“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT
The scriptures challenge us to be thankful in all things. This can be difficult when "things" are not going well. Perhaps you have lost someone to death, lost a job, gone through a divorce, struggling to pay the bills, or have a health condition that limits your ability. The shorter, and colder, days can cast a shadow upon us, especially when things are already tight financially. These things, and more, can make it hard to embrace days like today. Some of you may feel alone and forgotten while others gather with family and friends to feast and fellowship. Maybe you are one of the "feast" individuals and you haven't stopped to think of the child, or adult, who isn't as fortunate as you. Could you take just a moment to humble yourself and pray for them, maybe reach out to them?
God wants to use us to show His love to others.
May I remind us all today that God has made a way for us to live with hope. He, our creator, has come to earth to live a human life, to identify with our suffering, and to take our place in death. He died for our sin. He has made available, to us, life eternal! Through Jesus we find forgiveness of sin and eternal hope. Hope that insures us of a coming day when all sorrow will be gone and all things restored to God's intended way for us to live. This alone should cause our hearts to be lifted in thankfulness!!! Can I hear the sound of of your voice as it lifts thanks to our Lord? Join me, and a host of others, today as we give thanks. He is listening. Let's let Him know how thankful we are. Tell Him. Speak it. Let us not be silent. Whether we are in feast or famine, let's remain thankful for the things that God has given. Those who truly know and love God can, and will, give thanks no matter what life's circumstances. Remember Job's response to the disaster and tragedy of his circumstances:
“He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!””
Job 1:21 NLT
Imagine the agony of Jesus in the garden as He prayed and His sweat became like great drops of blood, the torture of His brutal beating, and the excruciating pain of His crucifixion. He knows the depth of all our trials.
“Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!”
2 Corinthians 9:15 NLT
“So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God. ’” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.”
Romans 14:10-12 NLT.
Individually, we will all stand before Jesus and give account for the lives we lived.
"In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge,” John 5:22 NLT.
We will not only be judged on what we did but, also, why we did it.
"But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10 NLT.
We cannot stand before God on behalf of someone else. We can only give account for ourselves.
“For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 NLT.
It is very important for us to keep this in mind when it comes to dealing with others. We cannot control the decisions of others. Since this is the case, we must focus our attention on how we live and the impact our lives are having on others. Although we cannot control others actions, and we cannot stand before God for them, we must always bear in mind the influence we have on their lives. We will give account for the way our lives affected others. Our life is ours to live, but let's not forget the consequences of our actions on the lives of others. We need to stop pointing our fingers at others and look in the mirror!! We don't need religious clones of ourselves. We need to ask Jesus to make us, and others, like Him!
Simply consider the life Jesus lived.
“Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6 NLT.
“In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.”
Romans 14:5-9 NLT.
My dear brothers and sisters,
Why do we get so worked up about things? It is astounding how we can get so bent out of sorts about things like what day we worship on, what kind of foods we eat, modes of baptism, etc.. I wonder if God shakes His head when He observes us in these moments. We call ourselves Christians and the name is representative of Christ, yet we add things to the salvation He paid for and gave us. We say things like "I believe Jesus is my Savior, but". There are no conjunctions when it comes to salvation. Jesus is Savior! Plus nothing! He completes us! We do not complete Him.
“And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power:” Colossians 2:10 KJV.
We need not add anything to His saving grace. He alone can save us from our wretched sin. Everything else we do is personal devotion to Him as Lord. What we do should only be an outflow of His inward presence. Salvation is a gift. It costs us nothing. Our response to the gift of salvation is to live a life dedicated to His honor and service. Always remember that we are the zero. Jesus is the One. We must put the One in front of the zero to make a Ten. In Him we are a 10. Without Him, we are a 0.
“This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”
Romans 13:11-14 NLT.
Time doesn't stop for anyone. Every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, or year is an opportunity to share the good news of eternal life through Jesus Christ the Lord! We are all limited in the number of these God given moments. Eternity is real. Our current state of life is temporary. In Psalm 90:10 we are told “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away.” NLT.
