You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2010.


Dear friends and family,

Just wanted to let you know that my book, Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount, was published today as a multi-format ebook by Smashwords. As many of you know, the book is a verse-by-verse devotional commentary on the radically transforming message of Jesus’  greatest sermon. I hope you’ll take time to check it out at Smashwords, where you can sample the first 50% of the book for free. 
Here’s the link to my author profile: https://www.smashwords.com/pro­file/view/­captivated­bychrist

Thank you so much for your support!

In Christ,

Linden

captivatedbychrist.org

Advertisements

“Count off seven sabbaths of years–seven times seven years–so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan.  The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields. In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to his own property” (Leviticus 25:8-13).

This is but a section of the Old Testament passage on God’s plan for His people to celebrate this special year, the Year of Jubilee. It was to take place every fifty years and it was announced with a special trumpet. In the Hebrew language the word translated “jubilee” literally means blowing a ram’s horn.  This horn is called a “shofar” and is still used in Hebrew worship today.  This sabbatical year was to benefit every inhabitant of the land. The Year of Jubilee was like a national holiday that lasted for 365 days! And symbolically it was to commence as the horn blew on the sacred Day of Atonement. Ironically, there is no evidence that the Hebrews ever celebrated the Year of Jubilee. This may have been due to their disobedience or the Babylonian captivity but, from all indications, over 30 possible occurrences of the Jubilee year passed without its observation. That is until the coming of Jesus. And maybe this was God’s sovereign plan. After all, it was Christ’s atonement that ushered in the spiritual reality of the true meaning of this celebration.

Jesus Himself claimed that he was the fulfillment of this Year of Jubilee (called the year of the Lord’s favor):

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-21).

There are at least four lessons in the Year of Jubilee that foreshadow the ultimate fulfillment of its benefits as found in Christ. These are:

  • A revocation of debt. The Israelites were relieved of their financial debt and through faith in the finished work of Christ we are absolved of our sin-debt (see Romans 6:23) before a righteousness demanding God. As Paul explained, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  • A release from slavery. On this 50th year all slaves were to be released from their bondage and prisoners set free. We, too, through the power of Jesus and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit are released from the fetters of our sinful nature. “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6). Paul mentions this idea in Romans 7:5 and 8:9 as well.
  • A return home: all land was to return to its original family/owner during the Year of Jubilee. This reminds us of the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-24). The loving arms of his father were extended to his wandering son and their reunion instigated the child’s complete restoration and a great celebration of joy. We, too, through Jesus are spiritually re-united with God the Father.
  • A renewal and rest. During this celebration no one was to plant or harvest crops. The children of Israel were to live off God’s special extra provisions from the previous year and the land was to rest so it could be renewed. In a similar sense being “in Christ” we experience eternal renewal and rest as we trust in His supernatural provision. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

As we look to 2011 may we see it as our Year of Jubilee. And how can we do this? By focusing on Jesus and His spiritual provision. For He alone has revoked our sin-debt, released us from the slavery of the law and the power of sin, allowed us to find our home in Him, and causes us to be renewed by the refreshment that comes from resting in Him. As we bid adieu to 2010 and stride securely into 2011 may we be ever mindful of this word from God: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).


“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”(which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:18-23). 

“What, then, is the God I worship? … You are the most hidden from us and yet the most present among us, the most beautiful and yet the most strong, ever enduring…”  -St. Augustine

Most of us understand that Immanuel means “God with us” and, due to its reference in nativity narrative, connect it with Christmas. The name “Immanuel” originally occurs in Isaiah’s important prophecy (7:10 -16). It was the promise of a Messiah but this Redeemer came to His people (notice that Matthew 1:21 says that He will save His people from their sin) in the most unlikely of forms. Conceived out-of-wedlock to a teenage mother and birthed in an animal stall, it’s no wonder that John says of Jesus’ coming: “He came to his own [the Jewish people], and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11).

Yet John makes it clear, despite His unusual entrance to earth, Jesus was still God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-3, 14). In verse 14 we again see an obvious reference to Jesus being “God with us” when John says He dwelt with humanity (literally “pitched His tent”) by taking on human flesh and becoming a man (especially see Philippians 2:6-11).

