Civil Authority in Our Lives

 

 

2/05/2019

Romans 13 (TLB)

Synopsis:

  • Since all authority comes from God, we must submit to that authority.
  • Anyone rebelling against that authority is rebelling against God.
  • Would you like to live a fearless life? Then don’t be a rebel.
  • Authorities are God’s servant, sent for your good. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but to have a clear conscience.
  • Pay your taxes for the same reasons. Government workers need to be paid, for they are serving God in what they do.
  • Don’t owe anyone anything but love.
  • The Law code says, “Don’t murder, Don’t commit adultery, Don’t steal, Don’t covet.” And all the ‘Don’ts’ you can think of, can be summed up in this one command of Jesus, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
  • Love does no wrong to others and fulfills the requirements of God’s law.
  • Time is running out. Our salvation is closer than when you first believed.
  • We must live decent lives for all to see. So, step out of the darkness of immoral living, the drunken parties and sexual promiscuity
  • Don’t even let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

 

Reaction:

 

Fulfilling God’s requirements are easy to understand even though they are impossible to do without Him living in us. But it is the first part of this chapter that has been my stumbling block. So, it is that portion on authority that I would dwell on this morning.

Governmental authority, especially, has been my life-long trip hazard. What does Paul mean by statements like, “Obey your rulers, because God has placed them in that place of authority. “Pay your taxes, because Governmental employees need to get paid.”

I have resisted this concept for most of my life, reasoning, “Since the beginning of written history, kingdoms were won and lost by conflict. Even in Paul’s day, virtually the whole world, was won in battle by the Romans. In our day it is no different world wide. In our country there is a struggle every four years to determine which group will run our government, so why would Paul speak such nonsense?”

Even until a few hours ago, my opinion has been, “we get the best government that money can buy, good or bad!” but Paul is trying to tell the Romans that their government was either, set up by God, or allowed by God.

There’s a big difference!

Let’s go back to the beginnings of Israel as a nation. When they first came out of Egypt and God started destroying the wicked people that were inhabiting the land that God had promised to Abraham. They rejoiced at nearly every conflict because God was winning the battles for them. He was their leader. He lived with them in a temple tent and occupied a cloud that protected them, not only from their enemies, but the severe elements of the desert.

Then, as they were getting pretty well established, they complained that they wanted to be like the nations around them. They want a kingly government. Through His prophets God warned them that a king would draft their sons for battle and extract taxes from their farms. Didn’t matter! They wanted a king. Now, come the hard to understand part.

God chose their king and let them crown Saul. God , knowing the end from the beginning, knew that Saul would be a failure, yet He chose the best man… for what purpose?

I now believe Saul was chosen to demonstrate to His people what a human ruler would do to a nation! They were, in effect, telling God that they were dissatisfied with His rule and they wanted to be like everyone else. They wanted to put some human in a place of power over themselves to receive their adulation… worship, if you please.

Saul let it go to his head, as God knew it would. It eventually drove him crazy. But the people persisted in his insanity, and instead of learning their lesson and returning to God, they stumbled ahead.

God raised up a new man, not of Saul’s family, but a man after God’s own heart, David, to be the next king. Was he perfect? Not by any mean’s, but he was a man willing to follow God.

So, does or did, God set up or allow ALL nations whether they profess to know Him or not? I don’t know. But let’s look example, Ancient Egypt. They were in existence long before Abraham began propagating. In fact, when they visited Egypt he almost lost his beautiful young wife to the pharaoh. Whereupon, God used pharaoh to teach Abraham that it isn’t nice to lie about your circumstances. Several generations later, He used this same nation to save His people from starvation. When Jacob died they should have returned to their homeland, but they didn’t. They put prosperity ahead of duty.

After that, when they didn’t return to their God-given land when Joseph died, He used the pharaoh to enslave His people so that they would consider living for Him instead of themselves. Some 400 years after arriving in Egypt He used pharaoh drive His people out of the land.

