Mutual Submission

“ Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” — Romans 12:10 (NIV).

Submission is fundamental to Christian living and healthy relationships that honor God. Yet, the concept of submission has been misunderstood and distorted by many people, including well-meaning Christians. The Bible teaches that our relationships should be characterized by humility, love, and respect. These are the hallmarks of submission. The problem is that many believers have emphasized submission as a requirement for some, but not for others. We have made “submission” about “obedience,” rather than about sacrifice, love, and trust.

The Bible does not call wives to obey husbands or husbands to obey wives. It calls husbands and wives to trust and love one another so much that they become intertwined as one flesh. The Bible is calling for mutual submission. 

What does mutual submission mean and better yet, how can I apply it in my life? In simple terms, mutual submission means “I’m going to leverage my resources, my time, my talent, etc. for your benefit.” Regardless of who we are or what role we have, this is God’s standard for relationships. Godly submission looks a lot like love. If both husbands and wives submit to one another as commanded, we enter a never-ending, life-giving circle of mutual submission and love.

Mutual submission in marriage is not blind obedience; it is loving sacrifice. It is turning the position of one’s heart towards the needs or desires of another’s heart. This is why the Bible calls husbands and wives to submit to one another: “Ephesians 5:21, says, “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Husbands and wives are meant to be a team. Teams operate best when one member does not demand authority or superiority over another member. Philippians 2:3 reminds us, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”

When husbands and wives submit to one another, checks and balances are in place and all parties can feel safe to express their needs, desires, and callings. 

Living in the way of Jesus is not about being above another or overriding the heart of the other… It’s about loving well in a marriage that seeks to reflect the person and actions of Christ. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. In marriage, what does mutual submission look like? What part do you play in that?
  2. What is the difference between obedience and submission?
  3. What can we do this week to practice mutual submission?

Love In Action

My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.” –  1 John 3:18 (GNT). 

Fiddler on the Roof is a musical that debuted in 1964. It is a story about Tevye, his wife Golde and their 5 daughters. There is a scene where the husband asks his wife if she loves him. She is shocked that he would even ask such a thing, and replies that for 25 years of marriage she has cared for him, took care of the house, made his bed, cooked his food, and reared their kids. And then says, if that isn’t love, then what is? This playful interaction between husband and wife illustrates a basic building black of true love; that love is an action verb. 

When we first fall in love we usually say things like,  “I love you” or “I want to be with you.” The early focus in marriage is on the “I” part of the equation. But staying in love requires taking the actions necessary to meet the needs of our spouse.  Falling in love is only the beginning. It’s the first step in an amazing journey where two people become one. But the extreme feelings of intimacy first felt will eventually start to diminish unless we do the things necessary to constantly kindle the flames. Love is more doing than feeling. 

Most married couples begin their marriage with lots of loving words and actions. Over time life gets busy and the words stop. Worse yet, our actions no longer match the words. We may be thinking all the right things.  But love has limited value until it is expressed and demonstrated. Those positive feelings for your spouse must find their way out through your mouth. 

Show your spouse not only in what you say, but also in what you do. It reminds me of a note a man wrote to his girlfriend some decades ago before most people had cars. “I would wade through barbed wire for you,” he gushed. “I would climb a sheer mountain wall just to be where you are. I would walk through fire just for the privilege of gazing into your eyes. P.S. I’ll see you tomorrow night if it doesn’t rain.” The air came out of that balloon quickly. His words and lofty intentions mean little without action. 

The love you give your spouse is not just in what you choose to think. It’s not even in what you feel about him or her. He’s all about the action. Love is a verb.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. In John 13:34, Jesus identifies love as a verb, not a noun. What are some concrete differences between feeling love and showing love through your actions?
  2. What steps can you take this week to proactively love someone rather than reacting to what someone else does or does not do for you? 

Tethered To God

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5. 

