Freedom: A Blessing or A Curse?

We live in the land of the free.  We have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press.  We have the freedom to walk down the street wearing whatever we want (no matter how ridiculous).   We also have the freedom to get ourselves into some serious trouble.

God loved us enough to give us free will.  He wanted us to choose to love and follow him.   Oh yeah, he could have kept things real simple and just made us love him but, He wanted loving followers and servants, not mindless slaves.

You have to make choices in your life every day, every minute.  God gave you a loving heart and a discerning mind to make those decisions.  He expects you to use them!  The freedom that we are so fond of is a double edged sword.  Yes, we have the freedom to worship our God without persecution, we have the freedom to make decisions to better our lives; we also have the freedom to pursue money instead of God, to look at pornography, to make choices that lead to marriages falling apart.  You wanted freedom, you got it!

So what are you going to do with your freedom?  Are you going to use it to make short sighted choices that are pleasurable now, or are you going to use it to make the tough decisions to follow God?  God never said that following Him would be easy, quite the opposite!  Jesus never took the easy way out (thank God!), if he had we would all be in a lot of trouble!

I recently found an awesome website for the Third Option Men.  The idea is based around men’s freedom of choice.  Men, you have three options:

1) Live for yourself

2) Live for worldly gain

3) Live for God

How will you use your freedom?

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How do you define yourself?

One of our pastors gave an excellent talk today, and while I can’t possibly recreate it here one thing did stick with me.  He asked how you make yourself stand out, how you define who you are?

This made me think because, I have always made myself stand out by the things that I do. I try to be the man who knows how to do a little of everything.  Someone who does all the cool things, rock climbing, kayaking, skiing, flying rc helicopters, martial arts, etc.  That is how I define myself and how I make myself stand out and get noticed.

What I realized today was that I don’t want to stand out for the hobbies that I do, or the sports that I play.  I want to stand out, to be defined, by being a strong man of God.  By loving my children and my wife in a way that is different from the rest of the world, in God’s way.  What better way to stand out, to be remembered.

I realize that it is not the most PC way to be recognized, and that it probably will not get me into as many circles as the other stuff, but is that so bad?  Is it not a blessing to be excluded from those groups and activities that are not placing a focus on God and a priority on being a godly man?  I think that too often we, myself most definitely included, get so hung up on wanting to fit in that we don’t take a step back and see what we are trying to fit in to.  It feels great to be accepted by a person, or group of people but, if they aren’t accepting you with your faith in Jesus as part of the package do you really want to be accepted by them at all?  Do your close friends, the people you hang out with frequently, even know that you are a Christian?  More importantly, do they truly understand that Jesus is your savior and what that has and does mean in your life?

Think about how you want to be known by others, how you want to be remembered.  Is it for the worldly things that you can do or that you know?  Or is it for being the upright, strong man of God that you are striving to be?  Once you figure that out (and I think we all know that the right choice is an easy one), then figure out how to make the daily choices that will make you stand out for the right reasons!

God’s Peace

Do you ever find your self trying to understand God? Trying to decipher His ways, and figure out exactly why it is that He would love you and do anything for you? I know I have!

Remember that God’s ways are not our ways (far from them! – Thankfully!) and we are not supposed to understand it all.  If you fully understand something then it doesn’t take much faith to believe it!

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything , by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and you minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

God doesn’t want you to be worrying about things all the time, He wants you to put your faith in Him, to trust Him.  Then He will give you peace and protection in Christ.

Pretty awesome if you ask me!!

One Nation, Under God.

My boys and I were doing some reading last night to kick off Easter week.  We were reading in John and one of the verses that started some good discussion was John 17:22-23.

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:  I in them and you in me.  May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

I have heard some use this verse, and others like it, to show how God and Jesus are not one but separate beings. While that is a topic for another post, I think that more important Jesus is showing us how important it is for us, as believers and followers of Christ, to come together.  We have to show the world that we are united in our worship of God.

And it starts right in our homes.  If you are not working with your family to make sure that you are all on the same page how are you going to bring the message of Christ to others.  Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  Absolutely right!  This should be something that starts in our homes, our church, our community, our city, our country and eventually encompasses the entire body of Christ throughout the whole world.