Now, did God set up or establish this kingdom or did He ALLOW the kingdom to rise up, then USE IT for His benefit?

I don’t know. There seems to have been tribes, nations, and kingdoms without number that were evil at their very beginnings. Others started out nice, but turned quickly to the dark side.

So, if I happen to be born in a nation that started out with generous liberties giving me freedom to worship the god of my choice or not worship at all, am I blessed? Most certainly! But if I am born in the later stages of that same nation, a time when many of those liberties are being withdrawn, am I still obligated to pay the taxes that support the licentious behavior of its leaders?

When Paul penned these words to the Roman Believers it had only been a few years since the Roman soldiers had crucified Christ on a criminal’s cross. In fact it had only been a few years since the leaders of his nation of Israel had dropped the guilty verdict on that same Son of God. Should the Jews of the day refused to pay the temple taxes or shred the leaders who collected the Roman taxes and skimmed off the top of the money pot?

I’m not sure. It would seem that God has always used one nation to chastise another nation or its own people.

I have tried to take a position of respect but not support. In my non-support I refused to file tax returns for many years because I didn’t want to support what I felt was corruption in government. I started paying taxes after caving in to the arguments of friends, based on this chapter of Romans.

Have I been blessed because I pay taxes?

Maybe, but I’ve been more blessed because I’m following God in many other areas of my life… not so much because I pay taxes.

When segments of my government make laws that result in the killing of babies or the euthanasia (convenience killing) of old people, how am I going to “not support” those laws? Do I just hide my head in the sand or in a cave and ignore what goes on around me. Or should I speak out against it!

I am that old person they are considering killing when I’m too old to pay my taxes or whenever it is convenient.

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A What Does a Living Sacrifice Look Like?

2/04/2019

 

Romans 12 (TLB)

Synopsis:

The Message translates the first part of Romans 12 so beautifully… “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it..” (Emphasis are mine)

 

  • God brings out the best in you. Let Him do it.
  • Because of what God has done for me, I will share these warning with you.
  • Don’t feel like you are better than you are, be honest in your self evaluation.
  • Measure yourselves by the faith God has given us.
  • Look at it this way; Just as our bodies have many parts working in unison and performing unique functions, so it should be with us who make up Christ’s body.
  • In His grace He has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.
  • Whatever you do well, do it cheerfully, without braggadocio.
  • Don’t just pretend to love others, really love them. Take joy in honoring them.
  • Serve God enthusiastically, without laziness.
  • Always be ready to help others, ready with hospitality.
  • Be happy with those that are happy.
  • Live in harmony.
  • Don’t be so proud that you can’t enjoy the company of ordinary people.
  • Never pay back evil with more evil.
  • Don’t take revenge on the bullies in your life. The Lord says, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back.” (Duet. 32:35)
  • Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them a drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”(Proverbs 25:21-22)
  • Don’t let the evil around you get you down, but conquer evil by doing good.

 

Reaction:

Ahhh… So many thoughts are flooding my mind that it’s hard to concentrate on one or two.

It’s clear in this passage that Paul wants to teach his readers about self-sacrifice and what it means, what it looks like in the everyday, ordinary life. The sacrifice that he is referring to is not the like the sacrifice of a lamb for your sins as was the Jewish tradition. Nor is it like the sacrifice of your children to the god Ba’al, as was practiced in his day.

He is speaking here of giving your life to the God of the Universe, to be remade into someone He can be proud of; someone fit to be a witness to all He has done for you.

I like the illustration that he gives in comparing Christians, the body of Christ, to a single person’s body. We are made up of many unique parts that perform their various functions. If we had the stomach complaining about how the feet did their work, or the ear boasting that it did its work better than the eye, we would soon have chaos in our body.

The part that began pound at my temples is the part about not “getting even” with bullies. I used to cherish a book titled, “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even.” It was just filled with all kinds of ways to get even with people that have wronged you. Example after example!

But here, Paul is telling us the Godly way to get even. Not by returning evil with evil, but by doing good to those who bully you! What a concept!