No one can know the exact length of their earthly lives. Death doesn't send a notice in the mail to warn us of its arrival time. We must live every day with eternity in our sights. We cannot allow ourselves to get distracted by the cares of living and forget that we are not here forever. We will eventually die or be caught up to be with Jesus when He returns. The world we live in is dying and eternity awaits. We must live every moment as though it is our last. We cannot afford to spend our time living in sin. The pleasures of this world are only temporary. Why forfeit eternity for the temporal? Enjoy the beauty and blessings of God but don't lose focus. We are on a time clock. We must allow our lives to be used by God for His will, not ours. Let's not waste the life we have, let's make it count for eternity. Our eternal destination, as well as the destiny of others is at stake. How will you live? Will you choose to live for self or will you choose to live for God? Take a moment today and do an honest analysis of your life. Are you truly living for the Lord or for yourself?
“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”
Romans 13:8-10 NLT
In Matthew 22:37-40 and Mark 12:29-31 Jesus answers the question "What is the greatest commandment in the law"? (the law given to Moses). His answer was to love God with all our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This summation of the commandments were direct quotes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18. He even concluded His reply with this: "on these two commands hang all of the law and the prophets." In other words the entire Mosaic law can be fulfilled in doing these two things: Loving God, loving people. A thorough examination of the Ten Commandments will render the understanding that these commands were about relationship, not just rules. Yes, they are rules. However, rules without relationship leads to rebellion. No one wants to listen to a list of things they should or should not do if there is no relationship at the core. Life is all about relationships. God created us to be relational, not mechanical. The first four commandments (Exodus 20:1-11 and Deuteronomy 5: 1-15) are vertical (God conscious)! The last six (Exodus 20:12-17 and Deuteronomy 5:16-21) are horizontal (man conscious). This brings us to the form of a cross. God became a man and hung on a cross to bridge the gap between man and God. By doing so, Mercy built a bridge. Love was the reason. The golden text of scripture, John 3:16, is the heart of the matter. God loves us so much that He refuses to see us die in our sin. 1 John 4:8 says that God is love. When we love like He does, we are displaying His likeness. Therefore, love is the nucleus of life. Without it, we simply cannot continue to exist.
Rather than looking at the Christian Faith as a laundry list of things we have to get done, simply let God's love flow to you and, then, through you. This is the most beautiful thing in life.
“Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.”
Romans 13:6-7 NLT.
Jesus said in Matthew 22:21 "...Well, then,” He said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”” NLT. (Also Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25). Jesus lived during the time of the Roman Empire. Caesar was the common title for the Emperor. Jesus taught that everyone should give what is required in tax as well as Tithe. Taxes enable government to function. Tithes enable the church to function. Just as we are expected to contribute to the work in God's church we are also expected to contribute to the work of government.
I know there are some who are thinking about how much the government overcharges us and misuses the funds. I understand that a lot of money, particularly in America, is wasted on "pork" spending. There is never enough revenue in taxes to pay off our national debt. Increasing taxes only leads to more spending and more debt. To add insult to injury, government officials often indulge in excessive expenditures for personal benefit. Corruption abounds throughout the world in government. This isn't anything new. Since the fall of man corruption has invaded the ranks of every facet of life. Government is no exception. Laying aside this reality for a moment, we must focus on the institution as a whole. God gave us ruling officials for our civility and stability. God wants us to honor Him by acknowledging the state authorities, abiding by the law, and contributing to the soundness of society by living as godly citizens. We cannot control those in authority over us but we can control what we do.
Now, let's talk for a brief moment about civil disobedience. This is acting in honor and compliance to Gods Word above the laws of men. When laws are enacted by government, we have an obligation before God to adhere to them unless they contradict Gods law. When anyone asks or tells us to do things that are contrary to Gods Word we are to stand for the truth even if it costs us prison time or, even, death. This is demonstrated clearly in the lives of Daniel and also his friends and fellow servants of God Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In Daniel chapter three the three Hebrew men were thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to bow in worship to the 90 foot tall statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected.
