“Give Me Liberty…”

He already did.  From the first breath He breathed into Adam, created in His image, with a mind, will and capacity to make his own choices, with liberty we were created.  We chose death.  That’s right, liberty, free will, Adam chose sin and death entered the world.  

I believe in American exceptionalism.  I do, but not because Americans are exceptional.  I believe America is exceptional because God is.  Because the men of colonial America knew this and were willing to act on this knowledge, God blessed their undertaking.  Our founding fathers had a solid grasp of the divine source of liberty and the importance of its preservation.  On July 4, 1776, at the Second Continental Congress, our founders adopted The Declaration of Independence.  The second sentence has resonated through this country and the world ever since.  It states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, LIBERTY and the pursuit of happiness.” Endowed by their Creator…    

War with England had begun over a year prior to the ratification of the Declaration of Independence.  On March 23, 1775, in a speech to the Virginia Convention, Patrick Henry proclaimed, “Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death!”  It’s a great quote, as inspiring today as it was then.  Those men believed in God’s sovereignty, His justice and that liberty was a divine gift.  In liberty, they chose sacrifice of self for others, for a greater purpose, a Godly mission, for… love.  God’s reply, liberty.  Over the past few days I’ve been contemplating this idea of liberty or death from a Christian perspective.  God granted liberty to us, but we chose and continue to choose, death.

From the very beginning, God chose to create us in His image, breathed life into us and allow us liberty and a mind of our own.  He allowed us freedom to think and do as we please.  Why?  The only rationalization I can come up with is love.  He is love, the ultimate embodiment of it.  He wanted someone to love and someone to love Him in return.  The only way that love can be true and powerful is if it is chosen.  It has to be freely given.  He knew the pain this liberty would produce, but it was a price worth paying for that greatest reward, love.

So, God grants us liberty, which I gladly accept.  Next thing I choose is life, Jesus Christ.  I choose to accept His great gifts of grace and love.  I choose to receive His salvation.  I choose life.  Finally, casting a broad blanket, I will exercise the liberty He provides and choose to show God and the world the love He so wants and deserves.  I choose to serve something greater than myself.  With liberty, I choose love.    

Galations 5:13 (NKJV) For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  

 

In full pursuit of the greatest Trophy,

Scott Pace

 

Potential

Within each of us is the potential for great good or great evil.  The only thing that seems to determine how that may play out in our lives are some of the influences and opportunities we have to lead us down one path or another.  Just watch a 2 year old for a few minutes and this may become quite obvious.  Every child born defenseless and dependent on others has the potential to do great things, no matter how long or short that life is.  Did George Washington, Mother Teresa, Hitler, or any one of us fully realize how our lives would play out when we were a toddler, or did that become more and more clear as we learned who we were? 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

When you were young, did anyone ever see something developing within you that you did not even realize yourself?  Whether it was a parent, a teacher, a coach, a pastor, or someone else who knew you enough to call out a particular strength that they saw developing in you.  They encouraged you to be all that you can be, and called out a particular talent or skill within you that they saw the potential to become something good.  When we are young, the words from a peer or an adult we respect can be very significant in the development of our value and self-confidence, either in a positive or negative manner.  Can you recall the words someone said to you years or decades ago that seem as if they were just yesterday? 

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.  Ephesians 1:4-5

Isn’t this the true nature of God…To redeem what was once worthless and make it into something valuable?  How often do we let discouragement and lies lead us to believe that we are not worth the price God paid for us?  Once you have been redeemed with Christ’s blood, know that you are worth more than you will ever realize or fully understand.  When you realize this value, both in yourself and others, it is much easier to live out the potential you have within you and to encourage others to do the same. 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20

Throughout scripture, we are reminded of our inherent worth as humans born in the image of God, and the value he placed on a people damaged by sin, enough to send his Son into a broken world to redeem us.  When we realize, or even partially realize how precious we are to God because of the price he paid for us, we should be encouraged by the Spirit to live up to and to live out our full potential.  Granted, we may never live up to our own expectations, but if we are striving in the right direction, we will still have opportunities to fully realize much more of the potential God has given to us than we could have ever imagined as we live for Him.

So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  Matthew 10:31

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

 

Right Thinking

I love football.  My high school football coach spent a lot of time coaching our minds and not just our muscles.  He would talk about avoiding “stinking thinking” and other negative thought that become our future.  He would teach us to visualize the win to where we can see the celebration after victory.  What I have learned is what we focus our minds on we do.  

Today I spend a lot more time thinking about working out and nutrition than I did 10 years ago.  It has become a focus for me.  As a result, I eat healthier and work out 5-6 times per week.  Have you ever met someone who was laser focused on a goal?  Then 3 weeks later they are still focused and clearer in their direction. What happens?  They do what they set their mind to do.  Until the last century, running a mile in under 4 minutes was impossible and doctors said your heart would explode if you achieved it.  Then someone did it.  They did the impossible, within a year over 10 other people did the same thing.  Why?  They knew it could be done and their mind was focused on it. 

