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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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Exercising Our Rights; Respecting Our Leaders

SubmissionOver the past several decades there has been an increasing attitude of disrespect shown to our elected government officials, especially if we didn’t vote for them and if we disagree with something they have said or done that has appeared in various media. The mudslinging starts during every election year and continues well after the election is over and the elected officials hold office. However, the attacks towards those holding office have become increasing vitriol, and are highly disrespectful of our elected officials. While disagreements will arise and freedom of speech is one of our Constitutional rights (see the First Amendment); showing contempt, disrespect and/or slandering our elected government officials is not. And while we may disagree at times with something they have said or done, civility and respect should always be shown towards our government officials and the office they hold. After all, those officials were elected to their political office by the American voting public.

In Romans 13, the Apostle Paul wrote on the subject of submitting to the governing authorities specifically in the first seven verses. Let’s read the entire chapter (14 verses):

Submission to Governing Authorities

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. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Love Fulfills the Law

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

The Day Is Near

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Emperors ruled the Roman Empire during Paul’s lifetime and at the time he wrote Roman 13 (see a timeline of the Apostle Paul’s life at this link). It should be noted that Paul was a Roman citizen which is important to know as Roman citizens had specific rights that included the right to “vote, standing for public office, rights in private law, and the right of appeal. Duties included military service, taxation, billetting troops, and various civic responsibilities” as opposed to people living in the Roman Empire who were not Roman citizens (quote source from article titled, “The Apostle Paul’s exercise of his rights as a Roman Citizen as recorded in the book of Acts,” in The Evangelical Quarterly–a PDF file available at this link). This article contains a lengthy discussion of the system of government in place at that time as well as how Paul exercized his rights under that government when his rights had been violated as they frequently were by the Jewish religious establishment whose false claims landed Paul in prison on numerous occasions.

Nelson Mandela quoteIt should be noted that Paul was always very respectful to the authorities in which he had to give an account when he was falsely accused by the Jewish religious establishment and put in jail or suffered punishment at their hands. But he was also bold to state the facts of his case in each and every instance. I wrote about Paul’s experience while in prison when he had to go before several different authorities near the end of his life–the first authority was Felix, a Roman procurator, who was succeeded by Porcius Festus, and extending all the way up to King Agrippa and Bernice–in my blog post titled, Don’t Put It Off.” The complete story can be read in Acts 24-28.

As we can see from reading Paul’s instructions to the Roman Christians regarding submission to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1-7)–and hence, to Christians everywhere today–he is writing to explain why we as Christians should be in submission to our governing authorities as “there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (v. 1). He goes on to state that “whoever rebels against the authority are rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (v. 2). Paul states in verse 3a, “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority?” And he answers his question by stating, Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (vv. 3b-4).

In other words, we are to “do what is right” in order to be commended and not do what is wrong. And this is how we should live on a daily basis, being subject to the governing authorities. As Paul stated, if we rebel against them, it will bring punishment on the wrongdoers. This, of course, is not a matter of individual rights being violated by others as in Paul’s case when the religious establishment of his day gave false testimony about him in order to put him in prison, and when he defended himself against those false allegations of his accusers again and again in front of the governing authorities. As a Roman citizen it was his right to defend himself against those false allegations and he did so with respect towards those governing authorities all the way up to King Agrippa.

The main point of Romans 13:1-7 is that if we rebel against the governing authorities when no other issue is involved (such as the violation of one’s rights which is not a matter of rebelling but of defending oneself against false allegations) but because we disagree with their authority, that is when we can bring wrath and punishment on ourselves. And rebelling can entail a variety of things, such as lying to governing authorities and trying to discredit them and their authority over us. As verse 7 states, “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

As we continue on through the few remaining verses in Romans 13, verses 8-10 state:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Love does no harm to a neighbor . . . . Giving false testimony to a governing authority against someone who has done no harm to anyone in order to discredit them is rebelling against that authority by lying to them about that person with the intent to cause great harm to that person who was falsely accused. Such discrediting will not go unpunished according to Romans 13:1-7.

The remaining verses of Romans 13 (verses 11-14) state the following:

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

The hour has already come for us to wake up from our slumber. “So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” . . . .