So at Christmas, we rightly celebrate God visiting us in the person of His beloved son, Jesus. This is God’s sovereign plan to save His people from their sin. Concerning Matthew 1:23, as in Isaiah 7-8, “Immanuel,” implies that God is sovereignly orchestrating His purpose in the lives of His people to redeem them and work in and through them. This verse teaches that Jesus in His person is truly God but it also infers the idea that God’s plan of redemption is unending and that our ongoing power and provision is in the person of Christ. In other words, the incarnation of Christ, which is the basis for our Christmas season, is not just a singular and terminal event. Instead, it is something that is impacting His children in the here and now, today and tomorrow. For He has taken up permanent residence in His people.

This leads me to a point. “God with us” is not just a historical event. Yes, it happened at Christ’s birth and through His life Jesus showed us (can be translated “interpreted”) who God is (John 1:18). But His presence with us did not end at his ascension. I rejoice in Christ’s advent (Christmas) but I should also rejoice that He remains and is still present with us. I find great comfort in knowing that His presence with His people is not just past tense but also present and future! And that should transform our understanding of “Immanuel” far beyond any designated holiday season.

So this Christmas let us not just celebrate the visitation of God in Jesus’ earthly birth and ministry.  Let us not allow our remembrance of His entrance into our world to be just a temporary expression of some historical event.  Instead, let us acknowledge and experience this reality every day, every moment. For the Christ of Christmas is spiritually still with His people. Jesus is the one “who was and is and is to come “(Revelation 4:8) and “[He] has not left us alone” (John 16:5-16). Jesus is Immanuel every day of every year because truly “He will never leave nor forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5), surely “[He is with us] even until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), and He is “Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Christ is with us, His people, yesterday, today and forever. So let’s experience Immanuel continually and be dynamically transformed by this glorious reality – before, on, and after December 25th!

Merry Christ-mas!


“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16-18). 

God revealed to a devout and righteous man named Simeon that he would see the promised Messiah before he died. When Jesus was but 8 days old that prophecy came true. As He was being presented in the Temple, Simeon sensed the presence of Immanuel, approached the young family, and next we read these mysterious  and ominous words: “And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

Jesus knew that His coming would lead to both shouts of praise and fear of loss, depending on one’s view of Him. And the Christmas season is what brings this home to so many of us. This holiday will compel either a sense of hope in Him or a sense of hopelessness without Him. Some families will gather to celebrate with the nativity scene in focus. Many will look to a decorated tree and attempt to numb themselves by accumulating and giving gifts that bring a temporary but rapidly fading thrill. Others will cry alone, depression will be exacerbated, and suicides will spike. Christmas brings out the best and worst in us, just as Jesus did in His advent. 

A look at the nativity narrative shows that Jesus coming wasn’t joyous for all. The advent caused The Magi to worship (Matthew 2:1-2) but caused heathen Herod to worry. The shepherds rejoiced with the angelic host but the mothers of those babies killed by Herod’s attempt to assassinate King Jesus wept bitterly over their loss (Matthew 2:16-18). Elizabeth’s unborn child (John the Baptist) and heart lept when she recognized the baby’s uniqueness (Luke 1:39-42) but the Pharisees later sought to extinguish His threat to their religious power by force. Jesus coming, with all of its promise, has always been something that separated humanity into 2 distinct classes; the joyful or the judged. We are either one or the other. We, because God has sent us Jesus, the light of the world, either follow His light or remain in darkness. We, in choosing what to do with the manger-born Messiah, are either saved or remain condemned.  

Take a look at the big-picture of the hopeful prophecies of Isaiah chapter 7 and 9. Both “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (7:14) and “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given” (9:6) are stated in the context of terrible tribulation and pain. In these passages we see both real celebration (hope) and real suffering (hopelessness). Yes, Jesus is the promised Messiah, the hope of Israel. But ethnic Israelites, for the most part, have rejected their promised Savior. And due to their unbelief remain condemned and judged before a God who has ordained the Christ-child as the only means of salvation and, thus, joy. 

Christmas is our Christian celebration of the incarnation of Jesus, His coming to earth in the form of man. We rejoice that He came to “save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Our hearts are elevated with indescribable praise and peace as we ponder the proclamation of the angelic host: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he [has granted His favor]” Luke 2:14! And this is true and our joy is full because we are His and He is ours. But, unfortunately, many do no claim Him as Lord and thus are blinded to the blessedness of His advent and are living under condemnation. Again, I think it’s imperative we understand that with the coming of Jesus there is both joy and judgment, there is both salvation and condemnation. Not that Jesus came to judge (John 12:47) or condemn (John 3:17) but that we stand judged and condemned already apart from Him (John 3:18). 

