Don’t tread on me” mentality.  The freedoms we tend to express are usually birthed from arrogance and a sense of “me first.”  I think that’s why it’s so difficult for many Christians in the church today to fully submit to God and his Lordship over our life.  We’re used to standing up for what we feel we deserve and find it difficult to hand over control to an unseen God.

The truth is, there is amazing freedom in submission.  In fact, submission is at the root of our relationship with God.  He is not fully our Lord in the true sense of that title until we give ourselves up to him.  Now, that style of surrender can be done in a couple of ways.  Some would submit to God’s rule out of duty.  That kind of submission focuses on following rules and takes the form of a legalistic religion that so many of us are quick to criticize.  However, a submission to God that begins from faith, hope, and love is so much more pleasing in his sight.  When we hand over our life to God out of gratitude and thankfulness, we can then find real freedom (Philippians 2:1-2).

Submission to God epitomizes our dependence on him.  It’s real liberation to let go of worry and know that he’ll meet all of our needs.  It’s comforting to realize that our life is ultimately found when we lose it for Him (Matthew 16:25).  The opposite of that is an absolutely scary thought.  We can see what it looks like when we fight against and refuse to surrender to God’s will when we study the fall of Satan.  We can read about his arrogance and wickedness in Ezekiel 28:11-19 and see that a lack of humility can bring us very low very quickly.  I believe that’s why the Bible spends so much time talking about submission (1 Peter 2:13-19, 1 Peter 5:6, Ephesians 2:3-7, Ephesians 5:21).

Let us all fervently examine our lives and be honest about where we do or don’t submit to God.  He desires that we give him everything, and if we’re honest…He deserves it.

-Joe

I Wanna Know What Love Is

red-love-heart-valentinesIf you’re a child of the 80’s like I am, then the title of today’s post should sound awfully familiar.  The band Foreigner released that song in 1984 and in no time, it was the number 1 song in both the U.K. and the U.S.  My wife and I have had the opportunity to see Foreigner in concert on several occasions, and this song is one of the highlights of their show.

The song asks a very poignant question, one that’s on the minds of many today as we celebrate Valentine’s Day.  For those of us who are in committed, rewarding relationships, it may seem like an easy answer.  For those struggling through their love life, it’s probably a very appropriate question to ask on a day like today.  I believe I have the answer to the question posed by this hit song, and I’ll let the quotes that follow speak for themselves.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

 

”  If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-8)

 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

 

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)

 

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 37-39)

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.” (Lamentations 3:22)

-Joe

 

There’s No Place Like Home

homeI’ve had quite a few homes during my 40 years of living.  Actually, 11 homes to be exact.  My childhood homes, apartments in college, and my current family home all hold memories for me and they are places that I’ll never forget.  Home for me is such a comfortable place.  I’m sure that’s a product of my upbringing, but home has always been a calm  retreat to come to where I’m loved and well cared for.  Many of those happy memories are tied up in the places where we live and having that  comfortable place to just be you makes our lives that much more enjoyable.

I don’t know if or when I’ll ever move from our current house.  My family and I love where we live right now.  We enjoy our neighborhood, like the location, and it doesn’t hurt that the mortgage will be paid off in a couple of months.  Even though we have no plans to leave, I still have one more move to make and it will be the grandest of them all.  That move is our big move to heaven and it will be wonderful when that day comes.

Of all the homes I’ve ever lived in, only one was built brand new.  I can still remember my parents spending countless hours planning every detail from the carpet color to the kitchen cabinetry to the choice of landscaping.  It was a beautiful house that would be destroyed by Hurricane Andrew only 4 months after we moved in.  Not so with our heavenly home.  And what a home it will be!  Jesus, when comforting his disciples before his crucifixion, said,

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

(John 14:1-3)

A grand and magnificent home is being prepared for us by our Lord Jesus himself and no job loss or natural disaster can take it away.  As Jesus’ words reveal, he desires us to be there with him (John 14:3).  We will live in close intimacy with our God for the rest of eternity!

