Authority

1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. -Romans 13:1-7 (NKJV)

I have recently being doing quite a bit of thinking about present day America and all of the strife we are encountering. Partisan politics has never been more volatile than it is today. People, once friends, are at each other’s throats over policies that might have previously been areas of contention but not violence.

Our current president is no doubt a controversial character, to say the least. His use of Twitter as an outlet to vent his thoughts, frustrations and feelings has been something most divisive to certain groups of people — and even shunned by some of his own base at times. It is not the purpose of this blog or this particular post to get involved in political arguments. I am not here to say he is a good or a bad president. I am going to say this on the subject: he is the president. Understandably, many don’t like that and love to cry out “not my president” or call for his impeachment because they are so vehemently opposed to his agenda. But the truth of the matter is that he is president of all of us who live in this country, duly elected by the citizens. I must be careful not to try second-guessing God or making judgments about His will for us as a country. As a Christian, I know I must respect those in authority and strive for peace and harmony (1 Peter 3:11). My #1 mission in this life is supposed to be spreading the gospel message to a lost and suffering world. I need to spend more time focused on that and less focused on the war between left and right or the media and the current administration.

Psalm 100

Psalm 100 (NKJV)

A Song of Praise for the Lord’s Faithfulness to His People

A Psalm of Thanksgiving.

100 Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

There has been an undeniable surge in the level of self-satisfaction in accomplishments being enjoyed by many people. Those of the scientific community who now clone animals, find cures for diseases and so forth have (in their own minds) replaced the need for God. Even as far back as when this psalm was written, the psalmist saw a tendency for man to believe he simply ‘always was’ and therefore not a created being. He reminds us in verse 3 that this is not the case.

This is not the first time that we have been compared to sheep. Think about what a sheep is and how dependent they are on the shepherd for their welfare. When they stray from the flock, we know what happens. They get picked off.

In this day and age, while we may not have to worry about wild animals preying on us, we do have plenty of predators seeking to do us harm. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. – 1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV). Of course, it’s not just the devil we need concern ourselves with. It is also all of his agents, the people around us who do his bidding and our own flesh. Remember what the Apostle Paul says in Romans:  Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. – Romans 7:20 (NKJV)

When trials and tribulations befall us, that is the time we must put extra effort into praising God and give Him thanks for all he has done for us and continues to do. I know it is not easy and certainly not always the first method I employ in dealing with adversity, but eventually I embrace it to reduce my suffering and that of those around me I might be affecting.

Let’s be careful to remember the important lessons of this Psalm and giver thanks for its eternal truth.

Psalm 23

The Eternal is my shepherd, He cares for me always.
He provides me rest in rich, green fields
    beside streams of refreshing water.
    He soothes my fears;
He makes me whole again,
    steering me off worn, hard paths
    to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name.

Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness,
    I am not overcome by fear.
Because You are with me in those dark moments,
    near with Your protection and guidance,
    I am comforted.

You spread out a table before me,
    provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies;
You care for all my needs, anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil,
    filling my cup again and again with Your grace.
Certainly Your faithful protection and loving provision will pursue me
    where I go, always, everywhere.
I will always be with the Eternal,
    in Your house forever.

The Voice (VOICE)The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

I’ve posted this in the past, as it is one of my versions of this particular Psalm. (The Voice is a little known translation of the Bible, supposedly written to be more engaging).

I shall leave it to the reader to decide whether or not they like the translation. I just know that this is one particular Psalm that I think they did a great job with. Actually, more than just that one Psalm. But, enough of that…

In verse 2, the Psalmist says “He soothes my fears.” Amen to that. When I stop trying to take control, figure every little thing out and fix every seemingly insurmountable problem on my own and leave it to the purview of God’s care, I seem to make out pretty well! What about warn, hard paths in verse 3? I’ve been down some of those. Nothing more need be said about that! I love that God is referred to as the “Eternal” throughout. It reminds me of the temporary nature of this life and the eternity that He has planted in my heart.