Simply said, Christmas is named after the Christ; the Son of God who became the Son of Man. The Savior who came to live the life we couldn’t live (perfect) and to die the death that we deserved (penal substitution) so that we might have joy and not judgment. We can’t really experience the hope and peace of Christmas without knowing Jesus. So I pray that we cling to this divine child as more than the “reason for the season” but, instead, as the One who came to bring us joy and remove us from judgment. But that only becomes reality when Jesus’ birth is more than a heart-warming Christmas story. It only becomes a reality when we give the Christ of Christmas our heart. And in doing so we can experience His joy rather than judgment this holiday (literally “holy-day”) and every day thereafter.


“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”… Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh” (Matthew 2:1-2, 7-11).

According to this passage, the Magi (often called “the Wise Men”) from the East who visited Jesus after his birth brought three gifts (that doesn’t necessarily meant there were three of them). These were gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. While the symbols of gold and frankincense are usually best understood by those who hear the Christmas story, myrrh is not as familiar. Most of us understand the gift of gold for a King and the sweet fragrance of worship that frankincense typifies. But what about Myrrh? It shows God’s sovereignty in foreshadowing His plans and purposes for His son – Immanuel our Messiah.

First, let’s see what myrrh is:

Myrrh refers to the resinous dried sap of a various number of trees. The most common source of myrrh is trees that grow natively in Arabia and eastern Ethiopia. The word myrrh comes from the Hebrew murr or maror, which means “bitter.” Myrrh was extremely valuable during the Roman Empire, when Jesus was born, and it was used as an incense burned during funerals until the 15th century. The Roman Emperor Nero reportedly burned a year’s supply of myrrh at the funeral of his wife. Myrrh was used chiefly in embalming the dead because it had the property of preserving them from decay and stench. Therefore, in Biblical times, it was a valuable commodity (Genesis 37:25) and was an ingredient of the holy ointment (Exodus 30:23). It was also used as a perfume (Psalms 45:8; Esther 2:12; Proverbs 7:17).  Despite the probable ignorance of the Magi (but in the providence of God), myrrh was a symbolically appropriate gift for the baby Jesus because of its association with death.

Let’s now see the three major instances of myrrh found in the New Testament and the message we discover in these references:

  • Jesus’ birth. While gold and frankincense symbolize, among many other things, the infant’s royalty and divinity, myrrh makes reference to His humanity and future death. Myrrh symbolizes bitterness. In fact, the name itself was given to it on account of its great bitterness (the Hebrew word is similar to the name given the waters that were bitter when Moses and the people were coming out of Egypt (Exodus 15:23). Naomi also used this word when she says to her daughters in law, “Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20). So we see that myrrh represents the bitterness that Jesus would experience in the His death for us. It was a death He, in His humanity, wanted to avoid (Mark 14:36), a death that would cause Him feel forsaken by His Father (Mark 15:34). But it was this death, His sacrifice for our sin, He was born for.
  • Jesus’ crucifixion. Myrrh was sometimes mingled with wine to form drink that would sedate. Such a drink was given to Jesus, while being crucified, as a numbing potion (Mark 15:23; Matthew 27:34). But Jesus rejected this concoction. Why? Because, spiritually speaking, He had already taken it. He had prayed at first that He could be spared this pain, but then He submitted to His father’s will and drank it, the bitter cup of His suffering (Matthew 26:39, 42). So the gift of Myrrh was brought to foreshadow the pain that Jesus experienced as He atoned for our sins.
  • Jesus’ resurrection. The faithful women in Jesus’ ministry wanted Him to be properly buried so they brought myrrh to anoint His body (John 19:39). In following a common custom, little did they know, they were completing the picture that God had begun at His birth. They did not dream that their Master would soon be with them and that there was no need to prepare His body for a grave Jesus was to remain in but a few hours. He was to rise again! And with His resurrection, for those who surrender to His Lordship, our hope is complete and our victory in Him is assured.

