Freedom Without Faith is Dead

Believe Jesus.  Our joy can be complete.  Will we trust Him when He says, “Ask, and you will receive”?

July 4th has come and gone again this year.  It was, once again, a time for me to meditate on both the meaning of freedom and how so many in the USA literally worship their country.  I mean, it’s an okay place and all, but really.  It just makes me a little sad.  It’s not like the collective mass of people, cities and states add up to anything god-like.

Real freedom is only found in Jesus Christ.  It doesn’t matter how many people participate in our electoral process.  We could be a democracy, republic, oligarchy, monarchy, dictatorship, communist nation or loose collection of anarchists.  If we don’t have Jesus, it’s all for nothing.

In a democracy, majority rules.  If the majority is evil, lawlessness reigns.  If the majority is good, well, they can force all the evil people to do good things or else.  That would be more desirable, but not perfect by any means.  The very nature of the law leaves very little room for mercy, forgiveness and love.  There is something better, and it’s called Grace.

There is another kingdom, a new world.  Its name is Heaven, and its citizens are priests.  This nation has no borders, and its law is written on our hearts.  It exists right now among us, and soon our King will come to earth.  Only in Him do we find true freedom.

His is not a freedom to sin or to do whatever we want.  His is the freedom from sin, to do what we were created to do.  And whether we live or die, prosper or suffer, the glory belongs to the King.  He fills us with joy unspeakable, life everlasting and eternal comfort for our souls.  He made us to be close to Him, to know Him, to be His friend and child.  He made us to love each other in the same way He loves us.  And we can.  Yes, we can love that way.

That is the freedom I am living for.  I will die for it.  I will live again in it.  Amen.

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”–Romans 12:1

Kingdoms

How close is the Kingdom of God?

Some Christians might say very close.  So close, in fact, that we should further our political agendas as far as we possibly can.  We can take different approaches.  On one hand, we can push morality with an unquenchable fire but sacrifice love.  On the other hand, we can condemn unloving institutions but sacrifice high moral values in the name of peace.  The first is a way of being–when Jesus returns, we will be found fighting for truth, thereby escaping His wrath.  The other is a way of change–as soon as we develop a peaceful world, we will have earned God’s love, and He will return to reign.

But what if He already loves us more deeply than we can imagine?  What if all His wrath toward us who believe has already been poured out on Jesus?  Can we love with no agenda?  Can we live in thankfulness, knowing that the forgiveness He offers is entirely sufficient?

Some are working to see the Kingdom come.  Some know that it is already here.  How about you?  Do you ask yourself what the world would be like if it was good? Or what you would be like if you were good?  If you truly believe in Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross, you are righteous.  I think I’m beginning to understand.

“Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.'”–Luke 17:20-21

Rebellion, Protest and the Divine Right of Kings

Living in DC, most all the local buzz is about politics.  It’s a little strange for me, because I was never really that interested in politics.  I tended to ignore it most of the time.  This was my philosophy: God controls politics anyway(Romans 13:1-7), so why worry about it?

Some protesters got arrested a couple days ago in the hallway outside Nancy Pelosi’s office.  They had been tearing pages from the new health care bill, throwing crumpled pieces through the doorway while shouting things like “You’re going to Hell!”  Embarrassing things like that serve to strengthen my philosophy to just stay out of it.

But still, I pray.  The Bible says to pray, so that’s what I do.  I pray in public places, and I pray in the closet.  I’m really not certain how effective the public prayer is.  After all, Jesus discouraged it.  It can seem like a protest, and I don’t want to be a rebel(1 Sam. 15:23).

What I do know is that God uses our leaders for His purposes.  Here is a prayer I spoke silently in front of the Supreme Court the other day: “Lord, just as you used your servant Nebuchadnezzar to judge the Daughter of Zion, use these nine Supreme Court justices to judge the Daughter of Washington with all righteousness.”

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”—1 Timothy 2:1-2

Freedom or Security?

And the debate goes on.  Due to my newly discovered interest in a certain news website, I’ve been getting a little more insight into the political scene lately.  Seems to me that conservatives don’t trust the government.  They’re really scared that their perceived “freedoms” are being taken away.  On the other side, liberals seem to not trust the people and the current economic system.  They believe that more regulations and programs will protect us from our crazy selves, bring more security.  And who can blame them?  Just about anyone can tell that people are crazy, and both the government and the populous are made up of none other than people.  I love every one of them.