At about 3:45 p.m. on June 3, 1965, orbiting somewhere above the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, astronaut Ed White opened the hatch of his Gemini 4 spacecraft and stepped out on the first-ever spacewalk by an American.  Now in space, there is no resistance to one’s movement, so when White stepped off Gemini and began floating in space, he might have kept floating away were it not for a 26-foot tether attached between his spacesuit and ship.  That tether was crucial to the success of the space mission. 

Being tethered to God is just as important for the Christian. We tend to drift to places we don’t want to go when we are not tethered to God. Life can be hectic and there are times when we are so busy we forget the importance of being tethered to God. So instead of waiting on Him, we tend to try to solve life’s problems or circumstances with our own abilities. Instead of waiting for Him to shed some light on some confusion in our life we rush on ahead. Often that approach ends up in failure. When we are not tethered to God we can forget that God gave us talents and abilities, and He wants us to use them well; but He doesn’t mean for us to become sufficient in ourselves. We were created by God to rely on Him not only for the things we need and the choices we make, but every part of life.  

If you are looking to make a fresh start make sure that fresh start starts with being tethered to God. That is the best way to make the life changes you seek to make.  A fresh start means you have to launch out into new territory. The Bible says that the key to changing anything is faith. If you want to change your circumstance, it takes faith. If you want to change your personality, it takes faith. If you want to change anything in your life, you have to have some faith. And faith comes from being tethered to God.  If you act in faith then you will do something positive to ensure that you don’t repeat the same mistakes over. The faith that I am talking about is an affirmative faith that takes positive action coupled with the help of God to change your life.

If you want to be tethered to God tether yourself to God’s word. Psalm 1: 1-3 (TLB) says, “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow evil men’s advice, who do not hang around with sinners, scoffing at the things of God. But they delight in doing everything God wants them to, and day and night are always meditating on his laws and thinking about ways to follow him more closely. They are like trees along a riverbank bearing luscious fruit each season without fail. Their leaves shall never wither, and all they do shall prosper. “ The more you meditate on God’s word, the better you will be tethered to God and the better the fresh start you wish to make.

What does it mean to be tethered to God? It means we are to become like Him. We are changed by Him. We are making the changes that represent visible life change. We would become more loving. We would be more forgiving. We would show more mercy. We would be more generous. And this character would begin to be evident in our lives.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you define being tethered to God? 
  2. What could we do this week to be more tethered to God? 

Hope For The Future

“I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 1:18-20.  

How many of you would like to know the future?  Who wouldn’t want to know what the future holds for us, our families, our church, our nation, the world. If you have failing health, you want to know if and when it will improve. If we have a difficult child, we want to know when it will be less difficult. If we lose a job we want to know how long it will take to find a new one. Will there be another hurricane? Will we find ourselves in WW3? We worry about what could happen and what we will do if and when when it does. 

Fortunately, Christians know that hope in an unchanging and eternal Christ is a certain thing. That hope is rooted in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we know that God has won the battle. Sin and death have been defeated. 1 Peter 1:3 says, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation,” Our hope is alive because Jesus is alive.

David wrote, “Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.” (Psalm 27:3). Psalm 27 is a song and a prayer of trusting God in the face of fears. Psalm 27 teaches us that our confidence is based on God’s unending protection. The ultimate fulfillment of this Psalm is found in Christ, the one who conquered our worst fears at the cross. Because of Jesus, we can come into God’s presence with confidence and hope. As Paul wrote in Romans, “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?  (8:31-32). If God sacrificed His own Son to save us from our sins, He will be with us in the fears we face today.    

Our hope in Christ is an eternal thing, but it’s also a present thing. Maybe you need a fresh start and that fresh start requires changing some things today. God is with us in the present. He will be with us in our new beginning and in the changes we seek to make. We can make a fresh start because we serve a present, living Savior.