As I have grown older, I learned that getting even usually did more harm than good, so I learned to just avoid the people who treated me “wrong.” In ignoring them I didn’t have to risk being abraded by them again.

Now, I’m learning that the proper way is to honor them with a kindly spirit and bless them. I need to pray for them…. and me. My sacrifice must be a willingness to let God change my life-long attitude of “getting even.”

This chapter teaches me that I’ve had it “my way” for far to long. I need to learn to let God handle the bullies in my life in His own way, on His own time schedule.

God’s Mercy is for Everyone

 

2/02/2019

 

Romans 11:25-36 (MSG)

Synopsis:

  • “I want to make this as clear as I can,” says Paul, “It’s rather complicated.”
  • Don’t assume you are all that special and that Jews are out of the picture.
  • This hardness of the heart of Israel is just temporary.
  • It’s effect has been to open the doors to outsiders, so that in the end He will end up with a full house.
  • Before it is all over there will be a complete Israel, a perfect number from each of the 12 tribes.
  • God’s commitment is to remove their sins.
  • From your point of view it may appear that the Jews and God are enemies.
  • Look at it from the long-range perspective of God’s purpose. God’s gifts and call are never rescinded or cancelled… they come with a full warranty, so to speak. It’s up to you to accept them.
  • The door is being held open for you, because so many Jews have rejected God’s gifts and calling.
  • In one way or another God makes sure that everyone will experience being on the outside so that He can personally open the door for you, to welcome you home.
  • Have you ever come on anything quite like His extravagant love? It will most likely be a mystery for eternity.
  • “For who can know the thoughts of God,” says Isaiah, “Who knows enough to give Him advice?”
  • Job put it this way, “Who has has given God so much that He is obligated to pay it back?”
  • Everything that exists comes from God and exists by His power and is intended to glorify Him.

 

Reaction:

I cannot even presume to understand God’s relationship with the Jews OR with us, except to say He loves this creation on earth. We were created in love and made to live by what we would later call “natural laws.” But, by Adam’s rebellion against God’s clear directions to NOT eat from a certain tree, the leadership of the whole earth was transferred to satan. Under his rule we have been going downhill ever since.

Despite the view of many “thinkers” in the world, things are NOT getting better and better. Yes, we have a lot of knowledge and inventions that were not around 2,000 years ago. But 6,000 years back we didn’t even have or need a written history, because man was smart enough to remember their history and pass it on to their children. Many are the people on record as having lived in excess of 800 years. What a history lesson they could teach! But many of them dropped the ball and began to teach a twisted view of history.

They built things that baffle current generations. There exist, maps of the galaxies and gigantic devices for predicting eclipses. It is only in the last 100 years that we have even figured out what some of their inventions were used for!

They were able to build with rocks weighing 100+ tons, as seen in South America, not in the “Cradle of Civilization.” How could we, today, replicate the pyramids of Egypt using the material they used?

No, I feel like we have lost more knowledge in the last 6,000 years, than we have gained.

I can’t even imagine the capabilities with which God created mankind, yet we brashly presume to tell each other that He doesn’t exist! Some teach that we can be the molder of our destinies. That some of us know best how to live, and if the rest of us don’t fall into line we will be exterminated. Not one of us has a complete picture of what God is up to concerning this would and its inhabitants. Paul called it a mystery.

During Jesus ministry on this earth he told a parable of a king who wanted to throw his son a lavish wedding feast. He invited every Friend in his Facebook list. When none of them seemed to be showing up, he sent messenger to remind them that this was the day of the feast. Some wouldn’t answer the door, some went on with their money-making ventures. Some, who had nothing better to do scoffed and ridiculed the messenger and finally killed him.

The king, understandably upset, sent his soldiers to raze the city and destroy those so called, “Friends.”

He then sent his servants out to all the major highway intersections to hold up their cardboard signs with hand-scribed invitations to come to the feast.

