Happy Dependence Day

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And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. John 8:32 (NASB)

 

Satan’s greatest weapon is lies. He pulls people into bondage by getting them to believe a lie. Jesus delivers from bondage with the truth. In fact, Jesus says He is the truth. Also, we have the truth of God contained in the Scripture. It is as we apply the truth of Scripture to our lives that we become truly free. We are free to serve our God, to live an abundant life and to love with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

The sad truth is that many people choose to live in bondage to selfish desires. In an attempt to be free they find themselves enslaved to ungodly passions. In a day we celebrate our country’s freedom, can you celebrate the freedom you have in Christ?

Today let’s make a Declaration of Dependence! I am completely dependent upon Christ and I give him my life. It is through this submission that you can find true freedom. Happy Dependence Day to all of you!

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This Changes Everything

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…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures   (1 Cor 15b-4)

 

It is a simple message but it is a powerful one. This was the central message of the early church. It was this message that that conquered the known world. In fact, it was this message that conquered the very gates of hell. Without this message Christianity is just another dead religion existing for its own welfare. Without this message Jesus would be just a man who did some good things but was deluded. He would join the ranks of Mohammed, Buddha and others whose bodies still lie in the tomb. But His tomb was empty! Just as He predicted He rose from the dead. Death could not hold Him in the tomb. He arose victorious over death, hell and the grave.
His followers are filled with power that Hell cannot overcome. Christians do not join a dead religion but hold in their very grasp the hope of the world. Philosophers have tried to debunk this message. Scientists have tried to disprove it. Dictators have tried to stamp it out. Yet this message is overtaking our world today. The hope of the world—Christ died for my sins; He was buried; He rose from the grave. This is the good news! This is the dynamic power of God. This is the message of Easter that we will celebrate forever.

 

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The Love of the Brethren

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This post really goes along with my prior post, The Love of God. The love of God is primary. Before genuine love of the brethren can exist, there must be the love of God. He is the perfect representation of love. A love that is sacrificial, true, and real. It is a love that is not based upon capricious feelings or personal advantages. God is love (1 John 4:8), and to know Him is to know genuine love.

Today it is rare to see this kind of love. Many relationships are based on a win/win scenario. As long as it is good for both of us then the relationship will continue. When I am no longer in the win category then I end the relationship. God did not pursue a relationship with us using a win/win scenario. We had everything to gain, but He had much to lose. Our relationship with Him led to our forgiveness, eternal life, and heaven. For Jesus it led to mocking, brutality and eventually the cross. We see in Romans 5:8 that “God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” We were His enemies. We were rebels. We were ungrateful. Yet, He loved us and died for us.

When we meditate on this truth, we begin to understand real love. It has become easy in our society to say the words, “I love you.” We can really almost “love” anything. In fact we may say, “I love ice cream”, but that doesn’t mean we would give our lives for ice cream, (well some of us may, so that may not be a great example). The point is that so often when we use the word “love” we are not talking about the love defined by God.

Scripture tells us in 1 John 3:16, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us”. Here we are given the standard of love. The love of God is selfless and sacrificial. This verse continues, “and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” I know that is easier said than done. And that is the point!!! True love must be more than just said—it must be done. 1 John continues, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”

I love to hear my wife tell me that she loves me. Those words are infinitely more meaningful because she shows that love in a million different ways. She does not love me just in word but also in deed. Because of her actions primarily and then also her words, I know that I am loved. I don’t believe there is another person on earth that loves me as much as she does. I hope I reflect that same love to her. Better yet, I hope I reflect the love of Christ to her. In fact, the Bible tells me I am to love her as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Eph 5:25).

So what is the point in all of this? Show your love first and then say your words. Let your actions be the clear indicator of your love. God’s actions were the clearest indicator of His love. There is nothing greater than to be truly loved. There is nothing more nauseating than to hear empty words without any substance (deeds).

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The Love of God

 

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Have you ever been truly loved by someone? Have you ever experienced the true essence of genuine love? I am not talking about the mushy, gooey, syrupy type of love that is all sugar but no substance. Nor am I referring to love that lasts for five to ten years but seems to wane with time and challenges. I am suggesting a love that is solid and unwavering. A love that is dreamed of by poets and is desperately hoped for by the human heart.

I have encountered this love. I have experienced brotherly love, familial love, and romantic love, but the love I am declaring is a love that is shocking. The love of friends, family, and a wife are like savory spices added to a banquet. They make life tasty and enjoyable. The love I am describing is the banquet.

It is a love that is found only in Jesus Christ. The enormity of His love is unmatched in the world. He loves when there is no reason to love. He loves even when His love is not wanted. He loves the most unlovely in the world.   This love became so clear to me when I began to really think about a passage in Hebrews. In Hebrews 12:2 we are told to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I wondered what was the joy set before Jesus that He endured such torture. The cross was the most cruel form of punishment known to man.   His skin was actually sliced from His body as he was scourged. He was beaten, spat upon, mocked, and humiliated. He was physically and emotionally afflicted. Yet, there was something that brought such joy that He was willing to go through all of this.

