Who? Me? Submit to Him??

Lizzie was an independent woman who had no problems managing her life and other people.  She was successful in business and had a large group of friends whose company she enjoyed.  Lizzie loved the Lord and was active in her church.  She met Colton at a church retreat and she found him to be charming and kind.  He captivated her.  They married after a brief courtship and their life together began.

Soon she found that Colton had some flaws that began to bug her.  He would start projects and never finish them.  They had enough money to pay for them but he didn’t think anyone else could do the projects right.  He had a call to the ministry.  They also argued about the Bible and its interpretation.  He said that he could never go into the ministry if he couldn’t sell it at home.

As the years went by, Lizzie quit talking to him about spiritual things and she would hire people to come in and complete some of the projects Colton had begun.   Sometimes, Colton would let it pass.  This time she went too far.  It was a project he had been working on and pondering over.  He came home to find it finished and it was all wrong.  He was furious.  He ripped out the competed work.  They had a huge fight.

Lizzie went to the Pastor for counseling.  He brought up submission and she flashed anger. Pastor asked her if he was abusing her physically or spending hours watching pornography.  She said, “No, of course not.”  But how can I submit to him?  He is ruining out home.  We can’t talk about anything in the Bible or your sermons.  He doesn’t agree with me on anything and if he would just complete something- anything, I would try to submit!  Pastor told her that submission was the key to Colton finding his ministry and to her freedom.  Pastor tried to explain that she must quit focusing on the problems and start focusing on the Lord.  Then God would show her how to submit to the man she married.  She left his office adding Pastor to the list of men she didn’t want to submit to.

Lizzie hated the word submit.  It wasn’t fair.  She had always done her work with excellence.  She completed tasks on time.  She didn’t understand how anyone could let something be half done.  She studied the Bible faithfully and had for years, yet her opinion was not valued.  Pastor was a man and men just loved to tell women they should submit.  She fumed.

Things were tense at home that night and Colton asked her what was wrong.  She didn’t respond but got her pillow and went into the guest room and locked the door.  Colton was hurt and confused.

As Lizzie lay on the bed, her heart pounding, she asked the Lord, “Why?  Why do I have to submit to him?  I love him – love many things about him, but he is ruining our lives.”  She lay there, sobbing.  Colton knocked on the door several times, but finally he quit and went to bed.

About midnight, she awoke with a start.  There was a Presence filling the room.  She saw the Lord Jesus at the end of the bed and he said, “Get up and go to bed with your husband.  Give him to me and it will all work out.”  And then He was gone.  Peace settled on Lizzie.  She got up, took her pillow and went into her husband.  She wrapped her arms around him and whispered, “I love you.”  Colton took her hand and they slept peacefully.

From that time, Lizzie supported her husband in everything.  If he was working on a project, she would help him and amazingly, things began to be completed.  She found herself in awe of how able the Lord was to deal with Colton when she quit pointing out his weaknesses.

They began to be able to share their thoughts and understanding of Bible passages.  She found Colton much wiser than she had ever imagined.  He had begun to listen to her and as a result, she was listening to him.

Submission led Lizzie and Colton to an intimacy they never thought possible. They are inseparable. Colton is now moving into his prophetic role in the church.  Pastor smiles at Lizzie and nods his head knowing the great struggle that she had in trusting the Lord.

Today’s Lesson:

Lizzie not only struggled with submission to her husband, but further she was unable to submit to her pastor.  He submission problem was rooted in bitterness and a deep distrust of men.  A wife can get to the point of thinking she is entitled to do her own thing without thought of her spouse.  If he is not strong in His submission to the Lord, he may just give in to her leadership and go into neutral.  This is not what God has intended for us.  We are to be a picture of Christ and the Church.  It took a visitation from Jesus for Lizzie to change.  What will it take for you and me?

Submission is a gift.  It requires us to humble ourselves and recognize that we don’t know everything and we don’t have all the answers.  It is part of the choice that Father God built into our lives.  He made it possible for us to choose Him or reject Him.  He made it possible to submit to Him or resist Him.  If we can’t submit to God, we can’t really submit to anyone.

When we are willing, on our knees, to say, “Father, I don’t know what to do or what you want.  Teach me,” we are in the right mind-set.  He has said we are free – free to choose to go our own way.  Free to choose to love.  God will not take our hearts by force.  We get to choose to accept Him and His leadership or we can choose to accept the leadership of another that will take us by force.  The Scripture makes it clear.” Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”

When a husband and wife finds true intimacy with each other there should be no more secrets between them.  Submission is built on a trust factor into the unknown.  It is abandonment of yourself into the love of the other.   They each still have flaws but as they give up their right to change the other, and give them to God to deal with, life begins to change.