Anyway, that’s enough said about this wonderful version of a wonderful Psalm. I hope you take as much comfort and enjoyment out of this rendering as I have.

Psalm 57

Prayer for rescue from persecutors. Psalm 57 (ASV)

For the Chief Musician; set to Al-tashheth. A Psalm of David. Michtam; when he fled from Saul, in the cave.

Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me;
For my soul taketh refuge in thee:
Yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I take refuge,
Until these calamities be overpast.
I will cry unto God Most High,
Unto God that performeth all things for me.
He will send from heaven, and save me,
When he that would swallow me up reproacheth; Selah
God will send forth his lovingkindness and his truth.
My soul is among lions;
I lie among them that are set on fire,
Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
And their tongue a sharp sword.
Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens;
Let thy glory be above all the earth.

They have prepared a net for my steps;
My soul is bowed down:
They have digged a pit before me;
They are fallen into the midst thereof themselves. Selah
My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed:
I will sing, yea, I will sing praises.
Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp:
I myself will awake right early.
I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the peoples:
I will sing praises unto thee among the nations.
10 For thy lovingkindness is great unto the heavens,
And thy truth unto the skies.
11 Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens;
Let thy glory be above all the earth.

In order for the psalmist to know to take refuge under the shadow of God’s “wings” as verse one states, his heart had to be prepared for such times when this would be necessary. Preparation of one’s heart for the Lord is absolutely essential and should be done in advance of the trouble that each of us will eventually face in this life. A great many people might never fall away from the LORD if they remembered to take care of the spiritual nurturing that happens when we pray and meditate on God’s word with regularity. How do we get to know the LORD? By spending time with Him.

In verse 2, the psalmist recognizes the need to cry unto God -and also that he depends on Him for all things. It is all too easy to think we can deal with the adversity we face in life, including first and foremost the assaults by our enemy, on our own will and strength. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Verse 7 is the key to success: fix your heart on God and give Him thanks and praise continuously (v.9)!

Incomprehensible GRACE

Lately, I have been focused on the incomprehensible grace that the Lord has shown me in my life. For many years I was a fool, attending churches here and there (eventually those which preached a liberal, “anything goes” doctrine) and basically doing whatever I wanted, thinking I wasn’t hurting anyone. I was caught up in the fleeting pleasures of this world and on the wrong road. The more I did, the emptier I felt and the further I traveled from God. Sadly, as is the case, I began to think less and less of what God wanted for me — as sin deceived me and closed my eyes to the truth of God.

20 I did not keep from declaring what was beneficial to you, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. -Acts 20:20-21 (MEV)

I thought I was saved as a young man because I asked Jesus to save me, but today I am not so sure of that, considering how little the regard I had in my heart for the things of God and how I treated others. I did not repent and ask Jesus to be the Lord of my life with [what I believe to be] any sincerity. He was there to call upon when I had my grocery lists of desires to fill and often nothing more than that. I thank Him that He has forgiven me and that I have the relationship with Him that I do today. I thank God that He did not take His Holy Spirit from me. It is only through His calling that I am able to know God today.

Realizing just a few years ago the emptiness I had in my heart, I recommitted to God and made Jesus the LORD of my life — instead of just the focal point of ‘easy-believism.’ Today, the goal is to be the best I can be for Jesus — instead of the childish kid who repeats over and over “gimme, gimme, gimme.” My Lord loved me when I was most unlovable. For that I am forever grateful.

