During his reign, King Frederick William III of Prussia found himself in trouble. Wars had been costly, and in trying to build the nation, he was seriously short of finances.
Prussia was one of the few countries to resist Napoleon Bonaparte’s quest to overtake all of Europe and beyond.
King Frederick William III felt the pressure to defend and lead the people of Prussia. It was also clear he absolutely did not want to disappoint his people and surrendering to the enemy was unthinkable.
After careful reflection, he decided to ask the women of Prussia to bring their jewelry of gold and silver to be melted down and sold to buy supplies for the ongoing war effort.
For each piece of jewelry received, the king determined to give each donor a decoration of bronze or iron as a symbol of his gratitude. Each decoration would be inscribed, “I gave gold for iron, 18l3.”
The response was overwhelming. Even more important, the women of Prussia prized their gifts from the king more highly than their expensive jewelry.
The reason, of course, is clear. The decorations were proof that they had sacrificed for their king. Indeed, it became unfashionable to wear gold and silver jewelry instead the simple gift from their king was a badge of honor.
It is also true that when a Christian draws close to their King, they too let go of vanity for something better: eternity.
This true story reminds me of the second verse to the great hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
Holy, holy, holy!
all the saints adore Thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
This is a stanza is from Revelation. And it is a reminder than nothing on this earth, nothing in our own lives is as important as the connection we have with Jesus our King.
For me, that means I need to let go of a lot of stuff. I need to surrender those things to Jesus. I may not have any golden crowns but there are things I need to “cast down” or throw away.
When I hold on to things to tightly (physically, emotionally, mentally) the ability to reach for Jesus is severely limited. I need to be reminded to surrender my worries and even my aspirations to Jesus.
Jesus once said this…
Then Jesus said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a person to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Luke 9:23-24
I want what Jesus is offering because I know it will carry me home to Him one day.
I leave you with the chorus of one of my favorite songs…
I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Thee
My blessed Savior
I surrender all
God bless you,
The earliest writings in the New Testament come from Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica. We commonly call it 1Thessalonians. Most agree it was written somewhere close to 50AD. Less than 20 years after the resurrection of Jesus.
If you read this short letter, you will see the affection Paul has for the members of this church. He is encouraging them to stay strong in their relationship with Jesus. Near the end of the letter, Paul writes this…
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1Thessalonians 5:16-18
This seems like a tall order, but not impossible. If it is God’s will, Jesus will give the power to live into that reality.
Let’s look at each part…
Be joyful always…
In Philippians Paul writes a lot about joy. We learn that joy is tied to our relationship with Jesus and it is not external events. Happiness is derived from positive life events.
If you aren’t joyful, ask yourself, “How is your relationship with Jesus these days?”
Prayer is less about requests and more about your connection to God. If you aren’t joyful most of the time, then praying should help increase the quotient of joy in your life. Regular prayer or should I say, routine check-ins with Jesus will help you navigate the ups and downs of life with more joy. Do you want to be less moody? Pray more.
Give thanks in all situations…
Gratitude for God’s grace is good for your soul. Even in the darkest moments, giving thanks for the strength that Jesus provides is not only possible but good for us. Gratefulness keeps life and its challenges in perspective. Even when we lose someone we love, being thankful for your faith and the gift of heaven will help you move through the deepest of grief.
It is easy to let circumstances dictate your temperament. It is simple to let your prayer life vanish when you are busy or resentful and it takes very little effort to point out what is wrong in your life and the world versus giving thanks for the gift of Jesus.
What will you focus on? It is your choice.
As a Christian, have you ever noticed the passion behind the letters Saint Paul wrote? He wasn’t passively penning correspondence to friends of yesteryear; no, he was writing to encourage and light a spiritual fire under everyone who read his letters.
Why? Because Paul wanted everyone to understand the good news that God loves all people and that Jesus desires to be in a relationship with every single person on the planet. Not just then but right now!
Let me give you a glimpse of Saint Paul’s passion. In his letter to the church of Rome, Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” Romans 1:16
Paul declares that he won’t hide who he is (a child of God) and he will wear it as a badge of honor for all the world to see! He is not ashamed to be called a Christian. Why? Because it saved his life and his eternal life.
The power of God rests in the love of God. Paul discovered that truth the hard way (see Acts 9). He later realized that a life of hate and religious rule following doesn’t impress God and it got him nowhere other than being an extremely bitter religious person.
But declaration wasn’t for himself. I hope these words cause you to reflect on your life. Are you ashamed of the gospel? Did knowing Jesus change your life? (It changed mine.)
Knowing Jesus is both life changing and lifesaving. Yet many Christians lack the passion to share their faith or even invite someone to church.
God came to us in the person of Jesus to show us the tender compassion of God. Jesus came to earth to draw close to anyone who would follow. And I do mean anyone. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit into the hearts of every person who placed their trust in Jesus.
I give thanks for the Holy Spirit of God! Why? The Spirit promised to guide and instruct us along the way as well as give us gifts to reflect the love of God. Paul calls these gifts “fruits.” Like a tree or a plant that gives produce when they are planted in good soil, God gives us gifts when we are firmly rooted in Jesus!
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22–23
Those are nine gifts can change the world (us included)!
Am I ashamed of the gospel? NO! I give thanks to Jesus for all he has done in my life and I want others to know that I was once lost but now I am found!
In 1553 an English reformer once saw criminals being led to their execution and he uttered these words, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
I completely understand what he meant by that. Without Jesus working in my life, I am not sure where I would be right now.
I want others to know what has been given to me. I hope you do too.
To the Jewish people who had believed Jesus, he said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:31-36
About 20 years ago or so, truth became subjective in our society. My truth is not your truth and your truth is not my truth. Everyone is entitled to have their own “truths.”
There doesn’t seem to be an absolute truth everyone can agree on.
Yet, from the distant past Jesus says, “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
What is Jesus talking about?!?
He is stating three truths at once.
- We all mess up. None of us are perfect, nor will we ever be flawless in this life. No one can dispute that. It is true. We all make mistakes and hurt other people. Either intentionally or unintentionally.
- Only Jesus can free us from the hurt we cause to ourselves and others. Jesus is willing and able to free us from chains of hurt and regret. This is only true if we dare to trust in Jesus’ love and resurrection power!
- The last truth is often obscured by lies and misinformation. Jesus wants to be in relationship with you to free you from the idea that God demands perfection or face eternal damnation.
Our relationship with Jesus is not based upon our ability to be good or even do the right thing. There are no steps to Jesus. He comes to us in our weakness and wants to show us a better way to live but he never demands our obedience, and he never threatens.
Jesus wants to draw close to us and set us free from the misguided notion of “performative theology.” That we can earn or even prove to God we are good or at the very least, good enough. We aren’t good. God already knows that!
Jesus wants to free us from the sin that hinders us and reveal to us that God is not a divine Santa Claus that is keeping a lists of all the naughty and nice children (us). No, Jesus wants to set us free from our worst selves and then show us that God desires to be our friend and not a cosmic law enforcement agency.