Reinstitute Slavery

Go back up and read that title again.  Yes, you read it right!  I want to reinstitute slavery.  And no, this has nothing to do with race.  It has nothing to do with control or any other negative connotations that the word slavery carries.  No one should be exempt.  White, black, male, female, American, German, or Chinese.  All are called to be slaves, to give up self and to give their time, their life, and their very soul to a Lord and Master.

Whether we like it or not, we are all slaves to something.  We’d like to think we’re in complete control of our life and that no one can tell us how to live or what to do, but the reality is quite different.  We are slaves to our jobs so we can make money to buy the necessities to live.  Some of us are slaves to money itself and allow the lack of it or the gaining of it to control our daily thoughts.  Others are so controlled by their possessions that they spend countless hours and thousands of dollars annually protecting and insuring everything they’ve paid for.

We are slaves in some ways to the government when we must follow the laws of the land or are required to pay taxes.  Some would like to boldly confront that authority, but they still must deal with its restrictions lest they find themselves facing punishment of some kind.

We are slaves to our sins as well, following lawlessness with our impure thoughts and actions.  We present our lives to the world, to follow its ways along with our own desires and become slaves to our sin.  Eventually, that sin leads us to pay the most dangerous price of all….death.

All of this is to say that there is no escape from slavery.  There are too many outside influences in our daily lives to keep us completely free to do as we please.  But there is another way.  If we are to be slaves, we can become slaves to God and to the righteousness to which he calls us.  In giving our lives over to him, we are actually set free from the slavery of this world.  We are set free from sin and its penalty of death.  The gift of God through Jesus Christ pays that debt and gives us sanctification and eternal life.

But God has to have your life.  He has to be your Lord and Master. He offers us this gift but he requires our heart and submission in return.  We cannot fight against this form of slavery.  In its purest form, slavery to God is a freeing, intimate relationship that results in life, and it should be something we look forward to, not shy away from.

16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

(Romans 6:16-18, 20-23)

-Joe

Monday Motivation: You Can Only Wear One Pair of Shoes at a Time

You should see my closet.  Actually, you should see both of my closets.  I have one of my own and share half of my daughter’s just to have enough room to hold all my clothes.  Now, I will be honest and say that when I worked in the golf business, I got a lot of free clothes.  But I still have far more than I really need.  What’s really embarrassing though is how many pairs of shoes I own.  Everyone gives the ladies a hard time for having closets full of shoes, but I’m sure my collection surpasses most.

It may seem obvious, but I’ve come to realize that you can only wear one pair of shoes at a time.  The others just sit there taking up space in the closet, and in some cases, collecting dust because they haven’t been worn in so long.  It’s overconsumption at its finest.

I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one with this problem.  It may not be shoes, but I’m sure many of you have far more of something than you really need.  A far bigger and more expensive house than is necessary.  A huge garage full of over-priced cars that you don’t really need.  A long list of expensive hobbies that you participate in and then stop after only a few months.

Our culture says, “more, more, more.”  When are we going to say, “enough is enough!”  The Bible teaches about the Christian’s attitude towards contentment, and it’s a teaching we would be wise to adhere to.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

(1 Timothy 6:6-10)

-Joe

A New Kind of Discrimination

It is virtually impossible to turn on the television, read the newspaper, or peruse the internet these days without seeing or hearing something about some kind of racism or discrimination.  Sometimes it’s born out of fear, like the rampant discrimination towards anyone of middles eastern descent following 9/11 has shown.  Sometimes, discrimination stems from ignorance, as is the case in the majority of our racial problems today.  Whatever the cause, humans sadly find ways to feel hate or disgust towards others who are not like them.

I believe there’s a new kind of discrimination prevalent in our society and it’s no less impactful than other kinds, even though it receives far less attention.  It doesn’t take much time to look around and notice that the bulk of society, upper education, and the media as a whole have become much more liberal leaning than ever before.  They would argue it’s a result of more wisdom or an ability to think constructively for themselves or a lack of any need for religious thoughts and ideas.  I would counter that our society has just evolved to openly discriminate against an entirely new group of people, and that is the conservative Christian.

Exemplifying Christian values today is causing people to say we’re uneducated bigots.  And apparently this kind of discrimination has gone unchecked for long enough to be standard thought amongst many unbelievers.  The media has done nothing to stem the tide of this kind of hatred either.  In fact, they have openly encouraged it.  Only progressive, liberal ideas are being taught in our nation’s universities, and very few have spoken out against it while we continue to send our children to these so-called places of higher learning.  There’s no doubt that worldly wisdom and fallible human philosophies are trying to quiet the Christian viewpoint.

All this should come as no surprise.  In fact, Jesus himself promised it would happen.  He told us, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me” (John 15:18-21).  Also, Colossians 2:8 reminds us,  See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” 

  We must be in prayer, asking God to continue to bless us with peaceful opportunities to follow him, all the while realizing that there may come a day when we will have to boldly take a stand for Christ even in the face of harsh criticism.  Finally, we must keep our eyes focused on the prize (Philippians 3:13-14) and remain faithful until death so we can one day receive our promised crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

-Joe

 

Monday Motivation: Every Day is a Day to Worship

 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
    and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
32 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    let the field exult, and everything in it!
33 Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
    before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.
34 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!”

(1 Chronicles 16:31-34)

Today and every day, worship the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  You don’t have to wait for a Sunday worship service to glorify God.  While public acts of service are wonderful, you don’t have to do some amazing thing in order to honor Him.  Lift up his name in everything that you do each and every day.

