Posts Tagged ‘submission’

Luke 1:5-25 — Prayers of the faithful are answered. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow. But, God does answer the prayers of those who seek His will in His own due time. Remember when you were a kid and your parents made you wait 30 minutes after lunch by the pool or the lake before you could go swimming. Those waiting periods were excruuuuuuccccciiiiaaaaating. Remember the long trips in the car on family trips…are we there yet? Are we there yet? It’s kind of like that for today’s devotional.

Zechariah and Elizabeth didn’t merely go through the motions in following God’s law. They backed up their outward compliance with God’s law with inward obedience. Unlike the religious leaders whom Jesus called hypocrites, they did not stop with the letter of the law. Their obedience call from the heart and this is why they were called “righteous in God’s eyes.” God answers the prayers of those who earnestly seek Him. Do you think that God will answer the prayers of those who are not seeking to be in alignment with His will. It is clear from scripture that God not only hears prayers of His saints, but that He also answers their prayers. God says to Christians that He will listen to your prayers. However, our prayers must be in alliance with God’s own, perfect will (Matt. 26:39). Our prayers must be after God’s own heart. We must seek His will. However, the question remains, does God answer the prayers of unbelievers? I Peter 3:12 plainly says that God will hear a believer’s prayer but not those of the unsaved: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” He will answer. The answer may be an immediate yes. It may be a no. It may be a not now. He answers. He answers the priors of those who are submitted to and seek Him. The prayers of those who are evil fall on deaf ears.

In Zechariah and Elizabeth, they were not “for show” believers and they certainly were not non-believers. They were barren with no children. They prayed, and prayed, and prayed for children. The difference between Zechariah and Elizabeth was that they trusted God with the answer. They were righteous people. They were submitted to God’s holy will for their lives. There was pain and suffering. There was humiliation. However, they never gave up on God. They knew that God will answer the prayers of the righteous in one way or another and in His due time. Do you feel like God is not answering your prayers fast enough. When we get angry at God for not showing any sign of having answered our prayers, we are acting as if He is a vending machine God. Push the button, and the answer to the prayer comes out. We in our freeze-dried, microwave, drive-thru, 30 days to a slimmer you, instant coffee, fire the coach if he doesn’t win in 3 seasons, if I don’t like it I will return it kind of world, we have a hard time with God not giving us immediate answers. We want prayer-boom-answer. I am as guilty as anyone. I have finished seminary at age 52 and I am impatient. I want to hear the answer to my prayer now. I must learn the patience of Zechariah and Elizabeth. I must remember Moses had to wait a long, long time in the desert wilderness before He was called. Although lives are shorter now, I must remember that Moses did not begin his ministry until He was ready in God’s eyes – when His earthly life was two-thirds over. We must be understanding of God’s sovereignty and His timing and we must be patient and trusting of the Sovereign Lord of the entire universe, the Sovereign Lord of all eternity. How did Zechariah and Elizabeth not lose faith. They knew that faith involves trust. Faith involves submission. We must trust that God is working, working, working. We must trust that He is wiser than we. We must trust that He wil answer our prayers the way that He as Sovereign Lord wants to answer them.

God often answers the prayers of His faithful in ways far beyond what we could have imagined. For their persistent but trusting prayers, Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayers were answered mightily in God’s due timing. For their patient trust and their seeking of God’s will, they were to be rewarded with the birth of a son who would make the way for the Messiah. He was to be the forerunner. He was to light the fires. He was to mark the way toward righteousness. He was to call out the hypocrites and point them toward salvation. He was to be John the Baptist. Their prayers were answered in a son. They prayers were answered in an amazing son. God hears your prayers, oh, you who earnestly seek Him. He will do so abundantly. He will answer the prayers of the faithful and will do so in ways we could not have imagined previously. He is a mighty God. When we get ourselves out of the way and our demands for immediate response and seek and believe that God will answer in His way and in His time, He will bless our persistence and our patience and our seeking of His will.

Father, I am flesh and bones. I am flesh and bones in the 21st century where everything is fast, fast, fast. We think our internet is not fast enough when it does not respond in under 1 second. I am impatient. I want my answers from you now, oh Lord. I get frustrated when you don’t give me immediate answers to my prayers. Father, teach me the patience that I need. Father, you know my heart. I am not perfect but I do so love you and what you have already done for me in my salvation through Your Son. Help me to pray for your will not mine. Help me to be patient and perseverant in my prayers to you. Help me more than anything to trust that You are God and You will answer in the way and in the time that You desire as my Sovereign Lord. Please forgive my impatience Lord but please remember my love for you, Oh Lord, Most High. Amen.

Romans 16:1-16 — Women. Women. Women. OK, guys, now that I have your attention. Let us as men and women read on. In this passage, we find a who’s who list of early Christians. This passage though it seems like just a list of greetings tell us several important things about the early Christian church that we must remember today.