So myrrh means “bitterness” but symbolizes hope and victory. Why? Because Jesus absorbed the bitter judgment of our sin at Calvary and rose to grant us eternal peace and joy. They are truly wise that know that they have exchanged their bitter, sinful lives for the sweet gift of His redemption. This is bittersweet in the most profound sense. For our celebration of Christmas is not complete without knowing and experiencing the hope that springs from His simple birth, “bitter” death, and victorious resurrection that we see pictured the Magi’s gift of myrrh.


“Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven (Colossians 3:22 – 4:1). 

Modern bumper stickers tell us much about our perception of work: “I owe, I owe…so off to work I go” or, “Work fascinates me…I can sit and watch it for hours!” But Paul’s message, and the message of all Scripture is that Christ is to be Lord over our jobs. As Max Lucado has said, “Heaven’s calendar has seven Sundays a week. [Jesus] conducts holy business at all hours and all places, He uncommons the common by turning kitchen sinks into shrines, cafes into convents, and nine-to-five workdays into spiritual adventures.” 

In verses Colossians 3:23-24 Paul states, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” As a Christ-follower, I’ve found myself mentally accosted by this question: Do I worship my work, withstand my work, or worship God through it? If my response is anything but the later, I’ve got things wrong and need to make a change. And whether I’m the worker or the manager, I should come under the righteous rule of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:25 – 4:1). Our vocation is one of our greatest opportunities to demonstrate the supremacy and sufficiency of the Christ who alone makes us complete. 

The contemporary church does not completely ignore the issue of work. Nevertheless, I’m amazed that we do not have more sound teaching on the subject given the pure math behind it: we typically put in at least 40 hours at a weekly “job” plus spending innumerable hours doing housework and yard work for no compensation. Relatively speaking, believers spend much more of their lives “working” than “worshipping.” Shouldn’t we then have a greater understanding of the critical nature of this time consuming function? 

Most evangelical churches do recognize and remind us of the biblical message that God has ordained work. Some, but far too few, endeavor to find more a spiritual purpose in working. Our common misperceptions and shallow exposition of God’s truth on the subject has led to many problems, primarily that it can make us miss the privilege and all-consuming joy of glorifying our Savior during even the most mundane hours of our earthly time. When we use our vocations primarily to glorify the Lord, we will see the exponential blessing of a God who is steadfastly building His kingdom. 

Colossians 3:1-4 summarizes the attitude we should have in our work. Paul says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” So then, we should have a Christ-honoring perspective in all things—including our work. Through this He will be glorified.

Consider the scene in Luke 5:1-9. Peter, Andrew, James, and John are cleaning their nets; they made their living catching and selling fish. As they work Jesus is preaching to a gathering crowd. As people come, the Messiah notices two boats tied nearby. In order for the crowd to better hear Him, Christ climbs into one of the empty boats and asks to be put out a little from shore. He teaches the crowd while using the boat for a pulpit (Luke 5:23). Before He completes the day’s lesson, He works a miracle (v. 4-6) and commissions the fishermen to begin seeking a new type of catch (v. 10).

In commandeering their place of business and in using it as the setting for one of His better known miracles, Jesus showed followers—particularly the laboring disciples―that even a place of business can become a platform for sharing the glory of the Father and for bringing Him honor. In other words, a workspace can become a forum for divine worship and even discipleship. Our cubicles, workshops, fields, and vehicles can serve similar purposes. When they do, we find that Jesus Christ is Lord of the weekday as well as the Sabbath. 

I find it interesting that the Hebrew word avodah is the root for the word from which we get the words “work” and “worship.” This indicates these two concepts are inseparable in the eyes of God.  Working and worshipping go hand in hand.  It’s also notable that in the New Testament, the vast majority of Jesus’ 132 public appearances were in the marketplace or workplace. The Lord knows much of our lives are spent in toil at our desks or behind machines. He wants to be a part of every part of our lives; that’s something that will never be accomplished should we choose to hold Him in esteem only on Sundays. 

Perfect sense comes from the fact that our places of business can and should become areas devoted to our relationship with God. After all, it’s at work that we can show His excellence through the quality of our output. There we can demonstrate His holiness through the purity and earnestness of our example. We can image forth His worth through our worthy contribution to our employers, and we can glorify Him through humble thanksgiving for His provision and prosperity. In short, we can effectively worship God at our places of business by using the gifts and abilities He has given us for His glory.  I am reminded that the faithful servants in the Parable of the Talents were honored and allowed to share in their Master’s happiness (see Matthew 25:14-30). 