As we make a fresh start, my prayer is that we will never stop being in awe of the gospel. When we lose sight of what God has already done for us in Christ is when we begin to think there are hoops for us to jump through to start fresh, we need to remember that Jesus has already cleared all the hoops for us.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are you confident in the future? Why or why not? 
  2. How might we focus more on the future in our spiritual lives? 

Reboot Your Life

“ And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” — Revelation 21:5.

If you’ve been feeling unmotivated, uninspired, or otherwise ready for change, a fresh start may be exactly what you need. Maybe a fresh start will help you transition into healthier habits. Maybe you need a new direction, a new set of goals. Or maybe you just need a new starting point. Maybe you’re in the same boat when it comes to your spiritual life.  You need some spiritual spring cleaning. You don’t feel as close to God as you would like and you don’t seem to be enjoying the full Christian life that God has given us to enjoy. The solution may be a reboot, or starting fresh. 

Moses changed the world for the nation of Israel. He led them out of slavery to a new beginning in a new land. But before this happened, Moses himself needed a new beginning. He killed an Egyptian and went into exile for 40 years. But the Lord spoke to him and drafted him back to service. God gave him a second chance. God gave him, and ultimately the Israelites, a new beginning or a fresh start if you will. 

Have you ever wished you could start all over again, maybe in your marriage, maybe in your relationship with your children, or maybe your relationship with God. In a way you can, because the Bible says, “…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! ” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The good news is God is all about that. He wants you to have a fresh start in life; He wants you to have a new beginning, to do something new in your life.  Isaiah 43: 18 says, “But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.” God is telling us to forget about what’s happened before because the book’s closed on it. God is far more interested in our future than He is in our past. 

You don’t have to be weighted down by your past. You can put it behind you.  Your life can become new and fresh in Jesus Christ. You, too, can have a new beginning. I love how the Lord effectively said to the Israelites, “It starts now.”

Maybe that is where you are this morning! You feel that you have made so many mistakes, you have failed God so many times and you have sinned it all away. Now God doesn’t want anything to do with you. You feel and believe that you have no future with God. The good news is, God is saying, “ It’s not over, I have plans for your life. I am about to do something new for you. ”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you need a fresh start?
  2. What chnages would you like to make in a fresh start?

Easter Changes Everything

“I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” – 1 Corinthian 15:3-4

Fortunately, we know the whole story, but have you ever considered what the disciples must have felt on Good Friday? They had given up everything to follow Jesus. They had left their jobs and their families. They had completely changed their ways of life in order to follow Him. The journey had never been easy, but they trusted the one whom they were following. So it must have been hard to imagine the grief and fear that they must have experienced on Good Friday.  Saturday probably wasn’t any better. Today, we celebrate Good Friday as good because of what happened on Easter Sunday. 

1 Corinthians 15 is a beautiful reminder of the resurrection and all that it accomplished. Paul understood the essential nature of the resurrection. He knew that if Jesus didn’t arise that first Easter morning, nothing really matters. Absolutely nothing—has any meaning at all. Any good work we accomplish will either decay or quickly become obsolete. When our life has passed, any impact we leave will be washed away instantly. Paul said it this way: “And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19. 

But because Christ has indeed risen, we have every reason to live well, to worship God, and to savor his love, mercy and blessings every day.  Because those things are only a taste of what is to come. Because of the resurrection, our lives have purpose beyond the eighty-or-so years we spend on earth. And why we are living on this earth we have hope. 1 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV) says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.”

We have hope that our  mistakes and sins can be forgiven. There is hope that we can have joy, peace, assurance, and security in the midst of the despair of this age. And we have a connection and a confidence with the living God. We can move past our past, we can start fresh and finish strong.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Jesus’ resurrection proves that He is God and gives us power over sin and death. Agree or disagree and why? 
  2. Does the resurrection give you an unshakable hope and confidence that we can overcome our past and our fear of starting fresh? 