“Let us behave decently . . . 

“And clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ . . .

“As the day is almost here” . . . .

Regarding respecting and submitting to governing authorities, read The Presidents Club
Regarding exercising our rights as citizens, read Threats to Liberty
Regarding remaining silent or lying in the face of evil, read When Silence is Not Golden

YouTube Video: “Amazing Grace” by The Crabb Family Live at Brooklyn Tabernacle:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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Remember Respect?

“Are you walking around thinking that the world owes you something ’cause you’re here?” Sometimes I think that’s become a lifestyle for many folks living in America today. It’s actually a line from the 1971 song titled, Respect Yourself by the Staple Singers (You Tube video and lyrics below).

Dictionary.com defines respect as “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability; the condition of being esteemed or honored.”

W-O-W . . . I haven’t seen much of that attribute around lately, have you?

“Rights” and “personal freedom” have replaced respect in our society today (just read the comment made by METALheadMom at SodaHead.com if you need an example–and most of us don’t as we experience it on a regular basis). And an attitude of disrespect is not respective to age. No, kids right on through to old people have an amazing capacity in our society to disrespect others. I can’t tell you how many women have barged into me lately (okay, it’s not huge but enough . . .) in a grocery store (and yes, right in my own personal space and literally–and intentionally–bumping into me or grabbing something off a shelf right in front of my face) without even saying a word. Some of them have even been little old ladies. And no apology, either, or an insincere one at that . . . .

You have your examples, too. I don’t need to give you any more of mine. That list is endless (yours and mine) . . . . All we have to do is get behind the wheel of our car and get in traffic to experience disrespect. It even has a name . . . road rage(the term originated in the United States–specifically in California–in 1987-1988 according to Wikipedia.com). I used to think that the high level of disrespect we show each other in our society might be a perception on my part because I was getting older and noticed it more. NOT . . . . Not even close.

Disrespect is out there everywhere today. Just look at all the garbage about people that the media publishes that is considered “news” today. It’s voyeurism at best, and nasty at it’s core at the very least. But, inquiring minds want to know, right? RIGHT? That kind of “news” sells big time in our society nowadays. We’d rather hear about an affair (and give us the details, please) of some politician or public figure or movie/rock star then concern ourselves with the human tragedies going on over in Syria, Libya, and many other parts of the world. Ours is now a Google world with massive amounts of information available 24/7 on just about any imaginable (and beyond imaginable, too) topic–not all bad, mind you–but it’s there if you want it. However, that’s another topic for another time.

Getting back to the issue of respect, Bell123 asked this question on Ask.com: “Why are people so mean now days? Whatever happened to respect and treating others as you want to be treated?” Two of the responses were (1) “It’s the Internet–no face to face contact so people lose respect for others and think words on a keyboard have no consequences,” and (2) “Many children aren’t taught decency, manners and respect anymore and the results can last for the rest of their lives. Longtime teachers have remarked how the current generation of children are significantly less respectful than previous generations. It all comes down to a lack of self-discipline. People aren’t taught how to control themselves, and the resulting selfishness makes them feel entitled to hurt other people.”

While I agree that both of these answers hit the nail on the head regarding some aspects concerning the level of disrespect we find in our society today, it isn’t confined to those two groups–internet users or young people. It permeates every ethnic, racial, gender, religious affiliation, and age group from 0-100.

Ephesians 5 & 6 has a lot to say about showing proper behavior towards others and starts right off with “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (5:1-2). It admonishes us to “wake up from our sleep” and “walk in love.” Regarding our relationships with others, we are told that “Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another” (5:21, MSG) and it goes on to tell us how to relate to others in the specific roles we find ourselves in such as wives, husbands, children, fathers, servants (e.g., employees), masters (e.g., employers) and with ourselves (5:21-33; 6:1-9). I’ll let you read it for yourself.

The bottom line is this–for those of us who call ourselves “Christian” showing a lack of respect to anybody (including those who are disrespectful to us and, yes, that includes our enemies–and it also includes our fellow Christians) is not an option. There is no reason big enough for us to disdain others. And do you know why? Because it’s not about us.