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

The Lord teaches us that we should take our thoughts captive and set them to things that are of His Kingdom.  He knew that when His vision of His Kingdom would capture the essence of our heart and fueled with focus of our minds, we would see His Kingdom come in our hearts.  Then the overflow of that new condition would pour into our marriages, our kids, our businesses, our church, our nation and then our world.  

Transformation begins in ourselves when we learn to hold our thoughts captive and eat from the table of the Lord instead of the table of this world.  I have a mentor that does not set financial goals based on how much he can earn but how much he can give.  His focus is not on him but on others benefiting from his hard work. Today God has entrusted him with a rather large income and every year he has met his giving goals. I have another mentor that is focused on loving his wife boldly.  Today his marriage romance is as strong as many newly weds you might meet. 

So my question today is what are you setting your mind on?  What do you allow to hold your thoughts? Go be vital!

Recklessly, obsessively following Jesus

Brandon Sereg

When the Big Event is Over

When I was a youth pastor we would hold a middle school lock-in every year that grew into a major outreach event. Over 100 6-8th graders would show up at our church at 4PM for 16 straight hours of games, food, worship, a trip to an indoor waterpark, inflatables, and more. Now, obviously an all night event with that many Mt. Dew drinking middle schoolers necessitated an army of volunteers, with about 20 needed per two-hour shift. Because our congregation bought into the vision of the night, reaching a generation for Christ, we always quickly filled up every shift but one: the cleanup shift. Yes, we could find adults willing to supervise jousting pits and dodge ball tournaments from 2am-4am, but about the only people that would ever sign-up for cleanup was the janitor, her family, and those who felt too guilty to say no. When you really think about it, I can certainly see why everyone avoided that shift. Everyone wants to be part of the action and excitement, but few want to stay after the fun is over to deal with the messy and difficult aftermath.

I see a parallel with the church and Easter. On Easter Sunday we seem to have no trouble finding volunteers and filling the pews/seats like never before. Its an electric atmosphere, and everyone walks away happy. Yet, what do we do after Easter? What do we really do with the good news that Jesus died and rose again so that we may live forever? Most of us celebrate that day, then simply go back to our routine on Monday morning, living no differently then before. Our churches go back to “normal,” with numbers drastically falling off and our weekly effort declining precipitously.

Juxtapose that with the reaction of the Disciples after Easter. After Jesus’ ascension the Disciples famously gathered in an upper room to decide who would replace Judas {Acts 1:12-26}. Their task that night was really more then the selection of a twelfth disciple, but a decision to spread Jesus’ message to the ends of the Earth. The disciples decided that night to continue the mission, and ten days later Peter preaches a sermon in the middle of Jerusalem that leads to 3,000 accepting Christ {Acts 2:14-41}. The disciples took the good news of Easter and acted on it, ensuring that the first Easter would be known by just a few, but would be spread to billions. 

I pray that this Easter may spur us to similar action. Lets invite those who attended our churches this Sunday to come back next week. Lets share our excitement and passion with our friends and neighbors. Lets make changes in our lives to live more for Christ then for ourselves. Like the disciples in that upper room let us decide to go all in for Christ, serving on a “cleanup” crew after the big event that greatly improves our world.

Making Men – Submit

Proverbs 1:5New International Version (NIV)

let the wise listen and add to their learning,
    and let the discerning get guidance—

The gateway, the beginning step to authentic manhood is submission. It is allowing the Creator of the Universe to be in control of your life.

When I wrote down this statement, my first inclination was ‘Heavy’, but think about it for a moment. True manhood has a price, and that is submission. We learn it when we grow up from our parents, going to school, and taking on a job. It al requires submission.

The problem with us as men is that we like to fight it. We want control like a wild stallion that runs free, has never been bridled, is head of a heard, and leads with abandonment. A stallion is without submission until it is bridled.

I do not know if many of you remember the movie, ‘Man from Snowy River’. I loved that movie. A man by the name of Jim tried to capture this one stallion, and in the process his father was killed. He was forced off the mountain to work for a man in the valley who was a cattle rancher.

This forced young Jim to learn submission. His whole quest in life was to get that stallion. Along the way he made friends, worked hard, and fell in love with a young girl.

Finally, as destiny had it, this young man gets his chance. The only problem was he had lost respect from the other men, except for one man and his young love. He chased after the herd of wild horses and catches the lead stallion.

He gets an opportunity to catch that stallion and demand that horse’s submission. When he conquered the head stallion, he had conquered the herd. A great story of submission of not only the horse, but within the young man. It was at that point of submission that he grew in strength and courage.

That is how it is with men. In order to lead, you must submit. Authentic manhood requires submission to the Father. The book of Proverbs is loaded with wisdom in how to be an authentic man of God.

Submission is not weakness. It is redirected strength from the Father. The Bible is full of men who submitted to the Father, and in doing so, they found authentic manhood.

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

 

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