The Lord has wonderful things in store for those who choose intimacy.  It is an amazing picture of the relationship He wants us to have

with Him.  He even says so in the Scripture.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:31-32)  He calls the woman to submit to her husband as He desires the church to submit as His Bride.

He also says to ‘love one another, for love is of God.’  His ways are not our ways but His ways will bring blessings into our lives we never dreamed possible.  “Submit ye therefore one to another.”

(As a caveat, I want you to know that there are circumstances that are too dangerous to submit to and that include physical abuse.  There are other areas as well, but you will have to seek the Lord.  I even hate to put this in here as I know there are some who will justify themselves in circumstances that are merely inconvenient and not dangerous.)

What and who are you submitting to?  Is your love affair with the Lord leading you in your relationships with others or are you still trying to control everything and everyone around you.  It really all comes down to trust and resting in the love of God.  Can you take the first step today and begin to believe in what seems impossible?  You can – will you?

Sober, Focused and Complete in 2013

Dr. Scott had stopped by the bar before heading home.  It was the end of the week and he wanted a little down time before he returned.  He had six children and the house was always busy and loud.  He wanted a few quiet minutes to take the edge off.  The first drink slid down easily and he thought, “I will have another.”  He motioned to the bartender to set him up again . . . and yet again.  He relaxed, paid his bill and left.  He felt a bit light-headed but home was only a few blocks away.

He got in the car.  It responded to the turn of the key and he put the car in gear and headed for home.  Pulling into the driveway, he noticed that the door was opened and all the lights were on.  He jumped out of the car and ran to the front door.  Inside he found his wife was sitting on the floor holding their youngest and weeping.  He tried to clear his head.  That last drink had scrambled things.  What was going on?

“Honey?” he said. “What is wrong?”  Vera looked up, with tears streaming down her face, “Mandy was playing with the big kids tiny figure toys and must have swallowed one.  She isn’t breathing and I don’t know what to do.  I called 911 and they are on the way.”

Dr. Scott again shook his head and began to sober up.  He dropped to his knees and took Mandy and laid her on the floor.  He opened her mouth and couldn’t see the obstruction.  He grabbed his ball point pen and told one of the older kids to get him a clean knife.  He made a small incision in her throat and made a tracheotomy.  Gently he pushed on her diaphragm and she had a whooshing sound as the air flowed into her lungs.  Her color began to return and her eyes fluttered open.

Scott was fully sober now and remembered that he had been late because he chose to be intoxicated.  Soberness was so important.  What if he had been in an accident or had another drink.  What if he hadn’t been here in time?

The EMTs arrived and gently took Mandy and her Mom in the ambulance.  Dr. Scott called a neighbor to watch the children and got back in the car and headed to the hospital.

Today’s Lesson:

Intoxication with the things of the world will keep us from the important things.  Those of us who walk with Jesus must consider the hour.  There was a time when we could be frivolous and spend time pleasing ourselves, but the times we live in require us to be sober and focused.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t laugh and enjoy fellowship with others.  It doesn’t mean that we are like Scrooge.  What it does mean is that we are aware of who we are and more importantly Whose we are.  As we spend time in His Presence and He becomes more and more the focus of the gift of life He has given to us; we are ‘God-possessed.’

There are Mandys everywhere that aren’t breathing.  They need us to help them breathe again by introducing them to the One who loves them.  We are His hands and feet.

We don’t need a drink to relax.  We have the great Comforter to give us peace.  Peace in the Bible doesn’t mean a cessation of conflict; it means ‘whole, complete, and fully alive.’

The year 2013 requires us to be sober, focused and complete. There must be a level of preparedness and watchfulness.   This is my prayer for us all.

Reject Your Own Opinions

Two young ministerial interns, Russ and Toby, came to live with the John and Karen Wright family.  Karen counted it a privilege to have them share her home.  She had high expectations of their mission to learn and serve the congregation and was proud that she would be a good example for them.

The young men had two very different personalities.  Russ rode a motorcycle and looked a bit like a rock star.  He was zealous for the things of God and diligent in his responsibilities.  Toby, on the other hand, seemed shallow in his relationship with the Lord and more interested in the baseball box scores than doing ministry.

John and Karen took off a weekend to visit a nearby city and left the young men on their own.  When they came home, Russ was at church and Toby was sitting in the midst of the living room watching television and working the box scores.  The fact that he hadn’t bathed was obvious.  The house was a mess.

“Why aren’t you at church?’ Karen inquired barely concealing that she was seething with anger.  This was not what she had signed up for.  She was not interested in housing a slothful young man who was shirking his responsibilities.  ‘I couldn’t get a ride,” he responded.  “Well, you have one now.  Get cleaned up, and I will take you to church.”