Let’s read the last part of Ephesians 6 to get a crystal clear picture of what this life is all about as Christians. It’s a fight to the finish, or have we forgotten that? “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:10-18).

For the true follower of Jesus Christ that is what this life is all about, folks. It’s about Him, and we are in a spiritual war to the finish line. I like how The Message Bible states Eph. 6:10-12: “. . . and that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.”

“This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps . . . .” Yes, it’s for keeps, folks. Everything that we do or say or act out matters. Every single day we have the opportunity to influence every single person we come into contact with by our actions, words, and our attitudes, for good or for evil. Do we want our own way more than we want to show the love of Christ, even to our enemies and those who disrespect us? Nobody’s perfect and we all fall short in our interactions with others, but does Jesus Christ really make a difference in our lives? If He does, the way He wants us to interact with others should shine through. If it doesn’t, who do we really belong to?

If we don’t like the level of disrespect in our society, then let’s start changing it today by showing everyone we come in contact with (yes, the good, the bad, the disrespectful, and the ugly) that Jesus Christ really does make a different in this world, because He’s made a difference in us, and He can make a difference in them, too. The world is watching us to see if what we say we believe we really do believe . . .

 . . . and live it out. 

I’ll end this post with the words to the song, Respect Yourself (YouTube video below):

If you disrespect anybody
That you run into
How in the world do you think
Anybody’s supposed to respect you?

If you don’t give a heck about the man
With the Bible in his hand
Just get out the way
And let the gentleman do his thing

You the kind of gentleman
That want everything your way
Take the sheet off your face, boy
It’s a brand new day

Respect yourself, respect yourself
If you don’t respect yourself
Ain’t nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na
Respect yourself, respect yourself

If you’re walking ’round
Think’n that the world
Owes you something
‘Cause you’re here

You goin’ out
The world backwards
Like you did
When you first come here

Keep talkin’ ’bout the president
Won’t stop air pollution
Put your hand on your mouth
When you cough, that’ll help the solution

Oh, you cuss around women
And you don’t even know their names
And you dumb enough to think
That’ll make you a big ol man

Respect yourself, respect yourself
If you don’t respect yourself
Ain’t nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na
Respect yourself, respect yourself
Respect yourself, respect yourself

NOW LET’S GOES OUT AND RESPECT OTHERS, TOO!!!

YouTube Video: “Respect Yourself” (1971) by the Staple Singers:

Photo credit here

When Silence Is Golden

Reverence . . . Dictionary.com defines reverence as “a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration.” In our fast-paced, frenetic society we have lost our sense of reverence and awe. If we attend church on Sunday (and I’m not pointing fingers as I don’t at the moment), we may sing a few worship songs at the beginning of the service for maybe an hour (usually less), but for the most part the remaining 167 hours in the week are spent frantically rushing around in an attempt get more of whatever it is we are looking for–better health, a better job, maybe a spouse (or maybe a divorce), more money to get out of debt or to buy more stuff and go deeper in debt, a college education, a great career, the quest to become a millionaire or maybe a billionaire no matter the cost to your health, your relationships, or your soul . . . but God, well, He gets put back on the shelf until next Sunday morning arrives and we, once again, give Him maybe an hour of our time (if we can hold our attention on Him for that long).

Back in 2003 the Barna Group conducted a survey in which 84% of all adults taking that particular survey considered themselves to be Christian. Here’s the opening paragraph from their findings which may or may not surprise you:

“More than four out of five adults – 83% – contend that they are concerned about the moral condition of the nation. Given that 84% of all adults consider themselves to be Christian, they have good reason to worry about the moral state of the country: many of their own views conflict with the moral teachings of their professed faith.

“Of the ten moral behaviors evaluated, a majority of Americans believed that each of three activities were ‘morally acceptable.’ Those included gambling (61%), co-habitation (60%), and sexual fantasies (59%). Nearly half of the adult population felt that two other behaviors were morally acceptable: having an abortion (45%) and having a sexual relationship with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse (42%). About one-third of the population gave the stamp of approval to pornography (38%), profanity (36%), drunkenness (35%) and homosexual sex (30%). The activity that garnered the least support was using non-prescription drugs (17%) (quote source here).

