Posted in Acts, Romans

Civil Authority

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves… Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” Romans 13:1-2; 5

Civil authority was God’s idea, not man’s. To be a good citizen of heaven and a pleasing child of God, we must also aim to be a good citizen of whatever country we live in.

Our goal is not just to stay out of the trouble that comes when we break the law, but to keep a clear conscience before God. We honor positions of civil authority because God established them to restrain evil in this present time. To honor civil authorities, therefore, is part of honoring God.

But our duty to civil government goes beyond blind obedience. Conscience limits us when government asks us to do something that is against God’s commands. When this happens, we appeal with honor toward them, and if they still will not relent, we must disobey and be willing to suffer the penalty.

This is what happened in Acts 4. Civil authority commanded the apostles to stop speaking in Jesus Name (Acts 4:17), but this was in contradiction to Christ’s command to go into the whole world and preach the gospel. Here was Peter and John’s response: “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen or heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)

For Jesus’ sake we should be model citizens of America. We should pay taxes, we should stay within the limits of the law, and we should pray for all who are in positions of authority. Yet if the government in the future makes laws that force us to disobey God, it will be our duty to follow God, not men.

All over the world we have brothers and sisters who are being persecuted and martyred for just this reason. Let’s pray for them, thank God for the freedom we enjoy in America, and continue to pray for all those in authority.

Posted in James

Whose House? 

“Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee.” James 4:7

One day the owner of a beautiful house heard a knock at the door and when he opened it he found the Lord of glory, Jesus Himself, waiting to be welcomed in. “Do you want to come into my house?” the man asked in wonder. “Please come in; I am so honored to have you in my home.” Jesus came in and then the man led Jesus to the best, cleanest room in the house for Him to live in.

The next day, there was another knock at the door and this time it was the devil. The man slammed the door shut, but the devil got a foot in the door, pushed it open, and began to wrestle with this homeowner. The wrestling match went on all day long until finally the man got Satan back out the door. He was totally exhausted and couldn’t help wondering why Jesus hadn’t done anything.

The next morning, he heard the knock again and planned to ignore it. But there was something alluring about the knock, so he decided to take a small peek. He opened the door a crack, and before he knew it, the devil was back in. While wrestling all day, he couldn’t help but be offended by Jesus. “Why isn’t He doing anything?” So when he finally got Satan out the door, he walked up the stairs and knocked on Jesus’ door.

The Lord of glory opened the door, and the man was careful to be respectful: “Sir, I didn’t want to disturb You, but I thought You should know the devil’s been here the last two days. I have exhausted myself fighting him and was hoping to get some help in the future.”

“My Son,” Jesus said with love in His eyes, “you have invited me to live in your house, but the truth is that I have already paid for this house with My own blood. Why don’t you get the deed and give it to Me, so instead of Me living in your house; you live in Mine.” 

The next morning the knock came again and fear grabbed the man’s heart. He was so tired he didn’t know if he could resist the knock or get the devil out again if he opened the door. Then he heard steps on the stairs. It was Jesus and He didn’t look happy. “Son,” he said, “I want you to open the door and not just a crack. I will stand right behind you. Ask him what he wants.” There was fire in the eyes of Jesus.

The man opened the door wide and there was the devil in all his hideousness. “What do you want?” the man asked. The devil started trembling. “Nothing,” he said, as he turned to flee.

Posted in Luke

Confidence in Prayer

“Will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:7-8

One of the devices Jesus used to teach us truth is giving a human scenario we can easily understand, and then comparing it to our relationship with God.

In Luke 18, Jesus tells the story of a widow who keeps coming to an unjust judge who doesn’t fear God or care about the widow, but eventually gives her justice because she won’t give up. In the text above, He’s trying to instill confidence in us because we are His chosen, not widows, and we are coming before a God who deeply loves us and wants justice on the earth more than we do. Where the unjust judge delays unnecessarily, Jesus says the chosen can expect justice quickly as they cry out to God.

Yet the whole story is about how we deal with delay. Luke gives us the point before he tells the parable: “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1) We will feel at times like God doesn’t care and that we have no position of importance before Him which will tempt us to give up on our prayers. Jesus is encouraging us to fight through these feelings and to keep believing.

He ends the parable with a question for us to consider: “When the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” In essence, here’s what I think He’s saying: “The Father is always good and will never give up on you. He can be counted on to do His part, but will you do yours? Will you give up on God because it seems He doesn’t hear?”

Jesus wants us to believe that God can change any circumstance where darkness has tried to “kill, steal, and destroy” us or our loved ones. He wants us to believe while we pray, and to keep believing during delays. Asking for justice is similar to praying: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” May all of our hearts be filled with confidence that this is possible no matter how long evil seems to have its way. A believer’s job is to believe. Let’s believe and keep believing for His glory, and our good.