Do we look forward to this move (Philippians 1:23)?  Do we really set our mind on our heavenly home (Colossians 3:2)?  These are important questions to ask because many of us live as if we’re perfectly happy with this world.  I get it, I really do.  There’s so much to be happy with in this life that it can cloud our vision for the future.  We were made for this move into eternity.  God has set the desire for heaven within all of mankind (Ecclesiastes 3:11), but it’s up to us to decide to follow God.  A residence has been prepared but we decide whether we accept it or not.

There’s no need to pour over blueprints or meet with some overpaid interior decorator.  It’s not important to fret over the dimensions of every room or worry about the landscaping.  Jesus is taking care of all the details for us and has prepared our home to perfection.  I can’t wait to see the home waiting for me and I hope you can’t wait either.

”  One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple.”

(Psalm 27:4)

-Joe

We Were Made For Something Greater

something-greaterI was watching the inauguration the other day and was amazed and overwhelmed by the ceremony of it all.  I can only imagine what it must feel like to stoically walk through the capital building and outside to see thousands of people waiting there in anticipation for your swearing in.   I cannot fathom what must go through the mind of the president-elect as he places his right hand on that tattered, old Bible and promises to serve our country with honor.  Talk about achieving an unbelievable measure of greatness tempered with humility.

Even though the position of President is one that brings great respect and responsibility, that person, along with everyone else in this world, was made for something greater.  Even though there are rewards and amazing happiness in this life, we were created for a far greater purpose.  Our ultimate happiness should not be found here on this earth.  If you’re looking for it here in the form of wealth or power or prestige, your settling for much less than the best.

Jesus teaches us that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).  And his kingdom exists not only for Jesus but also for all who follow him, for all of the children of God.   That means the best is yet to come.  God has far more in store for you than what you see here.  Now, I have to admit that what we have here is pretty good.  There are plenty of reasons that we have for enjoying this life.  When we experience true love or hold our newborn baby or achieve an important, lifelong goal, we usually experience the height of human happiness.  But there are even better pleasures that await us upon our arrival into heaven.

I am personally looking forward to being in a constant state of fellowship with our Savior Jesus Christ.  I can’t wait to look upon his perfection and glory.  I’m looking forward to an eternity of no evil or sadness, of no death, poverty, or hatred (Revelation 21:4).  There will be no desire to run the rat race of life or ever worry about tomorrow.  There will only be God and every saint in all of history there to worship him.

-Joe

Monday Motivation: Faith in Action

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“When we serve others through the use of our gifts, we are channels through which the grace and power of God are manifested.  When a man or woman with the gift of giving pays another believer’s electric bill, it is God’s grace.  When a pastor gifted as an exhorter stands to deliver a message, it is God’s grace to the people.  When a believer with the gift of service gives his or her time to meet a need, it is God’s grace in action.  In these instances, Jesus is at work through his body.  It is more than a matter of people being nice.  It is Christ manifest on earth.

When you hear about believers in need, don’t just pray.  Become a part of the answer.  Exercise your gift.  After all, isn’t it a bit strange to pray for someone who has a financial need when you have the resources to meet it?  Do you think God is going to create money and drop it out of the sky?  Of course not.  His plan to meet the needs of his people is his people?  That is why he has gifted us.”

(Charles Stanley- “The Spirit-Filled Life”)

I titled this post “Faith in Action” because it is so important that we use our gifts to serve the purposes of God.  He has asked us to use our lives for his service in the world around us.  We all have a tremendous amount of talents and abilities that God has given us and every person in the body of Christ plays an important role in using those talents to help others (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).  The church cannot be at its full effectiveness unless every member is working with the gifts they have been given.

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

(James 2:14-17)

We cannot sit back and simply pray and hope that someone will find themselves the help they need.  If we are capable to help others with the resources we have available, then we need to help.  If not, we are not being good stewards of the blessings we have been given.  We are basically being selfish if we hoard our extra resources when we see obvious needs around us and do nothing about them.