They honored God and God honored them. In Daniel 6 we read of Daniel who prayed regardless of the decree from king Darius that no prayer was to be offered to anyone but him. Daniels fellow governing officials set a trap for Daniel. They were jealous of his favor before the king. Daniel prayed to God like he always had, knowing the dire consequence of being thrown to the lions in their den. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel honored God above man even when it was politically incorrect. God honored them in return.
Let me cite a couple of New Testament cases in point.
In Acts chapter 4, Peter and John were called before the Jewish religious council and threatened. They were told not to preach in Jesus name again (verse 17). They went right back preaching in Jesus name!
In Second Timothy 4 we read how Paul was ready to die after serving Jesus faithfully in the ministry. He preached to anyone that would listen. It is believed that he was beheaded under the Emperor Nero.
We should never bash our government with tongues of sin! We should never make jokes of the authorities over us! We should, however, do what is right in God's eyes when government tells us the opposite. Many today don't understand this. As believers in Jesus Christ, we must represent our Lord in the most holy fashion. This means maintaining a balanced perspective of the righteous purpose of government and discerning the wicked policies. Let's look to God above and beyond all else. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords! His is the righteous rule!!!!!!!
“For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.”
Romans 13:3-5 NLT
A law abiding citizen has no fear of the officer of the law because he is living in respect of the established authorities. On the other hand, those who are in violation of the law do not want to even be around a law officer for fear of being caught. If the law breaker is confronted, often, they try to escape or become hostile and the scene turns volatile and potentially deadly.
It is the officers responsibility to apprehend the offender and charge them accordingly. This is intended to protect the citizens of the officers jurisdiction. Government is given to us, by God, to protect its citizens, promote social order, and punish those who disobey the law. Government is a massive operation and has huge responsibility. Without the infrastructure of the government (local, state, and federal) the civilization we now have would not be possible. Imagine living in a community with no laws or law officers. Because of the sinful state of man, life would be an utter terror without the regulatory involvement of the government. Now, compound the wickedness of society with corruption in government and we have an exponentiated problem. Government is only as good as its foundation. When those who govern are evil, their policies and decrees become evil. This becomes an oppressive situation. Here in Romans 13, Paul is led by the Holy Spirit to instruct the people of the church in Rome concerning their responsibility to governing authorities. Rome was the epicenter of life at the time. It was the largest city of the time and was also the seat of government of the Roman Empire. Nero was the Emperor. He was a ruthless, dark, wicked, and self absorbed tyrant. You would be hard pressed to cite another ruler as wicked as he. Think of the likes of Sadam Hussein, Hitler, and the likes and you can get a grasp, somewhat, of what this man was like. Yet, Paul instructs the fellow saints to honor authority. This doesn't mean that they ignored God's commands or compromised their beliefs. They respected the entity of government, not necessarily the character and policies of the one holding the office. We must always respect the office of government but it doesn't mean that we accept the wicked character of those in office. We, as believers, are called to be salt and light. We do this by living a life that is exemplary to our fellow man. This means that we live our lives in a manner that sets the example for others to follow. 1 Peter 2:13-17 makes this statement “For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.” 1 Peter 2:13-17 NLT.
Tomorrow, Lord willing, we will talk about the response of the believer to a wicked, corrupt government. What do we do when government decrees something contrary to God's law? As the body of Christ, let's impact our world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. How do we do this?
“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.”
Romans 13:1-2 NLT
Have you ever made a comment of how government is full of corruption? I have often gotten very disgusted over the decisions that our government leaders have made. To cite a few cases in point:
-The 1962 Supreme Court ruling to take prayer out of public schools.
- The 1973 Roe vs Wade Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion on demand (we have slaughtered over 50 million innocent unborn lives under this genocide). This is an atrocity!!
- The most recent Supreme Court decision to overturn the state constitutional amendments that ratified marriage as one man and one woman and then legalized same sex marriage across the entire nation. This is tyranny my brothers and sisters.
The two things we must keep in perspective are this:
1. Government is an institution of Almighty God.,
2. Those who serve within it are, all too often, unrighteous.
When the unrighteous rule, evil is imposed upon the people. When the righteous are in power, the people live in peace and can prosper.