This passage teaches us, first, that just because a Christian woman is submissive to her husband does not mean that she cannot play important roles in the church and its work. We will look at this point today. Tomorrow (Saturday), we will look at husbands and wives as Christian teammates. Finally on Sunday, we will look at the mobility of the early church and what it compels us to be today.

First, there is Phoebe. She is mentioned first in this passage, Paul’s greetings. Some biblical scholars conjecture that since she was mentioned first here that she was the one who delivered this letter, now called the Book of Romans, from Paul to the believers at Rome. She is noted as a deacon. In the first century, deacons were not the power brokers that they are in many Baptist churches today. Back then deacon was just the first step in service to the Lord. Deacons were those that we singled out for the heart for the Lord and service to other Christians. In the early church, they were the ones who took care of the practical day-to-day matters of the church. The fact that Phoebe was a deacon reminds us that women played an important role in the early church. In a time in history, when women has little or no power and few human rights, the fact that Pheobe is named as a deacon is especially striking. This kind of debunks the sometimes held belief that the Christian church has a sexist bent. Paul mentions Phoebe as being helpful to Paul so that means most likely that she helped his ministry’s financial needs. She was highly regarded in the church. She was a woman who helped the church grow and expand. Women were part of Jesus’ town to town entourage (Luke 8:1-3) who helped meet the needs of his ministry and did so from their own means. They were not prevented from helping the church because they were women. They were empowered by Jesus and later his church.

Sure, Paul tells us in many other places in the Bible that women should submit to their husbands (who are submitted to the Lord and loves his wife the way the Lord loved his church – he gave his life for it). However, that did not mean that they were not allowed to be active, useful, and important members of the church. Throughout the New Testament women are given great value by Jesus and by his church. What mattered to Jesus and it is apparent here is that they were believers and they wished to serve the Lord. Women, as you see, here plaid prominent roles in the church. This shows that a woman can be submissive to a truly Godly man in the matters of their home and as a couple outside it but it does not preclude women from great, great servants in the church. Women are celebrated by the church. Women are gifts to us men. They are the true treasures of God’s creation. They are beauty. They are that which makes our world worth living in. They are what make this world worth fighting for. Without women, the world would be a dirty, ugly, and harsh like the nature of men. Women are made to be home. They are our safe place in a harsh world. They are important in God’s plan and they should be important in God’s church.

Let us remember as Christian men, we are given the gift of a submissive wife. With the submission of our wives to us, we are given an even greater responsibility to her (and by extension to God-fearing women in general). We must be willing to die for our wives as Christ died for us. We are called to be sacrificial for our wives. We are called to put their needs before ours. As Christ covers us with his perfection, we are to cover and protect our wives and make sure that they can grow into the flowers that they are intended to be. We are not to keep them beaten down and locked away. We are to make sure that they can flourish just as Jesus makes sure that we are made right with God. As men, we should make sure that not only our wives are allowed to flourish but all Christian women. We should create an environment that these treasures, women, can flourish and use the special gifts that God gives specifically to women. This is our job, men. The way I see it, women will willingly submit to a man when she sees him living a God-fearing life and is demonstrating a Christ-like love toward her as a wife or a Christ-like respect to her as a woman in general. We don’t get submission by being a prick to our wives or women in general.

So, there you have it, women are important in God’s plan of redemption for the world just as we men are. They played important roles in the first century church and were extremely important to the rapid spread of the church. The Christian church is empowering of women because Jesus was empowering of women. Feminists bash the Bible because they read that women should be submissive. Yes, it says that, and, yes, we believe that. However, what the feminists don’t read on and see is that men have a higher calling that results in this submission. We are called to love our wives the way Christ loved the church. How did Christ love the church? He went all out for it to the point of offering up his life so that we would be reconciled to God. We are to love our wives this way. How can a woman not submit to a husband that loves her this way? By implication too, we, men, should create an environment for all Christian women that they know that we will put our life on the line for them, that we will create an environment where they feel safe and can flourish. As men, we should empower women to become all they can be just as Jesus did. He gave them value. We should give them value. If they have talents that can benefit and further the church we should celebrate it and foster it not condemn it and hinder it. Women. Women. Women. They are God’s gift to us. Let us treat them that way. Let us help them become all they can be in God’s plan.

Romans 12:14 — “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” Here is an instruction on living the Christ-like walk that is difficult for us to practice with even the closest people in our lives much less a non-believer.

