Tag Archives: United States

Happy Dependence Day

 

Wednesday we will celebrate the anniversary of when the United States first declared its independence from the oppressive empire of Britain.  (This is history, not politics.)  In contrast, every Sunday, as believers we celebrate our dependence on Jesus Christ.  The United States, at its very foundation, gained its freedom by declaring itself sovereign then fighting and winning a war for liberty. As believers, we recognize Christ as our sovereign.  We trust in the battle that Christ won on our behalf; His death on the cross a substitute for our sin, His resurrection from the dead that we might have life.

The slave does not remain in the house forever, the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:35-36

In this word picture, Jesus explains why He, the Son of God, had to be the One to pay the debt of sin owed by humanity.  We are all slaves to sin because of our sin nature.  We owe a debt that we cannot pay.  As slaves, we do not have authority over sin.  We cannot break its power over us by our mere, limited words.  But Jesus could pay our debt and He did.  And after paying our debt, Jesus as God’s Son, has the authority to declare us free!  And He does, to all who believe in Him and call upon His name!

Christ is the One who has made us free!  Let us celebrate our dependence on Him.

This post originally appeared in “The Connection.”  The Sunday morning publication of First Southern Baptist Church Lawrence.

 


It Is Better To Suffer For Doing Good!

It’s been easy for me to get discouraged lately.  I read the news and watch the holy ordinance of marriage attacked by a godless society.  I read further and discover that religious discrimination is thriving in New York. There, it is not only lawful to deny churches the ability to rent public school space for worship, but it is mandatory – punishable by heavy fines.  Yes, in New York, it is a state mandate to discriminate against Christians!  At the same time Christian organizations are being forced to go against their biblical convictions regarding abortion.  Faith based companies are being forced to pay for healthcare that provides coverage for contraceptives including the abortion pill – deceptively labeled “emergency contraceptive.”  Don’t be misled.  This is not just an attack on Catholic hospitals.  This creates a problem for ALL faith based organizations.

Do you see why it easy for me to get discouraged?  Followers of Christ, we can not ignore this!  But we must also not be defeated in our minds and hearts.  Jesus said “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Do not be overwhelmed by this temporary suffering.  God is not mocked!  Christian, do not lose heart.  Jesus has overcome the world.  This world is only our temporary home.  Our victory, in Christ, is certain and eternal!

For a long time in the United States, we have heard and even joined the mantra “God and Country.” Somewhere along the way this changed.  While we were looking the other direction, our Country has declared itself to be god.  Now, it seems the government tells the church what is right and what is wrong.  The government has made it clear that it has no use for God or His church.  Our most treasured freedom is being dismantled.  Freedom of Religion and the free exercise thereof, has no meaning if our government mandates when, where, how, and to what extend the Church may practice Biblical teachings.

To the Christ followers in America this is unfathomable!  However, Christians all over the world and all throughout history have faced oppressions far greater than these – Yet They Stand!

My heart is heavy that these circumstances seem so dark.  Maybe you are fighting the same sense of gloom in your spirit.  Take heart – Be encouraged.   I find clear instruction and abundant encouragement from the following words in Eugene Peterson’s The Message; from Ephesians 6:10-18

A Fight to the Finish

10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Because the trials of this life never take a time-out, because the world’s bombardment against Christianity never takes a break, we can not abandon the struggle.  I encourage you to pick up His banner and serve within your churches in community.  Serve outside the churches; everywhere you are. Stand up for what is good.  Let Peter’s words guide us daily as we seek to love those who hate the God we serve.

13And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good?  14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, 15 but honor  the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.  1 Peter 3:13-17


Live Like You Were Dying (Wait! I’m not done yet!)

Sunday we finished, what I believe will prove to be, a pivotal series in the life of our church. And I find myself asking the question “Where do I go from here?” I feel like I’m just starting to apply these principles into the fabric of my everyday living and I’m not ready to put away.  Do you feel that way too?  I have asked our Church Librarian to suggest a few books from our library that will help us continue on this journey – even when the sermon series is over and the small groups have completed their studies together.  Thank you Barb Rich for being my guest blogger on the Schoeneblog, today.
by Ann Voskamp
 
 Just like you, Ann Voskamp hungers to live her one life well. Forget the bucket lists that have us escaping our everyday lives for exotic experiences. ‘How,’ Ann wondered, ‘do we find joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and daily duties? What does the Christ-life really look like when your days are gritty, long—and sometimes even dark? How is God even here?’ In One Thousand Gifts, Ann invites you to embrace everyday blessings and embark on the transformative spiritual discipline of chronicling God’s gifts. It’s only in this expressing of gratitude for the life we already have, we discover the life we’ve always wanted … a life we can take, give thanks for, and break for others. We come to feel and know the impossible right down in our bones: we are wildly loved — by God. Let Ann’s beautiful, heart-aching stories of the everyday give you a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of being present to God that makes you deeply happy, and a way of living that is finally fully alive. Come live the best dare of all!
When Life Is Hard by James MacDonald

When life is hard, you know, really hard, we often spend all our time pleading, begging, yelling, refusing, and questioning. While none of these things are necessarily unusual, they are missing the ultimate point. When life is hard, when things get ugly, when all hope seems to be lost… that is when we are able to display the superiority of the life lived in God.
It is in those moments of despair, when we question what is happening, when we don’t know what to do, when some trials never…seem…to…end, that we can lean most heavily into God’s promises and truths.