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.”

(Psalm 100:1-5)

-Joe

Robbing God

I’m trying to make a concerted effort to read my Bible more often, especially specific books in the Old Testament.  While I’ve read and been a part of many studies concerning the more popular historical events of the Old Testament, I haven’t spent as much time as I should delving into the more obscure books or stories.  All of God’s word is beneficial (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and I’ve found one such passage that may really shed some light on our distinct ability to not always give God our best.

Have you ever wondered why we human beings tend to settle?  Maybe it’s a learned behavior, maybe it’s comfortable, maybe it’s just ingrained in our psyche to take the easy way out.  For whatever reason, we seem to find satisfaction in the pleasures of this world; just a simple case of instant gratification.  It would be proper at this juncture to mention that it was God himself who created this world and he meant for us to enjoy it, but our propensity for sin has us usually settling for less than the best God has to offer.  Sin has a way of doing that doesn’t it?  It always promises great things and always under-delivers on those promises.

I believe one of the most insidious sins and one in which we all partake in, whether we want to admit it or not, is idolatry.  This isn’t the golden calf or graven image kind of idolatry of our predecessors.  We’re too smart for that right?  No, it’s the kind of idolatry where we rob God of what he truly deserves…us!  We may not realize we rob God, but we do almost every day when we settle for the world instead of relishing a relationship with Him.  When we look forward to our next vacation more than we do our next opportunity to worship, we are robbing God.  When we’re more satisfied with alcohol or money or sports or sex than we are with God, we have effectively stolen ourselves from him.  It’s like an act of adultery to be betrothed to our perfect Savior Jesus Christ, and then find more pleasure in the arms of our vices.  Just think about these examples of how people sell out to the world.

  • Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of stew.
  • Samson sold his secret of strength for a one-night stand.
  • David sold his integrity for another man’s wife.
  • Judas sold his very own soul for only thirty pieces of silver.

What do you sell in your life to gain your own personal desires?  You may say you don’t, but I bet the price is far lower than you think.  Even Jesus asked, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul” (Matthew 16:26)?  Apparently, he knew that we all must pay with something.  Pay with your soul to gain the world, and you lose out on any inheritance in Christ.  Pay with a sacrificial life to gain God (Matthew 16:24-25), and you will indeed gain an everlasting life with him.

Now, back to that passage in the Old Testament I was referring to earlier.  The text is found in Ezekiel chapter 8 and it’s an interesting foreshadow of our world today.  Ezekiel is showed a vision of how idolatry had taken over the temple of God.  His own people were committing great abominations in the very sight of God and they reached a point of arrogance about it (Ezekiel 8:12).  God referred to these acts of sin as idol worship and described them as the “idol that provokes to jealousy” (Ezekiel 8:3).  Our God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14) and he doesn’t want us to settle.  He has, time and again, proven his faithfulness and love, and his children continue to turn their noses up at his grace and mercy.

Are we any different?  Sadly, I don’t think so.  Even worse, WE are the temple of the holy God today (1 Corinthians 3:16).  There is no building or ark of the covenant that God resides in.  He lives within each of his children, so you can imagine the hurt he feels when we put idols above our Father.  We commit acts of idolatry every day if we put anything before God.  We create the very idol that “provokes to jealousy,” and God is left disappointed that we don’t give him the glory he deserves.

What idols are you using to rob God?  Is there anything in your life that you’ve sold out for, anything that has taken a seat on the throne where God deserves to be?  Remember your first love (Revelation 2:4) and don’t allow Satan and this world to distract you from the God who has given you everything you’ll ever need.

-Joe

 

Monday Motivation: Grace

“God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

(Ephesians 2:4-10)

God is rich in love and mercy.  So rich that he sent his only Son to be a sacrifice for us, making us alive for all of eternity.  That grace, that gift is far beyond what our feeble minds can imagine or dream of, and it’s that grace that should cause us to act.  God not only created us, he not only saved us, he has prepared for us good works that we should do in order to glorify him and his goodness.

What are doing today and the rest of this week to show gratitude to God for all that he’s done for you?

-Joe

Monday Motivation: Even if You Don’t

God, I know I don’t trust you the way I should at times.  You’ve asked for my faith and called for me to offer my life in obedience to your will.  You’ve shown your goodness and faithfulness time and time again, and you’ve given me no reason to doubt that you will take care of my needs.  I know you are stronger and wiser than men (1 Corinthians 1:25) and need no one to tell you how to order your creation.

And still, sometimes I find it hard to act in faith in my daily life.  Sometimes, I have fear of the unknown, I have worry about your plan for me and whether or not I’ll ever live up to your expectations.  Occasionally, I’ll act like I have it all together when on the inside I’m stressed beyond belief.

I know I’m not alone.  I know there are other children of you, God, who struggle when facing the trials of this world.  I’m aware that many of us Christians are not carrying on the intimate relationship with you that you so strongly desire.   I know that you long for your children to trust you and to live out our faith in our daily lives. I know that you wait there, offering a shoulder to cry on, making the promise that you will bless us beyond what we could ever imagine.  I know that you wish for us to present every request to you, believing that you are powerful enough to make them happen (Philippians 4:6-7).

But even if you don’t, I still want to obey you.  Even if you don’t, I still long to worship you.  Even if you don’t, I still wish to follow you.  Because, when it come right down to it, God, where else can I go?

Amen.

-Joe