Posted in Genesis, Isaiah, Romans

Reexamining Our Faith

“Did God really say?” Genesis 3:1

The first attack of the enemy was not to question the existence of God, but the word of God. So it is today. The Word of God is being questioned and challenged at every level. This is a sobering time for the church in this country which should cause all Christians to pause and reexamine their own faith. Here are three questions we should ask ourselves:

  1. Am I really a Christian? Do I believe the Word of God as it is or have I twisted it to say something it doesn’t say? The enemy followed up the question above with a promise: “You will surely not die.” (Genesis 3:4) If we don’t really believe the wages of sin is death, I don’t think we will see our need to receive the gift of eternal life. If we don’t really believe in sin, why would we need forgiveness?
  2. Do I fear God? We can live in the fear of God and change our thinking to embrace His ways, or we can rebel against His commands and make a new god in our own image. Paul says we are to “behold the kindness and severity of God.” (Romans 11:22) Have we done this, or have we tamed God and made Him something He isn’t?
  3. Am I willing to be persecuted for my faith? Am I willing to go against the grain? Am I willing to be mocked and laughed at or put in prison for my faith? The late missionary, Elizabeth Elliott, said this in her journal: “If something isn’t worth dying for, it isn’t worth living for.” Am I willing to die for my faith?

This is not a time for Christians to become afraid; it’s time for us to shine. It’s not a time for us to be angry because America isn’t Christian; it’s time to wake up ourselves and make sure we’re Christians. Isaiah 60:1-3 says: “Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” This is to be the church’s greatest hour.

Posted in 1John, 2Corinthians, Hebrews, Isaiah, James, Matthew, Revelation

Drawing Near

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8

The remarkable thing about the New Covenant is that it gives us as much of God as we want. The Old Covenant featured a veil which stood between sinful humanity and a holy God. It served as a reminder that God needed to keep a safe distance from us, or we might easily be struck down by the consuming fire He is. (Hebrews 12:29)

Everything today has changed because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The veil, it turns out, was a picture of Christ’s body. (Hebrews 10:20) When Jesus was crucified as the sacrifice for our sins, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:51) We now have access to God 24/7 and are encouraged to “draw near with confidence having our hearts cleansed from a guilty conscience.” (Hebrews 10:22)

We don’t have to live far from God! Don’t let fear, confusion, regrets, discouragement, distractions, or even struggles with sin keep you away from nearness to God. No one cleans up before they take a shower – the purpose of the shower is to clean you up. Don’t clean up for God, draw near and God will clean up your life without you even focusing on it. Here’s how He cleans us up in His Presence:

  1. His perfect love casts out fear. (1John 4:18)
  2. The clouds of confusion are cleared by the lens of eternity. (2Corinthians 4:18)
  3. He gives us His beauty in place of the ashes of our regrets. (Isaiah 61:3)
  4. He releases joy which replaces discouragement. (Isaiah 61:3)
  5. His blood silences every accusation against us and gives us a new beginning without sin. (Revelation 12:10-11)

God likes us, and He has done everything to welcome us into His presence which is the ultimate answer to every one of our problems. To live far away from God is to miss the main purpose for living.

Posted in 2Kings

The Bigger Message

“‘Behold now, I (Naaman) know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; so please take a present from your servant now.’ But he (Elisha) said, ‘As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will take nothing.’ And he urged him to take it, but he refused.” 2Kings 5:15-16

Naaman was a famous general in the army of Aram and everyone knew he had leprosy. A young Israeli girl who had been taken captive by him said that she wished he would go to the prophet in Israel, so he could be healed. This was the beginning of God’s message to Naaman. Here is a girl who should want his death but instead wants his healing.

He goes to Elisha and is sure that his position before men will be recognized and honored by the prophet, but it’s not. In fact, Elisha doesn’t even come out but only gives the message to go dunk seven times in the Jordan river, and then he will be healed. Naaman is furious. He thought Elisha would “surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.” (2Kings 5:11) Do you see how dangerous it is when we dictate to God how He should do what only He can do? One of his officers said to him, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (2Kings 5:13) So finally Naaman goes and does what God tells him to do and is completely healed.

In the text above he wants to pay for his healing, but Elisha has been instructed to take nothing. Everyone in Aram will want to know how Naaman got healed and he is to tell the story and to let everyone know that it came absolutely free when he submitted to God’s conditions. But Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, thinks that Naaman got off too easy so he follows him and receives a gift from what Naaman wanted to pay. This stirred God’s judgment because Gehazi’s greed blurred the message God wanted to speak to the people of Aram about His grace.

Gehazi completely missed the bigger message because of human reasoning and selfishness. Did you know that God’s speaking a message through your life that’s bigger than you? It’s important for us to obey even when we don’t understand.

Posted in 2Chronicles

Facing Your Fears

“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” 2Chronicles 20:17

It appeared to be a disastrous day for Israel. Three armies were attacking it at once. One, they could possibly have handled; two, unlikely; but three? No way. Have you ever had a day like this? So much is happening at once, you feel like you’re going to collapse unless God does something.