So, it seemed everybody came. The good, the bad, the indifferent, they all began streaming into the banquet hall until the place was filled. Everyone was given a sporty dinner jacket so that no one would feel out of place. Now, every seat taken.

As the king sat down to enjoy the feast with the guests, he noticed that one person was not wearing his dinner jacket.

Aproaching the guest, he asked, “Friend, (yes, I “Friended” you and gave you a dinner jacket). Why aren’t you taking advantage of your gifted dinner jacket?”

The guy was speechless, because he was wearing his very best clothes, which he considered to be a much better style!

The king called his servants over and instructed them to tie up the recalcitrant guest and ship him out on Instagram, and he tweeted out #tohellwithyou.

This rendition brought to you by the weird wit of yours truly.

The point of this and the original story being, God invited a special group of friends and they ended up turning Him down. He then invited everyone. They all came, but even then there was one who thought he was too good for the rest of the group and was ejected.

Like I said, I don’t really understand it, but I’m finally ready to accept it. It has taken me the better part of my lifetime, but I’m ready.

God Selected Israel… and Others

 

1/31/2019

 

Romans 9:17-33 (The Message)

Synopsis:

  • So, is all this knowledge about God’s dealings with us a basis for complaining that God is unfair? NO! Just because God told Moses, “I’m in charge of mercy. I’m in charge of compassion.” I’m just saying that compassion doesn’t originate with us. It starts with God’s mercy.
  • Some will object, “How can God blame us for what we do since He is in charge of everything? If all the big decisions are made by Him, what say do we have in anything?”
  • How can puny man second-guess Almighty God? Who is smart enough?
  • Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?”
  • The potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into two vases, one for holding flowers, the other for cooking beans.
  • If God needs one type of “pottery,” to show His displeasure and another type to crafted to reveal His glorious goodness, isn’t that His prerogative? Either or both happens to be Jews, but it also happens to other people.
  • Hosea put it well: “I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved. In the place of calling you “Nobodies,’ they’ll be calling you, ‘God’s living children.’”
  • To sum this up, it appears that the people who didn’t seem at first, to be interested in what God was doing actually embraced what He was doing as He changed their lives. Yet, Israel, who seemed to be caught up in reading and talking about God, totally missed it.
  • How could this be? Instead of being absorbed in what God was doing, they became so totally absorbed in their “God projects,” that they stumbled over Him like a huge boulder in the middle of the road.
  • Isaiah used this metaphor for pulling it together: “Careful!” he said, “I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion, a stone you can’t get around. But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me on the way, not in the way.”

Reaction:

 

Yes, God did place Jesus on the shores of Galilee, on the back roads to the mountains and on the streets of Jerusalem. Everywhere He went He was either loved or hated and almost never ignored. Everyone had an opinion about Him.

To Him there were no “nobodies.” Everyone was a “somebody,” Even those who disliked Him were drawn to Him. The Jewish leaders and priests gathered to listen to Him teach the people. They were continually trying to stump Him with riddles and trivial questions. It enraged them when they were humiliated by His logic every time.

Now, did God create these people to hate Him, so that His love and mercy might be highlighted? I don’t think so. I believe that God created these people and when they refused to do things God’s way, He used their rebellious lives to contrast the lives of those that loved Him…both Jews and Gentiles.

Why did He spend time telling the Samaritan woman, that He met at the well, about God’s love for her when all Samaritans in His day were “nobodies” to the Jews.

Why did He heal the daughter of a Roman Centurion, when Romans were hated by the people of His day? He made them “somebodies.” He can turn the “nobodies” among us into “somebodies,” too. He will make us children of the Living God, not for what we do for Him, but because of what choices we make. The key is the not in the doing for Him, but the choices for Him.

We will never be good enough for Him. That’s what Jesus came to do…to be “good enough.” To stand before God in the Day of Judgment, in our shoes.

