In the United States of America, July 4th is known as Independence Day. It commemorates the day in 1776 that the 13 Colonies declared that they were a free and independent nation, no longer under British rule. As we approach the celebration of 241 years as a nation, I reflect upon the concept of free and independent.
Many Christians who are Americans concepts of freedom and independence shaped more American than they are Christian. When Americans talk about freedom, it most often centers on the freedom to do what we want to do, without interference from the government. As Christians, the freedom that we enjoy is first and foremost a freedom from. In Christ we are free from the penalty of sin, the power of sin and the practice of sin (Romans 8:1-7). We are free from guilt and shame. Free from worry and regret. The freedom that we have in Christ enables us to be free to approach God with confidence (Hebrews 4:14-16).
It is dangerous for a follower of Christ to adopt the American spirit of independence. The spirit of independence calls on us to rely on ourselves. However Christians are not called to be self-reliant, but rather God dependent. He is the giver of life and the source of our supply. Additionally, we are called into fellowship with other Christians. We are a connected community and not isolated individuals.
Our freedom in Christ obligates us to proclaim the message of freedom to those who are still in bondage to sin. We share the message of Christ, which brings freedom (Luke 4:17-19). We cannot be satisfied until those taken captive by the devil have been liberated by the truth of God (2 Timothy 2:26). When the message of freedom is obeyed, it transforms our world. When the world embraces the gospel of Christ, we will truly be free. Freedom in Christ means freedom from war and terrorism. We will be free from racism, sexism, and classism. In Christ, we are free indeed (John 8:31-36).
Working with God
Scripture is full of instances where people have asked God for help. They face situations that they cannot conquer on their own, so they ask God to come to their rescue. They are surrounded by an enemy, discouraged by circumstances, or suffering through the trials of life. It makes sense that people would cry out to God for help. He is all powerful and has unlimited resources.
However, in Judges 5:23, Meroz is cursed because they did not come to the help of the Lord. This verse is intriguing because it is the only time that I have seen in scripture that God is receiving help and not giving or being asked to give help. In fact, the scripture teaches us about the sufficiency and self-sustaining power of God. In Psalm 50:12, God let’s His people know that all of the world is His. God reminds Job of the inability of man to teach and counsel God. In Isaiah, God reminds us that His thoughts and actions are far above the reasoning of humans.
So, considering the awesomeness of God, it is surprising that God would want, and even expect our help. God invites us to participate in what He is doing. He wants you and me to be a part of His team. He does not need us. He wants us. God asks us to help Him accomplish His purposes on earth. We should be humbled by the fact that God is calling on us to participate in what He is doing in the world and in the church. So how can we help God?
A Father Foundation
Fathers often get a bad rap in our culture. We hear things like deadbeat dad and papa was a rolling stone. There are some who question the necessity of fathers beyond fertilization. But the truth is that fathers have a great impact on their children. Researchers have found that father-child contact is associated with better social, emotional, and academic functioning. The results indicated that children with more involved fathers experienced fewer behavioral problems and scored higher on reading achievement. Fathers help to advance vocabulary development, cognitive development and positive social skills. Spiritually, the faithfulness of fathers to the church is a great predictor of the faithfulness of children. Greater than even the faithfulness of the mother.
In Ephesians 6 and Colossians 3, fathers are instructed not to interact with our children in a way where anger becomes their habit or prevailing attitude. In Ephesians 6:1, children are told to obey their parents and honor their father and mother. To honor is to ascribe value to and to treat someone based on the value that you give to them. As fathers, we have an impact on the ease in which our children obey and honor us. How we treat our children should motivate them to honor us and make it easy for them to obey us.
Fathers should be encouragers of our children. Whenever possible, encouragement should follow prohibition. Instead of leaving it at what our children can’t do, let’s open their eyes to what all they can do. Expand their thinking by showing them the possibilities. Our instructions to our children must be consistent with the word of God.
Learning Christ and being instructed in the truth that is in Jesus occur not only within the church as a whole, but also and particularly within the family, coming from fathers whose lives are being shaped by Christ and the Word of God. Fathers need a relationship with God if they are going to be in a position to encourage their children to have a relationship with God.
Fathers, bring up your children. Give them a biblical value system. Bring them up by instilling sound principles of the Christian life in them, training them to have good habits, cautioning them and protecting against moral dangers, encouraging prayer, Bible-reading, attending worship. Deal with them prayerfully so that they will become devoted followers of Jesus.
 O’Brien, P. T. (1999). The letter to the Ephesians (pp. 446–447). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Engaged In A War
I had the opportunity to attend the 73rd Annual Lectureship of the National Lectureship of the Churches of Christ in Atlanta, Georgia the week of June 4. The theme was “This Means War.” The focus was on equipping the church and its ministers for spiritual warfare.
Periodically, we need to be reminded that we are engaged in a war against an enemy who is very real, although we cannot see him. We are soldiers of the Lord. Satan is our enemy. The people of God must never forget that Satan is on the attack. His weapons are stealthy. His assaults are subtle.
In 2 Timothy 2:3-4, Paul encourages Timothy to fight like a good soldier and remain focused on the battle. Soldiers on the battle field cannot afford to be distracted. The consequences are deadly.
Have you forgotten that you are engaged in a war? Have you become so wrapped up in this world and its pleasures that you are no longer fighting? How are you doing in avoiding the distractions of Satan? Have you been fighting on the right side in this war? Stay focused. Be a good soldier and please the God who saved you.
Minister Ross' creativity, wisdom, and insight have inspired community, church and corporate audiences throughout the United States.