I cannot say that everything is fixed. Like Paul, I sometimes think and do the things I hate (know are wrong). The flesh is in constant need of submission to the will of God. He forgives me and loves me, despite knowing all I did and will do. That is a tremendous source of security and comfort. Remember Paul’s words in Romans:

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner beingI delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! -Romans 7:14-25 (NIV)

I am currently studying Scriptures that Andrew Wommack taught on in his series “How To Prepare Your Heart.” There are always areas in my life where my heart needs to be fixed. The list of things to stay on top of goes on and on. His study on preparing your heart surely reminds me of this and gives me an arsenal of Scriptures to study and strengthen my commitment to the Lord with. I am reminded of what happened to King Rehoboam when he failed to prepare himself in his heart: And he acted evil because he did not set his heart to seek out the Lord. -2 Chronicles 12:14 (MEV)

It is easy to get caught up in emotional moments and convince yourself that you are saved because you have asked Jesus into your life, acknowledging what He did for you. I have been there. You may even attend a church regularly and give with generosity. Believing in His existence is not the same as believing in Him. Did you truly ask Him to be the LORD of your life? Are you actually sorry for the way you lived, the things you did and the people you’ve hurt? I pray you search your heart and can say with certainty that you have. Are you looking forward to His return or dreading it? Is there fear of how He will find you when He returns? These are questions you might want to ask yourself as you examine your heart.

There is a great deal of contention between those of a ‘Calvinist’ mindset and those of an ‘Arminian’ one. Calvinists (and most Baptists) believe that, once you are saved, you cannot become ‘unsaved.’ To believe otherwise would be to diminish the finished work of Christ on the Cross. (There are a great many other things they believe, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on that). Arminians believe it is possible to fall away after you have been saved, losing your salvation because you have not consciously continued to work for our Lord and His kingdom. This doctrine of “Lordship” salvation is something that those in the Salvation Army adhere to, if I am not mistaken. Both sides can offer biblical evidence to support their viewpoints. What both can agree on as the body of Christ is that He is the only way to achieve salvation and we are saved by faith in His blood and God’s grace alone. Nothing we can do will get us to heaven.

Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son to remind us of the incomprehensible, unwavering love that God has for us and a grace the defies complete understanding in its breadth and depth:

11 Then He said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that falls to me.’ So he divided his estate between them.

13 “Not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together, and journeyed to a distant country, and there squandered his possessions in prodigal living. 14 When he had spent everything, there came a severe famine in that country, and he began to be in want. 15 So he went and hired himself to a citizen of that county, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 He would gladly have filled his stomach with the husks that the swine were eating, but no one gave him any.

17 “When he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have an abundance of bread, and here I am perishing with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 So he arose and came to his father.

“But while he was yet far away, his father saw him and was moved with compassion, and ran and embraced his neck and kissed him. 

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him. And put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. 23 Bring here the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and be merry. 24 For this son of mine was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ So they began to be merry.

25 “Now his older son was in the field. As he came and drew near the house, he heard music and dancing.26 So he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. 27 He said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’

28 “He was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and entreated him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! These many years have I served you. Nor have I ever transgressed your commands, yet never have you given me a goat, so that I might be merry with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him.’

31 “He said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 But it was fitting to be merry and be glad, for this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” -Luke 15:11-32 (MEV)

This has been a difficult post for me to write, as it leaves me thinking of the time I have wasted that could have been used in service to God. On the other hand, the enemy would love to keep beating me up over that in an effort to stifle any service I may do from this day forward. I choose, instead, to be thankful to God for His incredible love for me. He knows all I have done in the past — and also the things I have not yet done! Despite all that, His grace is sufficient and His love eternal! Thank you my Lord, for your unending love. I love you too.

Delivered from Fear (Psalm 34)

I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. -Psalm 34:4 (MEV)

Please take note that, in the verse referenced above, the psalmist does not say that he was delivered from financial hardship, the heartbreak of a relationship in trouble, unemployment, bad health or any of the other major life issues we may face in our walk with the LORD. What it does say is that he was delivered from all of his fears.

All too often, I hear a preacher who teaches some sort of ‘ask and receive exactly what you’re asking for’ theology which frankly does not coincide with what God’s word teaches us. We are going to have trials and tribulations in this fallen world, especially if we are effective warriors for God. Satan and his evil minions will try to come against us all the time if we are walking with the LORD and spreading His gospel message.