Lead Me To The Cross

But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.” –  Isaiah 53:10 (NIV)

The cross has become an icon. It’s everywhere, on everything. It’s on steeple tops, on book covers, on ornaments, jewelry, and clothes. The cross is omnipresent in our culture, but do we truly grasp the power and implications of the cross? Chances are that we don’t and that is to be expected. How can we get our mind around what Jesus had so generously done for a wretch like me so I could experience His grace, love and mercy?

It is not surprising that I am awed by the cross and at the same time surprised by how much of the cross I don’t understand. There is a line in the song “Here I am to Worship,” written by Tim Hughes where it says, “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross.” Yes, we know Jesus is our Redeemer, but do we truly know the magnitude of the cost? I don’t think we can even ever come up with a figure or currency to match that price, and that price was paid for you and for me. Could you or I give up our only son for the sake of others?  The answer is probably no.

Isaiah 53:10 reminds us that “it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief.…his life is made an offering for sin …” That’s right: God the Father wanted “crush him and cause him to suffer,” (NIV) Not only was God the Father willing to crush His Son, the Son was also willing to be crushed. Why? Because the atoning death of His Son would bring salvation to His children. Our staggering debt of sin was paid on that cross. That means salvation to you and to me and to all who know Him as Savior and Lord.

Philip Yancey said, “Love was compressed for all history in that lonely figure on the cross, who said that he could call down angels at any moment on a rescue mission, but chose not to – because of us. At Calvary, God accepted his own unbreakable terms of justice.”

So understanding the cross fully is close to impossible, but if that’s making you worry, don’t. It’s just meant to show how an indescribable God lavished an indescribable love on us by hanging Himself upon a cross so that we would be set free.  

Fortunately, as we know, that is not the end of the story. There’s so much more. 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What is the hardest part of the cross for you to understand? Why?
  2. What can we do this week to better understand and appreciate the significance of the cross?

Be All You Can Be Right Where You Are

“Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches.” – 1 Corinthians 7:17. 

God repeats things because we need it and so we “get it.”  Take our calling in life. Three times Paul tells the Corinthian believers to stay where put because God will use them right where they are: The first is 1 Corinthians 7:17. The second is 1 Corinthians 7:20: “Yes, each of you should remain as you were when God called you.” and the third is four verses later, “Each of you, dear brothers and sisters,[h] should remain as you were when God first called you.” (1 Corinthians 7:24)

God wants to use us in the here and now. God doesn’t just call those we put on a pedestal. God doesn’t move just through those that better fit the spiritual stereotype. The body of Christ is far bigger than that. The Holy Spirit moves without labels. God is ready to use you and call you and welcome you just as you are. You may not think you’re qualified. The world may not think you’re up to the task. But God does. God has placed us where we are. My calling is to know, love, and live for Jesus, and to be faithfully obedient to do whatever God leads me to do, wherever He leads me to do it.  And that is the exact same calling you have as a Christian: to know, love, and live for Jesus, and to faithfully serve Him and His purposes, right where He has you. 

Tim Keller puts it this way: “Your life is not a series of random events. Your family background, education and life experiences–even the most painful ones–all equip you to do some work that no one else can do.  Ephesians 2:10 says, ‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’”   

We can make a difference when we serve where we are planted. In Ezekiel 22:30 God says, “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.” God is looking for that one who can make his or her mark. 

 Whether you where you are today by choice or by circumstance, God called you to the place where you are right now. He has a purpose for you there. Every corner of our culture is in need of people who will reflect the beauty of God’s kindness, love, truthfulness, justice, and grace to the world, and who will share the truth about Jesus with those who are broken and lost.

 It means trusting God that you are exactly where you are meant to be, and being faithful right there.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is is possible to be what God wants you to be where you are now? Why or what not? 
  2. What can we do to better serve God right where we are this week? 

Rain And Shine

“God’s voice is glorious in the thunder. We can’t even imagine the greatness of his power.“He directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down.” –  Job 37:5-6.  