The air was tense in the car as they sped over the road the seven miles to the church campus.  When they got there, she dropped Toby off at the door and went looking for the Pastor.  When she found him, he was teaching a class.  She walked to the door and when he looked her way, she beckoned him to come out of class.  “Pastor, Toby is not what I thought I would get when I agreed to take in these interns.    He was at home in a horrible mess when we came back from our weekend.  He is here at the church now.  I want him out of my home and I want him out now!” she said with emphasis.  “Would tomorrow be soon enough?” Pastor sighed.  Toby moved out the next day and she made excuses to Russ as to why he was gone.

Pastor called her and John in to confront Toby in his office.  It was less than satisfying to all the concerned parties.  After Toby left, Pastor looked at Karen and said, “You are an opinionated woman!”  Karen felt justified as she thought her opinions were right!

Today’s Lesson:

Karen had an opportunity to cover Toby and be redemptive in his life but instead she rejected him.  She justified herself and her opinions.  The Bible teaches us that love covers a multitude of sin and also, that we will know Christians by their love.  Where was the love in Karen?  She was judge, jury and executioner.

Toby finished his internship but his experience wasn’t good.  He returned to Bible College and thought that all Christians were like Karen.  The story leaves us wondering if he ever found the true love of God in others.

Since that time, Karen has learned a great deal and had an encounter with the Most High God.  He dealt with her and gently helped her see that her opinions were not His.  He helped her to reject her own opinions.  Father God showed her that passion is a good thing if it lines up with His will for us, but when it is based on our opinions, it is dangerous and destructive.  God healed her heart and she forgave Toby through the Holy Spirit who lives in her.

As Christians, we are passionate about many things.  We are opinionated about the political process.  We have ideas about how the church should be managed and what the color the carpet in the sanctuary should be.  We have ideas about what the right doctrine is and end up dividing from friends and congregations over basic issues like baptisms and tongues.

The point of today’s lesson is that we need to reject our own opinions and find out what God wants in each situation.  When we speak what we consider to be the truth based on opinion, we abuse the young believer and actually hinder his relationship with the Lord.  The Bible says that it is better to have a millstone (a huge rock) hung around your neck and be tossed into the sea that to hurt one of His little ones.

The next time you find yourself in an impassioned conversation filled with judgment, condemnation and opinion, stop, quiet yourself, and invite the Lord to cleanse and purify your opinion so that it lines up with His.  It may be necessary to excuse yourself and get alone with the Lord.

We see in Scripture that we can speak like the very angels of heaven but without love, we are profited nothing.  The next time you see another who is walking in error and you want to rush in and deal with it, remember to reject your opinion and choose love over condemnation.  The amazing thing will be that your heart will change and the wonderful peace of God will reign in the place of opinion.

Jazzie’s Story

 Jazzie was a happy, light-hearted child.  She laughed almost from the day she was born and absolutely everyone was drawn to her.  She only cried when she really had a need and otherwise would play contentedly with her baby doll and her toys.  Her mother wanted to love her but she was so absorbed in the drama of her life that she hardly noticed the graceful, loving little person in her home.

As Jazzie grew older, the dysfunction of her home began to affect her.  There was shouting and anger all around her.  She would quietly slip off to another room to stay out-of-the-way of her older siblings and the adults in the house.  One day, the craziness became a part of her own life and the unspeakable things that she endured, broke her fragile and lovely heart.

She began to keep a low profile, but when things would begin to come apart, anger would rise up in her and she would try to protect herself to no avail.  Soon she reluctantly surrendered to the madness.  All through her growing up years, there was no joy and only survival.  She vowed never let anyone be able to hurt her and built walls around her heart.

Somewhere in the midst of the  pain, she made an agreement that ‘no one would ever love her.’  She had decided that she was not worthy of love.  She made another agreement also and it was ‘I am responsible.’  She felt that she could never trust anyone and she was in charge of herself.  These were very lonely decisions and they led her into deep bitterness.  She would see others falling in love and she would be jealous and hateful toward them.  When a young man would show interest in her, she would let him near for just a brief time and then she would wound him to protect herself from rejection.  A sense that she was powerful began to take root in her and she became prideful.  Everywhere she went, there was strife.

Empty and alone, she had opened a door in her heart that had been filled with an evil presence and often she felt as if it had taken control.  She didn’t know how to stop it and surrendered again.

She still had dreams.  Jazzie was very gifted musically.  She used to sing all the time.  She went to school to get her Masters in Music.   All of her compositions were dark and had an unsettling quality.  She was constantly comparing herself with the other talented students and felt something was missing.  This only deepened her rage.