Instead of calling the nation to war, the king called them to prayer. The prayer had two basic thoughts:

  1. We’re in big trouble. “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” (2Chronicles 20:12)
  2. God is our only hope. “Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can withstand You…We will stand in Your Presence before this temple that bears Your Name and will cry out to You in our distress, and You will hear and save us.” (2Chronicles 20:6, 9)

God spoke the words quoted above through a prophet in response to this prayer. Please notice God didn’t tell them to hide while He took care of their problems for them. He told them to face what they were afraid of with confidence that He would be with them. He told them to stop fearing and to start trusting, He had a victory planned for His children.

It’s the same today. God wants to give us victory and in the process teach us how to trust Him. What are you afraid of today? Why not bring it before God in real prayer and ask for His help? Then go out and face your problems and impossibilities with courage because God is with you, and there is no difficulty too large for Him.

The Israelites faced this vast army the next day with their eyes on God. The worshipers went out front saying, “give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever,” and as they began to sing and praise, “the Lord set ambushes” against their enemies. (2Chronicles 20:22)

Let’s lift our eyes above what is making us afraid and see the God who loves us, helps us, and gives us strength.

Posted in Ephesians, Luke, Mark

The Alternate Reality

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

The Narnia books are all about an alternate reality; another realm where there is a continual conflict between good and evil. C.S. Lewis was describing for us the spirit world that is actually around us all the time. Jesus lived physically and engaged physical realities, but He was equally conscious of the spirit realm and in a moment would expose and address darkness with complete authority.

Whether releasing a woman that Satan had bound for eighteen long years (See Luke 13), delivering a man so tormented that he lived in total isolation (See Luke 9), or rebuking His own disciples when they were listening to the wrong voice (See Mark 8);  Jesus was never surprised by the need to address the alternate reality.

After He rose from the dead He entrusted those who believe His authority and gave as the first sign of believers: “In My Name, they will cast out demons.” (Mark 16:17) Have you embraced the alternate reality? It is easy in the American church to theologically believe in the spirit world but functionally live as if it’s “make believe” and irrational.

The problem is we will never win a war we haven’t fully engaged in. In fact, we will end up thinking flesh and blood is our enemy and feel the solution to our problems lies in manipulating people to get our way, or even, to get “God’s” way. (It is easy to equate our agenda with God’s will when we really want something.) This often leads to bitterness, frustration, or idolatry, and a life of striving which is actually under the influence of darkness instead of light.

“Get behind Me Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Mark 8:33)

Posted in 1Samuel, Hebrews, Philippians

Confidence through Victory

“When David was told, ‘Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,’ he inquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’ The Lord answered him, ‘Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’ But David’s men said to him, “here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces! Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him, ‘Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.’ So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah.” 1Samuel 23:1-5

David’s men are afraid and having a hard time believing that God really wants them to reach beyond their fears. When David brings the Word of the Lord, they say in essence: “We’re already afraid here in Judah which we know; now you think God wants us to go into enemy territory and fight there? You’d better ask God again because we don’t think He would ask us to go that far out of our comfort zone.”

David asks again and sure enough, it is God’s plan. Why? Is God mean? Does He like seeing His children miserable? No, it’s just that the only way to remove fear is to face it and discover that the prison it was making around your life was artificial. They obeyed God in spite of their fears and God gave them victory. Eventually these very men became David’s mighty men and became known for their fearlessness.

Did you know God is on a mission to make us fearless? He wants us to face every trial and challenge with a confidence that says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) Do not let fear set the limits of your life but only the will of God.

If fear has been your automatic default mode I want to encourage you to regularly take up the confession of Hebrews 13:5-6: “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”

Posted in Ephesians

God’s Heart for Israel – Part Two

“Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  Ephesians 2:12-14

When Christ came there was a tremendous spiritual war in Israel and the leadership ended up rejecting their own Messiah. The Father gave them the consequences of their choice and they became isolated from the New Covenant which was promised to them. The Gentiles, God’s second family of choice, then came in and benefited greatly from all the hard work Israel had done and actually came into the covenant promised to Israel instead of Israel. Today there is confusion in the body of Christ as to how God feels about Israel.

  1. Some feel God is still angry at them because of their rejection of Christ and continues to punish them for their bad attitude.
  2. Some feel that the church has replaced Israel; God has forgotten His firstborn – they were just a means to the end of His present family.
  3. Some know that God still loves Israel and is taking care of them anonymously even though they still refuse to recognize their Messiah, but see the continued independence of the Jews as a problem that doesn’t involve them.
  4. Some have seen the sorrow in God’s heart and have joined Him by intercession and kindness toward the Jewish people.

Whatever the responses of the children, the Larson family will not be complete to Dad and Mom until Bobby comes home. Whatever joy they have in their remaining children, none of them can replace Bobby. In the same way, God’s family won’t ever feel complete to Him until Israel comes home. He wants our hearts to be engaged with His for Israel. We have great spiritual wealth today in Christ because of their sacrifice. We need to remember that sacrifice and honor it by praying for Israel, weeping for Israel, and blessing Israel.  God’s kindness to them through the church is going to help bring them home.