Don’t Forget To Dream: Pursuing a Life That Matters-Shaped by the Heart of God 
by Tim Dowdy “Don’t Forget to Dream” by Tim Dowdy is a book of encouragement for young people. Many times they set goals for themselves only to have them crushed. Dowdy’s book offers hope for crushed dreams. He offers the path to fulfilled dreams. Each chapter contains anecdotes from Dowdy’s memories, scripture that supports Dowdy’s statements, words of encouragement and a challenge. Dream Resolution is an area to record your intentions in that particular area. I highly recommend this book for high school, college students, and all young people.

Live Big!: 10 LifeCoaching Tips for Living Large, Passionate Dreams by Dr. Katie Brazelton

Life coach Dr. Katie Brazelton provides readers the tools they need to move from daydreaming to real adventure. In a friendly and encouraging tone, Katie takes readers through ten steps, from Face Your Fears to Capture Your Live Big! Dream. Each of the ten steps gives readers a broader, richer understanding of how to start, run, and finish the race well ahead of the pack. And on each step of the way, Dr. Brazelton offers inspiring messages, stories, scriptures, and prayers..
With busy lives and complicated schedules, most people don’t think they have time to fulfill their dreams while still juggling work, family, friends, and God. Dr. Brazelton’s Live Big! has just the right-sized bits of wisdom to help readers get started on the process of finding their God-designed purpose. .

Outlive Your Life:You Were Made to Make A Difference  by Max Lucado

These are difficult days in our world’s history. 1.75 billion people are desperately poor, natural disasters are gouging entire nations, and economic uncertainty still reigns across the globe. But you and I have been given an opportunity to make a big difference. What if we did? What if we rocked the world with hope? Infiltrated all corners with God’s love and life? We are created by a great God to do great works. He invites us to outlive our lives, not just in heaven, but here on earth. Let’s live our lives in such a way that the world will be glad we did.

Surviving in an Angry World: Finding Your Way to Personal Peaceby Charles Stanley

The premise of this book is that learning to let go of anger—and ultimately forgiving the offender—will transform the foundation of every kind of relationship we have. Stanley defines anger as “a strong feeling of intense displeasure, hostility, or indignation as a result of a real or an imagined threat or insult, frustration, or injustice toward yourself or towards someone who’s very important to you.” Building on this definition, Stanley…
1. Helps readers identify the signs of anger, so they can identify anger in themselves. 
2. Reveals the far-reaching consequences of anger, which encompass the spiritual, emotional, and physical.
3. Teaches readers how to handle anger through thirteen concrete steps.
4. Walks readers through the steps to true forgiveness and the healing power it brings.
Thanks again Barb for these suggestions. Barb has assured me that all these books are currently in the library and not checked out at this time.  Let me suggest a couple other ideas to keep the Live Like You Were Dying theme in front of you.  Go back and do it all again!  You can listen to all the sermons a second time here on the FSBC family website.  Go through the book again, too.  You can get a DVD from me if you’d like to watch Gary Smalley’s teaching one more time.  The important thing is DON’T FORGET and DON’T QUIT.  We’ve heard it, now let’s live it… together.
“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Deuteronomy 4:9 NIV

Free – In Christ

Memorial day gives us a chance to remember. Did you remember yesterday? Did you thank a veteran? I spent a lot of time contemplating the cost of the freedoms I still get to enjoy. For men and women who took the stand for what they believed and for the many who paid the ultimate price for freedom.

I wondered what I would be willing to stand up for? I thought about how over the last couple decades we have seen certain freedoms taken away from us. I thought about how our founding fathers sought to set up a government of the people, for the people andbythe people and yet today, we see our government acting as if the people are here to support government rather than the other way around.

I considered how many freedoms I truly have because I am “In Christ.” He paid the ultimate price for my freedom and yours.

Romans 8:1-4
8Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,a2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature,b God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.c And so he condemned sin in sinful man,d4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

So, we are no longer condemned because of what Christ has done. However, we are still persecuted. There are so many to whom the message of Christ and the Cross is foolishness.

1 Corinthians 1:18
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

What does this have to do with us? Though we seek to carry this message into a world that thinks us to be foolish, it’s Christ they’re rejecting and not us. So why should it matter to us?

How often do we temper our boldness because of the fear of rejection? How many times does our confidence wane when we face criticism?

See, that’s what I mean when I ask myself – What would I be willing to take a stand for? – What would I be willing to die for?

I am grateful for the veterans who have served and remember, with tears in my eyes, those who gave their lives for the freedom I currently enjoy. At the same time I’m reminded that this freedom is temporary. You can quote me on this – The United States of America will not last forever. In the historical scope of things we are a young nation. In our arrogance, however, we sometimes believe and act like this country will always be around and will always be free. Let’s not deceive ourselves. We know too well that some, or should we say, many of our freedoms are already gone.

In direct contrast, the freedom we have “in Christ” is eternal. In fact, it was established for the specific purpose of eternity. If the temporal freedoms of an earthly nation are worth standing up for, worth laying down ones life for then how much more is Christ and His cross worth standing up for? How much more is Christ worth laying down my life for?

Would you join me in these thoughts? I’m not seeking to devalue the sacrifice for country. I’m proud of our veterans! Could you die for Christ? Could you stand up for the church, for Christ and His cross in the face of persecution – in the face of death? I’d love to read your thoughts.