Where do I stand in this grand debate?  Honestly, I could care less.  All the freedom I’ll ever need, I’ve found in Jesus Christ.  I couldn’t be any more secure than I am right now, in the loving arms of God.  People can debate this issue as much as they want, but I’m sure they’ll never reach any real answer.  Who we need is Jesus.  That’s about it.

“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.”–Colossians 2:8

Oil and the End Times?!?

Okay, so I was watching TBN today, and John Hagee was doing his show about Revelation and the end times.  I think the point of the whole thing was that we should war against Iran, Russia and other Islamic nations for oil so they won’t have enough money to destroy Israel.  To get to that point, he stated a few dozen big assumptions about the meaning of different passages in Revelation, then said stuff about how all the Christians will get raptured before this stuff even happens.

It was seriously the strangest sermon thing I’ve ever seen.  It was actually kind of dumb.  He was just trying to justify violence with the Bible.  I think he said something at the end like “Because of this situation, now we should pray even more for America, for our freedom.”  One thing you missed Pastor Hagee; we have our freedom in Christ, not America.  I wonder if it’s because of guys like this that people hate Christians…

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”–Galatians 5:1

God Is Real

I think we forget that sometimes.  Just look around you.  Look at yourself.  There are so many people who claim to “believe in God” or to “be a Christian,” but where is the evidence?  To me, it looks like so many are living for themselves.  There may even be a deep religious tradition they hold onto, but they’re still living for themselves.

I visited an after-school children’s program yesterday, right in the middle of a poor community.  There were signs for Barack Obama all over the place, claiming “Change.”  This man, Obama, has given people hope for a better life.  Also yesterday, I was hanging around some conservative evangelical Christians.  They’re all about McCain and Palin.  Because he supports banning abortion and gay marriage, they’ve put their hopes in him.  McCain has given them hope for a righteous America.

This may be a shock to some of you: Obama can’t save America.  Here’s another one: McCain can’t fix America.  Yeah, shocking, right?  There is only one man who can do those things, and His name is Jesus Christ.  He is real, and the Church is His body.  Wake up, stand up, and put your faith in the Lord of the Universe.  Serve Him.  He is alive.  He’s coming back soon.  Let us who believe start acting like it.

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”–Luke 21:34-36

The Politics of Marriage

Many of you know that Florida is voting on a marriage amendment in less than a month.  It seeks to define marriage as a union only between one man and one woman.  I think it’s a good thing, to keep our current definition of marriage.  I think it’s worked pretty well.  I don’t have anything against homosexuals, but gay marriage is a fairly new idea(at least, trying to have the government acknowledge it).  From a Biblical perspective, of course, homosexuality is a sin, and I think that the closer a country’s laws are to the Bible, the better.  After all, the Bible is straight from God.  What could be better?

Here’s the problem, though.  Christians don’t even follow the Bible in regards to marriage.  Just look at the divorce rate.  Last I heard, it’s around 60% in the American church.  So, that’s just sad.  How do we expect anyone to respect the idea of God-ordained marriage if we can’t even model it ourselves?  What ever happened to “wives, respect your husbands” and “husbands, love your wives”?(Eph. 5:33)  What happened to “don’t divorce, except for marital unfaithfulness”?(Matt. 5:32)  Obviously, I’ve never been married, and I have no idea what those real situations look like.  But there seems to be a whole heck of a lot of “situations” these days.

What’s wrong with us?  Have we lost our faith in God’s provision?  Do we think we know better than God?  Are we really that selfish?  Just a head’s up, guys: life sucks sometimes.  There will be money problems.  There will be emotional strain.  Nobody’s perfect, especially your husband or wife.  The truth is, you took a vow before God and man to stay together.  If you didn’t want to be married, you should have taken Jesus’ advice not to take oaths and stayed single your whole life.

Here’s my advice, brothers and sisters: before you go out and vote on the marriage amendment, passing your own judgement on others, look at yourselves first.  Are you the best husband or wife that you can be?  If your marriage isn’t perfect, that’s okay.  That’s what God is for; you shouldn’t be depending on yourself(or your spouse) anyway.  Seek God and Godly council.  Trust God.

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”–Matthew 6:31-33