Weather often determines where people decide where to live. If you want to live in the college town of Marquette, Michigan, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you can expect as much as 200 inches of snow each year. If you choose to to live in New Orleans, Louisiana, expect a total of 62 inches of rain a year. And if you choose to live in sunny Florida, you have to deal with hurricanes and tornados as we found out in 2018.   

In the Job 37 reference, God “directs the snow to fall on the earth.” We are reminded that God is in control of everything and that snow has one job…to fall. And then God “tells the rain to pour down.” Basically God is telling rain to do the thing that He created it to do. Fall.  

Yes, rain and snow accomplish other things once it falls, but don’t lose the simplicity of the message. God is asking me to be the thing He’s already created me to be. And He’s asking you to be the thing He’s already created you to be.

God wants us to trust Him in rain or shine and to serve Him where He plants us. He is in control and has a purpose for our lives. The snow is only meant, created, commanded to fall. Rain is meant, created, commanded to pour down. You were only meant, created, commanded to be who you are. That all sounds similar to a question people asked Jesus: “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” And do you remember Jesus’s answer? “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28–29). Jesus is not looking for people who are trying to measure up; He is looking for people who will trust him.

In Psalm 131:1, David said that there were some things that are “…too awesome for me to grasp.” Trusting God means that we patiently wait for God to unfold His plan for our purpose. We don’t try to run ahead of Him, but serve where He has placed us; to be part of a local church because that is where we receive biblical teaching and pursue authentic community.  

I hope the devotionals this week will encourage you to not neglect gathering together with other believers if you are not in the habit of doing so. We all have a need for connection and community with God and others who are walking out the Christian life. We cannot do it alone. Gathering together is just like charging your cell phone. We have to plug into the charger in order to make it through the day of use ahead. This is no different than charging our spiritual batteries. We can charge our “spiritual battery” by reading God’s Word, prayer and attending a local church where we recharge, get guidance, and counsel from others. Get plugged into a church  

Discussion Questions: 

  1. How can we know if we are doubting the person God created us to be?   
  2. If not, what changes do we need to make? 

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Where I Am And Where God Wants Me To Be

“If someone had told me that someday I would settle on the far side of the sea, eat bugs, poison myself, hold over a dozen scorpions in my hand, stand barefoot by a tarantula and allow a wall spider to spend the night above my pillow, I would have laughed. Those antics are for people who compete for prize money on television! No amount of money could entice me to do such things!”  – excerpt from Bloom Where God Plants You, (Reflections of a mission mom living in Malawi, Africa) by Rebecca Wendland. 

This is a pretty common question among believers today: How do I get to where I need to go from where I am now. It’s an amazing and fulfilling thing to live life in line with God’s design and calling on your life. But it can seem difficult and overwhelming to discover it. The simple answer is trust that God has placed you where you are. 

We are not placed on this earth coincidently. God will bring people and situations in our lives in His perfect timing. Our task is to love the best we can with what we’ve been given. When we pay attention to the people and the work God placed in our lives, the journey becomes more enjoyable. Sometimes, we’ll pick others up. Other times, they will pick us up. Our job is to embrace our place in life because we are right where God wants us to be.

And wherever you are, make a commitment to your local church. Minister within your local church.  Ask what you can contribute to the Body of Christ through your involvement. Remember, “a spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other” (1 Corinthians 12:7). It isn’t enough to know we have spiritual gifts, we need to use them.

God has a purpose for your life. He desires to grow you so He can use you for His glory and purpose. That means we must be content and bloom wherever we are planted and try to see it as a lesson we need to learn, and time that we need to grow. So what soil has God planted you in today?  Will you grow where you’re planted?

I challenge you to reevaluate the importance of the local church in your own life. God’s desire is for His people to commune with each other in the local body. Do you? Now is a good time to begin planting your roots deeply into the local church. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does the idea of being “planted” mean to you? 
  2. What can we do this week to better serve the local church?