Husbands and fathers, it is our job to make sure that our house is united under God.  It is our responsibility to make sure that if someone were to ask any member of our family a question about what our family believes about Jesus, they would get one answer, He is our saviour and we follow Him.

As the Easter week gets into full swing take a quick inventory of where your family stands and make sure that you are all on the same page.  Step up as the leader of your family and rally your troops.  Follow the example set by Joshua; “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

Something to think about while you work…

Here is a quick thought to get you thinking of higher things while you slave away today.

After the fall of man in the Garden, God told Adam and Eve that now they would have to work, sweat and toil all the days of their life to survive (Gen 3:17-19).  “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thes 3:10) Because we sinned we now have to work hard for what we have.  Before that, God provided everything and all we had to do was enjoy it and enjoy Him.

So now that we have to work, what does God tell us about work?  He tells us that the work we do should not be for the things of the world but for His glory.  Yes, the work we do provides money for us to buy clothes, food, a home, and lots of other stuff.  But the primary responsibility that we have is to work for our heavenly Father, to do His will, and to give Him glory.

“Then they (the disciples) asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’  Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'”

That goes a little above and beyond clocking in everyday just to get a paycheck!  The physical work that we do each day is a byproduct of sin; the real work is believing in and following Christ.

God commands us to do His work and to do it in such a way that others notice that we are working for Him.  “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that you daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

Don’t be one of those people who depend on welfare or some other program to provide for you.  Get up and get to work!  And don’t think for a second that God does not see and know all the work that you do for Him; “God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Heb 6:10)

Have fun at work today!

Step Up and Act Like a Christian!

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle.  That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

This quote, or something like it, is from the beginning of “What if I Stumble” by DC Talk and it is entirely true!  One of the biggest things that turns people away from Christianity is us, so-called Christians.  If we tell people to love one another and then turn around and slander, gossip, cheat, curse, and in other ways act like everyone else on the planet, what do we expect people to think of us and of our God?

If we truly want to win people for Christ we have to be different!  We have to show them that we have been changed by the Holy Spirit.  Otherwise we are just another religion, with another set of rules and beliefs.  Honestly, there are enough religions in this world.  What people need is a relationship with Christ that is going to change their life.  If they can’t see that it has changed us, how are they ever going to believe that it will change them?

The next time you are thinking about following the ways of the world stop and think if what you are doing is glorifying God.  There is a lot more at stake then trying to fit in with the crowd…

Why won’t you answer me God??

This morning our pastor was talking about something that my wife and I have been struggling with for a while now (incidentally I added a link to pod casts from our church, First Baptist).  In a nutshell the idea is centered around our struggle with why God doesn’t answer our prayers according to our timeline and the way we expect them to be answered.  I know, the nerve right?  Isn’t God supposed to be answering our prayers and doing what is best for us?  Doesn’t he know that what we are praying for is what we know is best for us?

 

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” [This is] the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8–9

Man, isn’t that the truth!  When we don’t feel like God is listening to us or that He is not answering our prayers like we expect here are two important things to remember:

1) Silence from God doesn’t mean He is absent.

2) When God moves in quiet and unseen ways it is just as deliberate and intentional on His part, as when he moves in active, awesome and obvious ways.

How often do we think that because we are not hearing God or that he is not, apparently, answering our prayers that we must be doing something wrong.  That we aren’t praying hard enough, giving enough, reading enough, listening well enough, being good enough, etc.

I have found myself doing that a lot lately; and what I have come to realize is that no matter what I do, or how well I do it, it will never be good enough!  That’s the point!  There is no way that we can ever be good enough, pray hard enough, live right enough to get to God and receive his blessing on our own.  If there was we would have no need for Jesus!

What we have to remember is that God always loves us, God always wants the best for us, God always hears our prayers, and God always answers our prayers.  Sometimes God does not always answer our prayers the way we want them to be answered but He always answers them in the way that is best for us.  We may not see it today, or tomorrow, but it is always in a way that is best for us.

So the next time you feel like God isn’t listening, or that He isn’t answering your prayers remember that, He is.  Take a step back, believe that God is taking care of you, trust that He has your best interest in mind and know that He is, one way or another, going to answer your prayer.