And this dynamic of worshipping God through our work holds for those in supervisory positions as well. I’m reminded of the story of one such boss. This manager was in the habit of praying for everyone he supervised. Most of the time, he prayed privately so that his associates weren’t aware. But one particular occasion, when he and his team members were discussing a serious conflict in the office that was causing a disruption, he felt led to openly pray, after first asking permission, for the situation and team members.
 
Months went by and the serious disagreement escalated. In fact, it was so intense teammates would barely speak to each other. Office production suffered. The employees became increasingly more disgruntled. And then, quite suddenly, the disagreement dissipated and the associates were on civil terms again. Seemingly, business as usual had returned. But it really wasn’t just a revisit to normality at all. Something supernatural had occurred. When the relieved supervisor finally inquired as to what had changed one of those involved replied, “Well, we remembered the time you prayed for us at your desk.” 

Work is a form of worship. It must be. Do not think that worship takes place only at church and spiritual labor is performed only by the clergy. Our work is one of our great spiritual exercises. Just as we remember the command, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23), so too must we remember to glorify God in all we do (I Peter 2:12), using our daily tasks and chores to bring us ever closer in communion with Him. 

 

This post is based upon a December 6, 2010 article on FoxNews.com entitled: “Parents Pull Son Out of New Hampshire School Over Assigned Book That Refers to Jesus as ‘Wine-Guzzling Vagrant and Socialist” written by Diane Macedo. Here is the link:

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/12/07/nh-school-assigns-book-refers-jesus-wine-guzzling-vagrant-precocious-socialist/

Here are some frightening (and sobering) article excerpts: 

“A New Hampshire couple has pulled their son out of his local high school after the teen was assigned a book that refers to Jesus Christ as a “wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist.” Aimee Taylor says her oldest son, 16-year-old Jordan Henderson, was required to read “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” this fall for Bedford High School’s personal finance class. 

Taylorasked her son to show her what was so bad about the book and after he pointed out a few controversial excerpts she decided to read it in full. “I finished the book that night, I could not put it down because I was just mortified by the take on this book as well as the language, and the Jesus Christian bashing was unbelievable to me, and that it was in our school was just amazing to me,” she said. 

One of the excerpts, Taylor points to is Ehrenreich’s description of a Christian service she attended in Maine. “It would be nice if someone would read this sad-eyed crowd the Sermon on the Mount, accompanied by a rousing commentary on income inequality and the need for a hike in the minimum wage. But Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, the wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned, nor anything he ever had to say. Christ crucified rules, and it may be that the true business of modern Christianity is to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth,” Ehrenreich writes. 

The Taylors contacted the principal with their concerns. But roughly three weeks later a review committee assembled by the school district ruled that despite its shortcomings, “the book provided valuable insight into the circumstances of the working poor and an opportunity for students to demonstrate mastery of the ‘Financial Impact’ competency,” it said in a report. “Even the way that they worded the letter was fascinating. The language wasn’t objectionable, it wasn’t that it was wrong. It was ‘questionable.’ And I thought, it’s not questionable in a courthouse, if you’re an attorney and you say that you’re going to get kicked out by the judge,” Taylor said. “…These words are illegal to say on national TV and radio in this country and yet here they are in this book.” 

“We’ve eliminated Christmas, we’ve eliminated all these things because we don’t want to step on anyone’s toes but here we’re going to hand out this book? … This is anti-God, anti-religion, it’s racial, I mean it crosses a wide spectrum of very touchy and very insulting issues to most human beings and I think that even with a parental consent it’s not enough. They need to boot that book out of there,” Taylor said.” 

Welcome to America, version 2010. Now I’ve never considered the US to be a “Christian nation” but if you do maybe it’s time to reconsider. Yes, religious liberty was the launching pad for history’s greatest democracy. But does that make us a nation guided by Scriptural principles? The evidence is overwhelming this is not the case. The article above is but one small example of the anti-Christian trend that has become a strong undercurrent in our culture. And now, it seems, the tide is pulling us under; as a nation and as professing Christians. 