The good news revealed in this one verse is that we will be delivered from our fears if we but seek the LORD!

 

 

Spiritual Warfare

Last night my wife and I attended a friend’s Bible study for the first time and really enjoyed it. He is somebody we have known for a while that attends a Saturday night worship service at our church that we frequent and he has been busy with a church plant in the town of Willimantic (about a 30 minute drive from our home). The people that attended were really welcoming and it was one of the best small groups I have been to in a while. Actually, when I think about it, it’s been several months since I was involved in any small group, let alone a Bible study. 

The normal course of study for the evening would have been in the book of Romans, in keeping with the Bible in Daily Life series our church as a whole is engaged in. Ed (small group leader) decided to depart from the normal study and take a look at spiritual warfare and how to best be equipped for battle. My wife and I were both pleased with the decision and got a lot out of it.

It is easy to forget that there is an unseen realm all around us in which there are constant battles between the forces of good and evil. That said, it is time to suit up for the war as children of the most high God. The text studied comes from Ephesians 6, a well known description of what we need to do battle with the forces of evil. Several other verses of Scripture were quoted and I shall do my best to remember and quote some of them here in this post.

Christian Warfare

10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore,

with truth like a belt around your waist,
righteousness like armor on your chest,
15 and your feet sandaled with readiness
for the gospel of peace.
16 In every situation take the shield of faith,
and with it you will be able to extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 Take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is God’s word.

18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.  -Ephesians 6:10-18 (HCSB)

How often do we think our struggles must be with other people? In reality, it is the evil behind the scenes that we really must address. It is a product of this fallen world in which we live for this brief time. This becomes more and more painfully apparent here in the United States where I live, as I see the decline of morality and this insane celebration of sin so often prevalent. The Bible clearly states that we must take up the full armor of God, not just bits and pieces as it may suit us. So what is it composed of? I find the following listed in the text: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation. Of course, praying at all times in the Spirit is mentioned. It may sound like a tall order, but when one considers the consequences, it is not so bad!

What does it mean to take a stand? As was pointed out last night, that is a military term. For me, to ‘take a stand’ is to draw a line in the sand and declare “no more!” We are living in a culture where that line has so often been blurred by political correctness and whatever is popular at the time. The Church so often wishes to be warm and fuzzy and welcoming to all. Certainly, our doors should be opened to all — but to welcome sin is to welcome destruction.

Where do we discover truth? From the Holy Spirit and study of God’s Word. Spending time in the Word is the the best way to stay focused on God and His directives for our lives as slaves of Christ. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. -John 8:32 (KJV).

What about righteousness? Where do we find that? We find it in Christ, not from our own works. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. – 2 Corinthians 5:21 (KJV).

What is the gospel of peace? Roman soldiers wore special shoes to help them advance against the enemy. We as Christians must also wear those special shoes in a spiritual sense, which is (as the king James Study Bible puts it) an eagerness to share the gospel (the good news of Jesus and what He has done for us).

What about the shield of faith? Let’s look at how the Bible defines faith: Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. -Hebrews 11:1 (HCSB). Eugene Peterson puts it this way in his translation known as The Message: The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. -Hebrews 11:1-2 (MSG).

What is the “Helmet of Salvation?” Simply put, the word of God. Where do we find out what we must do to be saved? The message is clearly stated in the Bible. For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart. -Hebrews 4:12 (HCSB). All Scripture is inspired by God[a] and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, -2 Timothy 3:16 (HCSB). What words did Jesus begin with when rebuking Satan? It is written. He knew to defend His position with those words, as Satan cannot stand against the truth of God’s word. As stated in Matthew 4:4 (HCSB): But He answered, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. 

Of course, it should all begin and end with prayer, prayer, prayer! Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (HCSB)