Faith in action is all about doing instead of just talking.  We can sit here on our blog posts and write all day long about how to love God more and improve the world and we can listen to sermons from the pulpit about the disarray of society, but until we put that knowledge into practice, we’re just spiritual hypocrites as far as the world is concerned.  So I make this challenge.  Today, tomorrow, this week, look for ways to use your abilities and resources to serve someone else, especially someone in need.  Just look around your neighborhood, your community, your place of employment and I guarantee you’ll find someone who could use what you have to offer.

-Joe

American Change

A great reminder that it’s not always the responsibility of others to improve our nation. It is the responsibility of every American and every Christian to work together for the health of our country.

The Morning Drive

american-changeThe United States of America is changing. This is not breaking news. This change began years ago with the start of the grand experiment. Every few years we as a nation evaluate our leadership and make changes. In my half-century I can say that I have both liked and disliked these changes.

There are policies, laws, attitudes, and actions displayed in this country that I do not like. People, towns, cities, counties, and states all across this great nation do things and promote things that I find offensive and often immoral. (No, I am not going to list them.) There are times when I am so disappointed in my fellow man, my fellow countrymen, that I wish I could  . . . well that won’t happen so I will just stop even wishing. I get frustrated.

Allow me to give you an example or two.  I am frustrated and disappointed…

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Fan the Flames

campfireBoy do I love hiking and camping.  When the weather cools and I’m on break from teaching, I start getting the urge to get my gear out and start planning my next trip.  One of the things I enjoy most about camping is sitting around a roaring campfire in the evening.  It’s a great way to keep warm, keep the mosquitoes at bay, and keep myself occupied till it’s time to head off to sleep.  The don’t call a campfire “hiker television” for nothing.

Now, I may sound like some kind of pyromaniac, but I love the whole process of building a fire.  I gather tinder, some small twigs, and larger sticks to keep up the flames and set to work, and indeed it’s a lot of work.  If you want to keep a good fire going for several hours, you must continually feed it more fuel.  You constantly have to stoke the fire to make it grow and last.

It may appear a little ironic at first, but our faith is much like building a fire.  Feed your faith and it continues to grow.  Starve it and it will die out.  Not only that, but it seems we have outside sources intent on putting out our faith and fire for God.  The world around us is constantly trying to snuff out our ability to grow our faith with its temptations and doubt.  But God wishes for us to treat our faith much like a fragile fire.  We must tend it and care for it for it to grow.

In Paul’s writings to Timothy, we see some instruction about how to grow our faith.  Paul is thankful for the examples young Timothy has had in his life and knows that they are the reason why Timothy is strong now.  He writes:

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.  For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

(2 Timothy 1:5-7)

Paul reminds Timothy here to continue to grow in the faith that was passed down to him by his mother and grandmother.  He teaches him that we have a spirit of power, love, and self-control, not a spirit of fear.  In fact, we have God’s perfect love that casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).  God gave us a spirit of power as well, a power that never dies because it comes from him (Philippians 4:13).  So how do we “fan into flame” our faith for God?  Paul gives instructions on that as well.  He says:

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,”

“Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”

(2 Timothy 1:8, 13-14)

We are told here to hold fast to our testimony of Jesus Christ.  Be in the Word daily, continually reminding yourself of the gospel and its power.  We should be prepared to suffer for that gospel too.  It’s not good enough to just sit back and keep quiet about your faith in God.  We should be out in our world letting our light shine even if it means we suffer in the process.  Finally, we’re told to mind the sound teaching we receive from God.  Timothy received this teaching from his family and from Paul and we receive it from the study of God’s word today.  We should be allowing God’s Spirit which lives in us to convict us and to strengthen our faith.

So get out and build a fire…a fire of faith for our almighty God!

-Joe