We Have a Future Glory

 

1/28/2019

 

Romans 8:18-30 (The Message)

Synopsis:

 

  • What we are suffering now is nothing compared to the glory He will give us when He reveals who are really His children.
  • Against its will, all creations was subjected to God’s curse.
  • With eager hope creation looks forward to that day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.
  • We believers are not exempt from this groaning, even though the Holy Spirit within us has given us a little taste of future glory.
  • We long for the day when we will be released from sin and suffering, when God will give us our full rights as adopted children, including the new bodies He has promised.
  • The Holy Spirit helps us, even praying for us in ways that we will never understand.
  • God knew His people well in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would become the firstborn of many brothers and sisters.
  • You have been chosen, called, and given right standing with Himself. And having right standing, He will give you His glory.

 

Reaction:

God knew what He was doing from the very beginning. He knew that rebellion and sin was on its way, so He prepared for it. He designed a plan of salvation to deliver us from the ensuing death and destruction.

He uses all the events of our everyday, sinful lives to teach us and shape us into the kind of people who will appreciate His love and glorify Him.

He doesn’t cause the suffering that we must live through, but He uses it for a good purpose.

Ahh, but I hear some saying, “I could learn to follow Him without all this suffering!”

Not so fast with that assumption. Remember when God prepared a place for His chosen people in Egypt, by sending Joseph there first? Joseph was maligned and mistreated, but he endured it and God blessed him for his faithfulness.

When the time was right and he become a ruler. He brought his whole family to Egypt and gave them the best part of Egypt. His people were blest beyond measure.

They should have gone back home to the Promised land as soon as the famine back home was over. But they didn’t. Their vision of God’s purpose was replaced by their prosperity. For nearly 400 years they were there, going from abundance to rebellion and enslavement. They became a great nation alright, but a nation of slaves, because they lost sight of their purpose in life and trust in God.

God twisted events to favor His chosen people. He delivered His people out of their slavery and pointed them in the direction of home. He supplied their every need… no one would be sick, their clothes would not wear out, they received food daily that fell from the sky. All their enemies left them alone or were destroyed.

Perfect life, right? But you know the rest of the story. They grumbled and complained. They doubted God. They rebelled against their God-appointed leaders. They didn’t like the food. They made idols to worship. The education and journey that shouldn’t have taken more than a few months, dragged on for more than 40 years. Only 2 people, Calab and Joshua lived to complete the journey. There were only two people out of the estimated 2 million who left Egypt with such high hopes.

God has chosen people who are not descendants of Abraham to bless in a special way. He protected them, sent them to the shores of America. Instead of being harbingers of God’s love, they raped and pillaged the people that were here. They stole the land and wasted it’s resources and polluted what was left. We, the people newly favored by God, have been in rebellion for a little over 400 years in this country. We, as a blest people, haven’t learned much about God’s love yet.

God forgive us for not listening to and heeding Him!

Sin’s Power is Broken

1/23/2019

Romans 6:1-23

Synopsis:

  • Shall we keep on sinning so that God can keep on showering us with His wonderful grace? Of course not!
  • You haven’t forgotten, have you, that you were joined with Christ at your baptism? We died and were buried with Him in the water.
  • Just as Christ was raised from death, we also will be raised to life as He was.
  • Our old sinful selves were crucified with Him so that sin’s power over us might be broken. We were set free from the power of sin.
  • When He died, He did it only once to break the power of sin. Now He lives for the glory of God.
  • Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.
  • Give yourselves completely to God, using your whole body to do what is right for the glory of God.
  • Sin is no longer your master, because you live under the freedom of God’s grace.
  • Using the illustration of slavery, I can help you understand all this.
  • When you were slaves of sin you were free from the obligation to do right. Now you are free from the power of sin, you have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness an result in eternal life.
  • For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Reaction:

Paul has chosen to use the illustration of slavery to help explain our relationship to sin and satan. What an appropriate one it is! For anyone who is suffering from addictions can testify, we become a literal slave to that vice. Some addictions are bodily. Opioids are one that comes quickly to mind. Some are mostly in the mind, such as pornography.