In the book of Acts, we find Stephen, the first Christian martyr, blessing those who had just stoned him to the point of death. How do we do this in our own lives? Proverbs 25:21-22 says, If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you.” This kind of behavior is contrary to our human nature. Our human nature is to lash out at those who are our enemies. Our human nature is to lash out at those who have hurt us. Like a football team that has that killer instinct that grinds their opponents into the ground, we want to completely destroy our opponents. How does God expect us to be this way? It is so hard. I want revenge on those who have hurt me! For example, how does one respond, say, to a spouse that leaves you for another lover. How can I not hate them both and want to punish them for what they did? How can I not hate that person that screws you over at work and seems to have gained great advantage from it? How do you not hate that mean girl at school who has spread vicious rumors about you just because you were beginning to have some popularity? We deal with these types of situations throughout our lives. From kindergarten to the senior center, we have to deal with people who have made us angry, have taken advantage of us, or who were just downright mean to us.

God how do we do this one thing that you expect of us? The first thing is in submission of our will to that of God our Father. If we are truly submitted to Him as we say we are, we must give this up to Him. Let us take our anger out on God. I don’t mean being indignant with God or blaming Him but being like a child with a father. When the world dumps on us as children, we talk with our daddies. We ask him how we should respond. We cry. We vent our anger and frustration. We seek the advise of our dad. When we go to our eternal Father with anger over those who have hurt us, we vent. We cry. We cry out to Him. When we do this, it shows that we do actually believe that our unseen Father in Heaven is really central in our lives. Rather letting our anger fester and boil, we have a honest conversation with our Father. God doesn’t want our formula prayers. He wants to have real conversation with us. He wants us to express our true feelings to Him. When we let our anger rule our response, are we not playing god? We have been offended. We want to use our own power to respond. When we seek God, we are saying to ourselves that God is in charge. He really wants this type of relationship. He wants those real conversations instead of platitudes. He wants to hear when you are “so angry I cannot even see straight.” Be honest with your Father in Heaven. Seek His will. Ask Him how to respond. Ask for His help in controlling your anger.

Pray for those who persecute you!?!? Really? Paul, you have got to be kidding? How can I pray for a man who just stole my promotion from me? How can I pray for a man who just stole my wife? How can I pray for a person who assaulted my child? How can I pray for someone who just murdered someone I love? How can I pray for the drunk driver that just killed my family in a car accident? How can I pray for anyone who has hurt me? This is a tough one. There is a story I found on the internet that goes like this. A man went into the preaching ministry, worked for seven years, then resigned to go back to medical school and become a doctor. He came to the conclusion that “People don’t want spiritual health. They just want to feel good.” He said that after working as a physician for seven years, he again resigned, this time to go back to school and become an attorney. He said, “People don’t want spiritual health. They don’t even want physical health. They just want to get even.” However, when we commit to pray for a person who has hurt us, we don’t like it at first. In the process of praying for a person who has hurt us, we may begin to see them as a human being rather than a demon. We may, through the Holy Spirit’s help, begin to see what that person’s motivations were for hurting us. We may never fully understand nor get to the point that we want to have lunch with them or even get to know them. However, prayer leads us to let go of our anger. Prayer allows us to see that person as one who needs God’s forgiveness of sin just as much as we did and still do.

A lot of times when people hurt us, it is because they want and relish that we will respond in kind. When we seek and plot revenge. Are we not letting that person, as the old saying goes, “live rent free in our head.” Give it up. When we let a person’s actions so consume us, it can lead to their own destruction. Let that not happen to us. A woman who becomes so scornful toward her ex-husband that she becomes so obsessed with destroying him that she loses sight of her life is an example. This could be a husband as well. They get so consumed with destroying their spouse that they lose every friend they ever had, may even lose their children, all to the point that all they can talk about is their ex. They have no life. Is that what we want to be. The best revenge is a good life. The best revenge is rebuilding and moving on. The best revenge is to show them that they did not destroy you. The best revenge is to to pray for them. The natural inclination of everyone is to respond with hate to those who have hurt us. Our greatest witness of what a Christ follower is really like is to respond to hurt with kindness. It ain’t always easy. When our core cries out to strike them down, we must have a renewed mind. When anger is the common answer, we must respond in love. Does this make us doormats? No. We do not respond to others by letting them run over us but we do go against our nature and respond in love not hate. The old saying two wrongs don’t make a right is it. We must seek God first. We must pray for those who have hurt us. We must let the Holy Spirit govern our response.

How can we teach someone about Jesus Christ if we respond in exactly the same manner as an unsaved person? If we respond to the world around us in the same way that they do, how can they see Jesus? If it is our commitment to carry the gospel to the world, the world must see a difference in us? They must see that we are different in a way that they want? Lord, help us all as Christ followers to be in the world but not of it. Our response to hurt is the most telling tale of how we are different than the world. All the theology of Christianity is meaningless if we do not respond to the world any differently than they do. Lord, help me to seek your will always. Even when someone has licked the sugar of my Corn Flakes. Help me to seek your will for my response. Help me to take myself off the throne of my heart. Help me to seek how to glorify you and make Your Son’s name famous rather than to meet my needs for revenge. Help me. Help me. Help me with this one, Lord. Amen and amen. Gotta say amen twice on this one. Lord. So be it and So be it til I believe it.