What Jazzie didn’t know was that the God of the Universe loves her and He was longing for her to lay aside her anger, bitterness, pride and jealousy and turn to Him.  He had already forgiven her and all the people who had hurt her.  He wanted her to know that He was not mad at her.  He had sent people to her to tell her of His great love and He had many others praying for her.  He began to trouble her sleep and her dreams were filled with His voice calling her.

She didn’t know what was happening and still hung on to the hurt and the pain.  An old friend, who knew what her childhood had been, had an encounter with the Lord.  Her life was so changed that Jazzie could hardly recognize her.  She glowed with the life of God.  It hurt Jazzie to be near her.  She wanted her to die!  She didn’t even know why she felt that way.  It was all so confusing.  She knew next to nothing about the Lord and was a total stranger to the Bible.

Her talent began to be noticed and she took a trip to a nearby city to give a concert and spent the night in a hotel.  As she sat on the bed, she surfed the channels on the television.  There was nothing she wanted to watch.  Turning it off, she began to look for something to read and found a Gideon Bible in the drawer by the bed.  She opened it to 1 John 4 and scanned the verses.  She stopped at verse 7.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 

10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

She began to weep.  She really didn’t understand some of the words, but they by-passed her head and burned into her heart!

She knew that she did not love.

She searched her heart.  She did not love anyone.  Certainly she loved no one in her own family that had so wounded her.  She didn’t even love herself.

“God, if your real, please teach me how to love.  Come into my heart and change me.”  She felt a strange sense of peace that she had never known. She didn’t remember the happy, sweet child that she had been.

There was a flutter in her stony heart and it began to melt.  It was the beginning . . .

Minister of Death

The Pastor stood up in the pulpit.  He was a strikingly good looking man his hair graying a bit and a wonderful resonating voice.  He looked out over his congregation still reeling from the last counseling session is his office the day before.  How could anyone be so involved in so many sinful things?  He just didn’t understand.  Images had penetrated his mind that he just couldn’t shake.  He took a deep breath and began.

After an hour of coming against sin and admonishing everyone, by reminding them that every sin led to death, he begged them to give up anything in their lives that would cause them to come to judgment.  His own heart ached at the things he sometimes thought about.  He told them that “lust led to more lust, anger to more anger, dishonesty to more dishonesty, envy and strife to confusion and every evil work.”  He diagnosed their condition, but gave them no remedy.

He was quite worked up and the people sat in shock!  Their pastor had never before been so forceful.  Everyone sat in the pew, condemned and without hope.

This well intentioned pastor was a “minister of death.”

Today’s lesson:  When we try to be good enough, there is always someone to point out that our efforts are futile.  It is a misery that shows us exactly why God gave us the Law.   It is a bit like the diet started on Monday morning.  After you eat something that is not in the plan you just think, “Well, I blew it, I may as well finish that cake I made for the family.”

The purpose of the rules of the Law was to teach us that we can’t do it on our own.  All of our attempts, at keeping the whole Law,  end in frustration and disappointment.    Lifting up sin never leads us to freedom.  The Bible tells us that when we lift up Jesus, He will draw all of us to Him.

The pastor drew no one to the Lord that day.  He showed them their utter hopelessness without the Lord of Love.  His own sin loomed bigger and bigger as he spoke the words of judgment and condemnation over his listeners.

Jesus offers us grace which produces life.  Our job – our work is to believe on Jesus that God sent.  (John 6:29)  Our work is believing.  His work is doing in us what needs to be done.  Believing and trusting in Him sets us free.

So, do you want to be a minister of life or a minister of death?  Telling people all that they have done wrong never changes them.  We are told in Scripture that “the goodness of God leads people to repentance.”  Rom 2:4.  Repentance is a Bible word that means change.  It is turning away and turning around.  We look to Jesus instead of our sin.  We look to the Father instead of our own personal strength and ability.  We trust it all to Him.

As we turn to Him, His life – the ‘zoe’ life of God – grows bigger in us and we become freer and freer.

Why does the church minister death?  The Apostle Paul said, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.”  (Galatians 1:6, 7)  This precious pastor never meant to lead people to a different gospel and a different Christ, but ‘there are some who want to trouble us and pervert the gospel.’  There is a demonic realm that interferes with us and we must be ever vigilant.  He wants to steal our freedom and put us back under condemnation.

There is only one Gospel.  It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Grace and  Love.  It is not about our sin.  It is about how He purchased us out of sin with His own blood and lavished His grace upon us.  Now we share with Him all of theblessings that Father God has provided for us.

‘I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing therefore, choose life that both you and your descendants may live!’  Duet 30:19  It is a generational promise!