Whatever is your sin of choice, its grip on your life is a literal slavery. Just try to turn your back on it and live a different kind of life under your own power! You will know the real grip of the slave master.

Paul is reviewing for the Christian convert in Rome, what it means to be baptized into Christ. When we go under the water in baptism, we die to our selfish natures and come up a new person. No longer are we a slave to sin, but a slave of God.

Does that mean we will never screw up again? Of course not! But screw ups will not be our chosen way of life. We are now willing to let Him direct our life, to shape us into the person that He wants us to be.

Keep in mind that a life of sin pays way more than minimum wages! Death is the result!

In contrast, God’s free gift is eternal life!

This finally dawned on me, some 45 years after my baptism at the age of thirteen. It came about during a deep depression, brought on by the realization that I was never going to get any better or conquer any of my secret sins. I was literally knocked to my knees in remorse, not wanting to continue living.

“Lord, I can’t take this way of living anymore,” I cried. “I can’t do what I chose and I continually do what I don’t want to do.”

“If my life has any value to You, take it! I can’t do what you want me to, or be what You want me to be. I can’t change that…You will have to change me!”

Was this an easy choice? Not at all, it was a desperate choice.

Was I miraculously changed in a twinkling of an eye? No!

Did God start to work on me instantly? Absolutely!

Did I reach “sainthood” that day? Without a doubt!

Was I a perfect saint in the eyes of others? Far from it!

Was I a perfect saint in the eyes of God? More than that, because of what Jesus did!

I became a child of God that day!

Do sinful thoughts or actions still tempt me? Yes!

Do I still give in to them? More times than I like to admit!

Does God’s forgiveness and grace still forgive me? Absolutely, because He said He will!

He is re-creating me. I will most likely reach my grave before He is finished with me, but I have the assurance that He will finish His work in me, in the “blink of an eye” at my resurrection.

God is GREAT! God is good, he has given me more than I deserve.

What is YOUR Gospel Story?

Romans 1:8-17

01/12/2019

 

 

Synopsis:

 

  • I thank God for all of you, because your faith is being talked about all over the world
  • Day and night I bring your needs to God in prayer.
  • One of the things that I pray for is the opportunity to visit you in person.
  • I want to bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord.
  • I want to witness the spiritual fruit that you are producing, but I have been prevented until now.
  • I feel an obligation to both the civilized and uncivilized people of the world to preach the Good News.
  • I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes.
  • This is accomplished totally, from start to finish, by faith in Him.
  • It is by faith that the righteous man has eternal life.

 

Reaction:

 

Now let’s get this straight, we’re talking Rome… the government that has become a world-class powerhouse. They rule with an iron hand! They are the ones who were a thorn in the flesh of the Jews. They sacrificed pigs (an unclean animal, according to Jewish laws) in the Jewish temples. They punished rebellious people by crucifixion.

Yet, God claimed that there were people among them that would love Him, if they only knew about Him.

As the believers of The Way faced persecution from other Jews, they began to move away from the area. In these new towns they could not contain their zeal for spreading the Good News. It wasn’t long before the news of their faith and belief in the living God filtered back to Jerusalem. It was a result of the “missionary work” done by these followers of The Way, that produced mixed congregations of Jews and Gentiles that lived together in harmony as lovers of God.

Eventually, Paul became known for his travels to the lands of Gentiles. There were many that had gone before him, but he was probably the best known, because he was constantly traveling back home to spread the word that others around the world were coming to a saving knowledge of the living God and accepting by faith, God’s redemption.

Not only was Paul a traveler, but he was also a prolific writer, having written more than half of the New Testament. His was not an easy life, for sure. He worked as a tent maker to support his work so that the offerings that he collected from other believers could be used totally for the support of orphans and widows. He was beaten to a pulp and left for dead three times. He spent many days and nights in dungeons. It wasn’t until his final trip to Rome that he had it kind of easy, except for the shipwreck, in that he didn’t have to pay for that trip… he went as a prisoner.