Proverbs 29:2 says “When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan.” NLT.
No institution of life is sinful in, and of, itself. God created and instituted these things. The evil comes from, and through, the wicked hearts of those who hold the positions within the institution. We can clearly determine, then, that government isn't evil. The ones who hold the offices can be evil, and often, are. The basis of the problem is the sinful condition of humanity. We are depraved! (corrupt, perverted, immoral, degenerate, unprincipled). Everything God makes is holy and righteous. What made things unrighteous was the submission of mankind to Satan and his fallen nature. Because Satan is a fallen creature (from righteousness) everything that mankind was given in Genesis Chapters 1 and 2 has been subjected to that same fallen state of depravity. Our submission to the temptation of Satan in Genesis 3:1-7 brought all things that God had created for man under the corrupt nature of sin. Unless we are born again, by the blood and body of Jesus Christ, who is the substitution for our wretched sin, we remain under that same corrupt condition. Only the Holy Spirit can open our spiritual eyes, ears, minds, and hearts.
The only hope for a government that rules in righteousness is a people and nation that recognizes their sin, repents, and let's God restore them. No political candidate can heal this nation! Only God can!
One day, when heaven and earth are made new, life will be experienced the way God intended. There will be government, commerce, adventure, and the absence of all things evil. It makes me want to shout HALLELUJAH!!! That day is coming! Jesus will be the one who sits on the throne and we will serve as his kings and priests. (See Revelation 5:10; Chapters 21 and 22). His rule is righteous! His Kingdom is unending! I've taken a look in the back of the book. I know how the story ends. Jesus is Lord!!!!!!!
“Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”
Romans 12:19-21 NLT.
Leaving those who have wronged us in the hands of God can be a tremendous challenge when we are hurt, angry, feel assaulted, violated, or even betrayed. Sometimes we even recite verse 19 of this reading and use it to say "God, get em"! It is as if we think God has given us the ability to call on Him to do our dirty work and fulfill our hit list. This is not what this passage is telling us. We need to remember that Jesus must have felt betrayed, abandoned, and hurt when Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, and Thomas doubted Him. These men were personally selected by Jesus as His disciples. (See Matthew 10:1-4 and Luke 6:12-16). Our fallen, sinful nature often wants to inflict pain on those who have inflicted pain on us. However, may I remind us all that Jesus took up the basin and the towel and stooped to wash the feet of ALL 12 of His disciples (see John chapter 13). He knew what was these men were going to do, yet He washed their feet anyway. Taking revenge, rather than trusting things into God's hands, only magnifies the problem. Don't allow your emotions to control your actions. Let the Holy Spirit control and guide your behavior.
“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” Galatians 5:16 NLT.
Today, no matter who has hurt you, handle it God's way!!
In today's reading - Romans 12:20- Paul is moved by the Holy Spirit to quote Proverbs 25:21-22. Jesus gave us the same instruction in Matthew 5:43-48 and Luke 6:27-36. Stop for a moment and ask The Holy Spirit to replace your anger, bitterness, and hate with the love of Jesus. Don't allow the devil to arrest your life with the vices of evil. Let God unlock your cell and set you free!!!
“Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:17-18 NLT.
Retaliation is not the answer! There is an old saying that states "when you throw dirt you lose ground". There are going to be times in life when you are mistreated. Rather than becoming vengeful and act in accordance with your sinful nature, submit to the Holy Spirit and act like Jesus. “He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.” I Peter 2:23 NLT.
In the greatest sermon ever preached (the Sermon On The Mount - Matthew chapters 5-7) Jesus said “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9 NLT. Living at peace with some people can be sorely trying. However, we must strive to do so. God calls us to this. We don't have to agree with their ways or even like the characteristics of the individual, but, we must act in love toward them as a fellow human being. Being bitter and hostile only corrupts our lives. Hebrews 12:15 says "Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” NLT.
Remember how often and how badly you have mistreated God. He has been good to all of us in spite of our sin. Let's treat others with that same grace.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT.
Rev. Curtis Norris