Surprised? I’m not. We rarely consult with God anymore about anything pertaining to our personal and professional lives. Lip service? Maybe. But actually seeking His guidance on how to conduct ourselves and how to live our lives 24/7? No . . . .

At the William Jefferson Clinton Memorial Library website there’s a list of Ten Signs of a Culture’s End. Let’s take a look at those ten signs (for a detailed description of each sign click here):

#1: a society which no longer worships or acknowledges God
#2: the decline of the family

#3: a low view of life–abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, etc.
#4: the prevalence of base and immoral entertainment
#5: the increase of violent crime among young people
#6: the declining middle class
#7: an insolvent government
#8: a government that lives off of society’s moral decay
#9: when the ruling class loses its will
#10: the failure of its people to see what is happening

Churches litter the landscape of America but the true worship of God is sorely missing most of the time. Many churches have become “Christian Entertainment Centers” instead of a place to worship the Creator of the Universe. “Worship” is a billion-dollar industry in America but rarely does it change lives. Sermons lasting 30 minutes at the most (and that don’t mention either Jesus or “sin” during that time) are about as long as our attention spans will allow for (if we aren’t thinking about something else during the sermon).

Read that list again–it starts with “a society that no longer worships or acknowledges God” and ends with “the failure of its people to see what is happening.” And folks . . .

We are there . . . .

Tomorrow is Election Day in America and we are at a crossroad–the most significant crossroad in our history to date. There is not one item on President Clinton’s list that hasn’t been embedded in our culture over the past few decades. If you are a registered voter you need to vote if you haven’t already (I voted early by mail). What happens in these next four years will determine what happens to America.

If you are Christian, I encourage you to spend some time in silence before God during the next two days. Here’s a devotion from Dr. Charles Swindoll titled “Waiting in Silence” to help you prepare:

Waiting in Silence

James 1:2-4

“My soul waits in silence for God only” (Psalm 62:1). Some of the best times in prayer are wordless times. I stop speaking, close my eyes, and meditate upon what I have been reading or upon what I have been saying, and I listen inside of myself. I listen deeply. I listen for reproofs. I think of myself as a home with many doors. As I am meditation–and often it helps to close my eyes so I won’t be distracted–I unlock doors and open them as I want. It is here that the Holy Spirit invades. Then, I take circumstances before Him and I listen with doors open.

Please be assured that I have never heard an audible voice. It isn’t that kind of answering. It’s a listening down inside. It’s sensing what God is saying about the situation. His promise is, after all, that He will inscribe His law–His will–upon our hearts and our minds.

It’s like what you do when you’re in love with a person. Isn’t it true–the deeper the love, the less that has to be said? You can actually sit alone together by a fireplace for an hour or two and say very, very little, but it can be the deepest encounter and relationship you know anything about.

Those who wait upon the Lord will gain new strength according to Isaiah (40:31), but remember: the key is waiting.

There’s a sense of stability in trusting the Lord. That’s how we wait silently and with a sense of confidence. When we wait for God to direct our steps, He does! When we trust Him to meet our needs, He will!

God tempers us and seasons us,
making us mellow and mature
when we wait on Him.

Source: Day by Day by Dr. Charles Swindoll, p. 12
Word Publishing, Thomas Nelson, 2000

In our “instant” society, we know very little about waiting or silence, but we know a lot about impatience. Now is not the time to be impatient. Set aside some time where you won’t be distracted (even if you have to do it at 3:00 a.m.!) and wait on the Lord is silence and let Him guide you instead of your needs. He knows you far better than you know yourself. For a few minutes, “let all the earth be silent before Him” (Habakkuk 2:20), at least in your little corner of the earth.

You might even think about making it a regular habit. It will change your life and your focus on life. It is individuals that make up a nation. And, if we want to see change in our nation, it starts with usyou and me.

So let’s start now . . . .

And if you haven’t voted yet, VOTE!

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!
~Psalm 27:14

YouTube Video: “The Lord is in His Holy Temple” sung by the Camelback Church of Christ, Phoenix, AZ (2011):

Photo credit here

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