My first thought was that it must be His final destination to be with His Heavenly Father. In fact, the Scripture tells us that He went to the right hand of the throne of God. The interesting point is that He had that position before He went to the cross. Being at the right hand of the throne of God was not something new to Jesus. The Bible says that Jesus was with God in the very beginning (John 1:1-2). No, it had to be something He did not have before the cross that He did have after the cross.

That is when I was literally breathless as I realized that the only thing that Christ did not have before the cross that He had after the cross–was me. The joy that was set before Him was me! He went through the humiliation, He went through the physical anguish, He went through the cross so He could have a relationship with me. Like He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, He wanted to walk with me. The cross was the only way that could happen.

The truth is that He wants that relationship with you as well. You are the joy that was set before Him that He endured the cross. Today He simply knocks at the door of your heart inviting you to receive this love. He wants you to turn away from all the empty promises of the world and turn completely to Him and to His love. There is no one that has proved their love for you more than Jesus Christ. You can know love and experience genuine love when you give yourself completely to the one who defines true love—Jesus Christ.  

 

 

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Christmas Memories

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I love Christmas—it revives memories that rekindle the warmth of special moments in my life.  The giddy anticipation of a small child eager to see what was under the Christmas tree.  The shocked amazement to see that Santa Claus had eaten half of the cookie we left out for him (he never ate the whole cookie and never drank all the milk). 

I can remember the dismay at finding clothes in the gift boxes and the absolute glee to find toys and games.  But this special occasion was always a time of family togetherness.  I would see grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles, and cousins.  We would experience genuine joy in the reunion of familiar faces that had been separated by miles but still held close in our hearts. 

That special day was unlike any other all year long.  We gave and received gifts, we ate past the point of decency, we played all sorts of games (with the adults always letting the kids win!), and then we collapsed on the sofa to watch football and to watch grandma fall asleep.  The holiday would come to a close and I can remember crying as a small child when grandma and grandpa drove away.   Good-byes were the worst part of Christmas.  Many of these loved ones are with the Lord and again I cried as I said good-bye to them. 

But I know I will again experience that warm family reunion with them because of Christmas, because of the gift of a Savior.  This was a gift (wrapped not in pretty paper, but wrapped in flesh; given not by men, but given by God; not place under a tree, but hung upon a tree) that turned my Christmas memories into Christmas hope.   I will again experience the hugs and kisses of loved ones.  But it is with the giddy anticipation of a child I look forward to seeing with my own eyes the Supreme Gift—Jesus Christ my Savior.  Merry Christmas and I’ll see ya there.

 

For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given

~Isaiah 9:6

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Death and Hugging

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And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;
there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former
things have passed away.

Revelation 21:3

There is a day appointed for every believer when we will see Jesus with our own eyes. We will no longer walk by faith, but we will walk by sight. We will literally be able to fall at His beautiful nail-scarred feet and worship Him. We will look into those loving eyes without shame because we have been forgiven. He will be with us, caring for us, wiping away every tear and removing every hurt. We will experience the tender touch of a loving Savior. Knowing the blessings that await us, gives us encouragement to persevere. It gives us strength to toil through the night because we know daybreak approaches.
David Peterson, former pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Spokane, Washington, told about a time when he was preparing his sermon. His little daughter came in and said, “Daddy, can we play?” He answered, “I’m awfully sorry, Sweetheart, but I’m right in the middle of preparing this sermon. In about an hour I can play.” She said, “Okay, when you’re finished, Daddy, I am going to give you a great big hug.” He said, “Well, I’ll look forward to that. Thank you very much.” She went to the door and (these are his words) “Then she did a U-turn and came back and gave me a chiropractic, bone-breaking hug.” David said to her, “Baby, you said you were going to give me a hug after I finished.”
She answered, “Daddy, I just wanted you to know what you have to look forward to!”

Jesus allowed us to glimpse into eternity and see the glory of His presence. He wanted us to know what we have to look forward to!

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The Self-Made Man

Have you ever heard anyone introduced as a self-made man?  In America we consider this an extreme compliment.  But is there such a thing as a self-made man or woman?  Do we really want to be considered a self-made man or woman?  There once was a great king of a world empire. His name is Nebuchadnezzar and his empire was Babylon.  He made the following statement in Daniel 4:30,

“Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?”

He considered himself a self-made man.  At the moment he spoke these words of pride, God removed the kingdom
from him.  He soon realized that he was not a self-made man but that he owed his position and power to God.  He became a God-made man.  Notice the change in perspective in Daniel 4:37 as he undergoes this complete transformation, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”

God’s desire is that we would let Him mold and transform us.  He wants us to stop trying to make ourselves into the image that this world deems worthy.  The only image worthy to replicate is the image of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  God’s will is that we would be “conformed to the image of Christ” (Rom 8:29).

Let us all surrender to being God-made men and women and turn from the pride of being self-made.

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