Maybe we have become desensitized to the rapidly accelerating moral decline of our country – it has been both insidious and incessant. But we must wake up! America does not resemble the nation I was blessed to be born into in 1960. What would have been scandalous then is now commonplace and acceptable. What was forbidden and taboo is now embraced (and on primetime TV). America has forgotten how to blush. The US has become so open-minded that our brains (and morals) have leaked out! 

I ask fellow believers: Are you shocked? True followers of Jesus will say, “Ashamed, yes, but not surprised.” Why? Because they remember His description of the last days being so awful that those “days will be shortened…for the sake of the elect” so that they might not be “deceived — if that were possible” (Matthew 24:22, 24). Because they have read their Bible they can see its prophecies becoming reality. 

So I beg you: Cling to Jesus and proclaim His name. Trust in Him and His Word alone. And pray for yourself, your family, your community of believers, your friends and co-workers, and your country as you read the words of Paul: 

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them” (1 Timothy 3:1-5).

 


Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:18-21).

Some contemporary psychologists estimate the 97% of all families are “dysfunctional.” Although their prescriptions may vary and are usually unbiblical, they all recognize that most families have some rather serious issues. Even the divorce rate among professing Christians rivals that of unbelievers. The Bible, however, is consistent in what a family working within God’s model looks and acts like, what a biblically functional family is. Paul here outlines three basic characteristics of a Christ–honoring family; corporate submission and obedience saturated in sacrificial love towards God and each other. 

“Submission” has become a dirty word in our culture. Even in Christendom submission is viewed as a sign weakness and as something that makes us vulnerable to those who might take advantage. I’m shocked at the widespread aversion to submission among professing Christians. However, Nave’s Topical Bible contains an invaluable entry for submission. I think it sums up the whole matter well. It states, “Submission: See Obedience.” For believers, the two concepts go hand-in-hand. The Bible commands us to be submissive in various areas of our lives:

  • Submit to God-appointed civil authorities: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1).
  • Submit to God ordained spiritual leaders: “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).
  • Submit to bosses and employers: “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh” (1 Peter 2:18).
  • Submit to fellow believers: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
  • In order to facilitate spiritual victory, we should submit ourselves to God’s plans: “Submit yourselves, then, to God.” (James 4:7a).
  • Submit to God’s law: “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7).
  • Submit to God’s righteousness: “Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:3).

Despite its controversial nature, the biblical model for family dynamics is really quite simple. Paul explains it in just four sentences here in Colossians 3. It is our culture and even the church that has convoluted and twisted this model into something that in no way looks like the teaching found in God’s Word. We have let worst case scenarios, potential abuse, and the natural desire to be restrained by nothing or no one keep us from embracing the powerful simplicity and truth of this God ordained, complimentarian model. 

First, submission (the Greek term here suggests “voluntary yieldedness”) is always good in the presence of love that has someone else’s best interest at heart. The husband loves like Christ (this is submission to His loving Lord) and the wives then are secure in follow this Christ-like leadership. Children follow suit. The submission Paul mentions here is not some form of passive, co-dependant self-abuse based upon dictatorial, selfish, suppressive, and sin-inclined leadership. This yielding is clearly in the context of selfless caring for others and genuine benevolence of spirit. 

This is made even clearer in Paul’s more expanded teaching on Godly family dynamics in Ephesians 5:22-32 (I urge you to read that passage very closely). It begins with “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife…” (Ephesians 5:22-23). Upon hearing these words often the walls go up and the fangs come out!  But in a more careful reading of this passage one discovers the wife submitting to her husband appears only 2 times. The word love, however, appears 7 times in the NIV translation. In the context of love, submission (and children’s obedience) is more than palatable; it is liberating! 

Let me give you an example. I once had a wonderful woman boss. In a situation where I had determined that I needed to go to executive leadership with a situation (really a complaint) she said to me, “Let me do that for you. I’ll take care of it.” Since I trusted her and I knew that she had my best interests at heart, I submitted to her leadership. Sure enough, she returned to me with a workable solution and, if I’m honest, a better outcome then I would have had if I’d done it myself (bad attitude and all). This situation amplifies how submitting to one who truly cares about you is not confining but freeing. 

None of the Bible’s references to submission seem very appealing to the self-centered. But, as it usually does, God’s Word gives us a reward for our submission to His ideals. You can find it in Hebrews 12:9: “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live”! 

Live, it says! Yet often we think by being our own authority we experience full living. The thought of yielding to someone else’s authority seems to be the least likely means to finding a full and rich life. But in God’s economy that’s the way things work. Listen to Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:39: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  In other words, what we gain by submitting ourselves willingly to Him and His love-saturated model for the family is an immeasurably superior life that is both obedient and liberating.


“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). 

Even though the name “Christian” appears only three times in the New Testament, and was originally a term of derision and contempt, it eventually became a title of honor. It meant that the person who followed Jesus was identified with Christ. The disciple of Jesus had taken on His name as well as His identity. This unification with Christ that causes us to proudly bear the name of our Savior is central to this verse. And that identity with Him includes all that we are and all that we do. 

In this sweeping statement that describes a holistic following of Jesus, Paul leaves no option for believers to compartmentalize their walk with Christ. While it remains both easy and popular to segment our lives into the sacred and the secular, as if God is not sovereign over all spheres of life, this statement is an all-or-nothing proposition. Paul leaves no room for us to check our values and beliefs at the door in any area of our life. Since Christ is in us, He goes everywhere with us and thus is to be the dynamic that guides and dictates all we think, say, and do. His influence in us is not restricted to church gatherings, Bible studies, Christian concerts, and family time. He is to invade our work, leisure, and every seemingly mundane task of life.   

Paul’s admonishment in 1 Corinthians 10:31 sheds further light on the scope of our mission in Christ: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” John Piper has written on “Drinking Orange Juice to the Glory of God.” Does that sound silly to us? Well, it doesn’t to Paul. Nor did it to Peter: “…whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11).  This speaks to the totality of who Christ is and who He is in us and reminds us of Paul’s earlier soaring description of Christ as “all and in all” (Colossians 3:11). It makes sense, then, that all we are and all we do is to explicitly reflect His Lordship over all and over us in every “nook and cranny” of our lives. This is what is meant by the phrase “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

This reminds me of Joanie’s story. She was an avid church attender, taught a Sunday school class, and even led a group of young girls in a church organized fitness program. She, however, had been in a long-term affair with a co-worker that eventually led to a divorce. Although she admitted her error and had repented of her adulterous behavior, I was compelled to ask how she (me, or anyone, for that matter) could lead this type of “spiritual double-life.” “It was just a matter of segmenting that part of me from my church life. It’s just a matter of compartmentalizing.” Or, as she would also admit, it is at best a form of “spiritual schizophrenia” and, at worst, a real and dangerous form self-deception and hypocrisy.

But before we put on our flowing robes and phylacteries of judgmentalism and begin hurling stones because Joanie’s was a “spectacular” sin, are we not all guilty of keeping parts of ourselves and our lives for our own, segmented from His divine influence? Do we all not think that some pieces or portions of our affairs are different or separated from our faith life? It could be our career, our hobby, our speech (like gossip), our secret lust, our unbridled ambition, our prideful posture, or our material hoarding that we have not surrendered to our Master. And, if so, how can this be if “he is [our] life” (Colossians 3:4), we are to be “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1-2), and human “offerings” (2 Timothy 4:6)? This all reminds me of David’s transparent prayer in Psalm 19:12-14. The New Living Translation renders it this way:  “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep me from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” 

Maybe the explanation for our unwillingness to capitulate to Jesus in every aspect of our being is implicit in the last half of Colossians 3:17. Could it be a lack of deep-rooted thankfulness? Clearly clinging to both hidden and open sin and disobedience demonstrates a heart that is unthankful for Christ and all that He has given us (which, by the way, is everything – see Ephesians 1:3) but possibly it is that same ungrateful heart that may actually be the root-cause of our selfishness toward our loving, giving Lord. 

In other words, when we are not consumed by the amazing nature and gift of His grace, when we are not overwhelmed at the undeserved mercy He has demonstrated toward us, when we aren’t astounded by the richness of His love for us, His chosen children, it becomes quite easy to keep from Him that which He rightly deserves; all of us and every aspect of our lives. Let us remember with hearts of inexpressible gratitude what He has done for us – given all of Himself and all that we have! In that attitude we can better live out a life and lifestyle of, “whatever [we] do, in word or deed, [we] do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 58 other followers

Faithful Blogger

%d bloggers like this: