Throughout history there have been times of incredible pressure placed upon the Church, God’s people. Persecution, pressure, and perilous times have been created by tyrants and enemies of God who sought to silence the work of God in the lives of His people. What do you do if you are living under the oppressive hand of Pharaoh in Egypt for four hundred years? If we are talking about four months of oppression then maybe you can tighten your grip and pray to wait out the storm. Four years? The opposition and persecution would surely take its toll upon the minds and spirits of God’s people, but if we are talking about four hundred years of slavery then you had better come up with a better plan.
There have been others besides Pharaoh who have sought to squeeze the life out of God’s people. If you will remember King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon applied pressure to young Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego for refusing to bow down to an idol made with human hands? The King told them that they could either bow down to his golden image or he would throw them into a blazing fire. The three Hebrews responded to King Nebuchadnezzar. Continue reading “The Voice, the Vision, and the Victory! Revelation 1:9-20”
The time has come! Let the unveiling begin! I wish it were that easy. I wish that we could open the book of Revelation this morning and over the next thirty minutes lay out, in a systematic fashion, all of the answers that prognosticators, end-times prophets, earnest seekers, and soothsayers have sought throughout the centuries. Answers to questions like, “Are we in the last days?” “Was the book of Revelation written to the seven churches named in chapters 2-3 or was the book written for those who would be alive when the last days arrived?” “Is the beast of Revelation 17 really the Roman Catholic Church as some believe?” “Will Christians have to go through the Tribulation or will we be raptured before that horrible time in history?” “Was John a pre-millennialist or post-millennialist?” “Who is the Anti-Christ and is he alive today?” I could go on and on with the endless list of questions that many have asked and sought answers for, but it is my prayer that you will join me during the next several months as we seek to gain insight into this powerful book that closes out God’s Word. I will promise you that if you will make a commitment to join me in this study you will be blessed. Revelation is the only book in the Bible that promises a blessing for those who read the book, those who hear Revelations words and take them to heart. John writes, Continue reading “The Unveiling Introduction to the Revelation of Jesus Christ”
Unity In Times of DisagreementAny person who has ever played a team sport has heard their coach say, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” We’ve heard the phrase so much that it has become a cliché, but the phrase is absolutely true. If you have a line-up filled with individuals who put the team before their own goals and desires then you have the potential for greatness. On the other hand, if the mindset of the team follows another philosophy, “Every man for himself,” then you have a recipe for disaster. It doesn’t matter if the team is filled with talented individuals or not—if the athletes put their own goals before the goals of the team then they will fall far short of their potential.
There is a great example of what I’m talking about right here in our own backyard. In the OKC Thunder’s first season in Oklahoma City they had a 23-59 record. I wouldn’t call that hopeful, but the guys made a commitment, “Team First!” The next season the Thunder posted an amazing turn around record of 50-32! Pretty impressive huh?! In 2014 their record was an impressive 59-23! From 2010 until last season they’ve made the playoffs each year. To what do you attribute the turn around? Did they pick up LeBron in the offseason? Hardly. The nucleus of the team has remained the same: Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka. What’s made the difference? The Thunder play together as a team and not as individuals trying to make a name for themselves.
Unity In Times of DisagreementThings got a little rough over at the “First Church of the Wholly Sanctified and Exclusively Saved” last year. There had been rough times in the past; the church had split at least three times in the fifty years since it had been born from a split over at “Jesus’ True Followers Christian Church,” but none of those splits even moved the needle on the Richter scale compared to the latest squabble. Back in the 60’s there was the group that left because they didn’t like the decision of the Pastoral Oversight Committee which allowed the minister to preach in a suit and tie instead of a pastoral robe. In the 80’s there was the group that left because the music ministry decided to bring in an electronic keyboard to play alongside the “anointed” music of the pipe organ. Then there was the group that left to start their own church because the minister started using the New International Version over the King James Version of the Bible. One of the members wrote a letter to the church Board that said, “How could any man who portrays himself as a ‘man of God’ not teach out of the Bible that Jesus and Paul used—The King James 1611?” That was a big split. Many of the members wondered if they would ever recover from the loss. As devastating as that split was it was nothing compared to the latest brouhaha that came about just before Christmas of this past year. Continue reading “Unity in Times of Disagreement Romans 14:1-12”
Unity In Times of DisagreementAfter spending thirteen weeks studying Romans 12-13 we have now reached the end of this important section of Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome. Paul comes to the end of Romans 13 and says, “And do this…” If you have been here for these studies then you don’t have to ask, “Do what?” For thirteen weeks Paul has been urging us to love. He has broken down the relationships that we share with people in society into brothers and sisters in Christ, outsiders, enemies, civil authorities, and our “neighbors.” In each and every area of life Paul has urged us to love with a special kind of love, “agape” love.
As Paul reaches the end of his lesson on loving those God has placed in our lives he says, “Do it!” To add urgency to the call Paul goes on to say, “…understanding the present time.” It is of utmost importance for us to understand the times in which we live at this present moment. Before we get too far into our study we need to take the time to read our Scripture for this morning. Turn with me to Romans 13:11-14 and let’s begin.
11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 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. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Romans 13:11-14 NIV)
This is such a rich section of Paul’s letter. The main problem that we have this morning is not how to understand what God is saying to us through these verses, but how can we drink in the flood of truth that God has prepared for us. Absorbing these four verses in the time we have is like getting a drink from a fire hydrant. It is simply too much to take in at one time. So, I want to encourage you to continue your study of these important verses throughout the week. Continue reading “Wake Up! Suit Up! Romans 13:11-14”
Unity In Times of Disagreement“Where did you get that?” That’s a statement that is most often connected to lots of energy and emotion. Most often, when we hear that question, there is body language that goes along with it. Eyes are wide open, body is leaning forward, and the pitch of the voice suddenly takes an elevator ride to the next octave. Don’t believe me? Well, when was the last time you heard that phrase spoken in a monotone, detached, apathetic way? Just doesn’t happen very often does it? There’s a reason for that. Most often when we hear the phrase someone has just spied something that is unique, out of the ordinary, eye-catching. Remember when the iPhone first came out? I wasn’t there, but I know the first kid that brought one to school heard, “Whoa! Where did you get that?” over and over again. The hottest shoes that boys are craving these days are the newest manifestation of the KD shoe line. The KD 7 won’t cause you jump out of the gym or hit jump shots from half court, but boy will they get folks to say, “Where did you get those?” And well they should for $145.00! To get a reaction from folks you don’t have to have the latest and greatest—you just have to have something that is unique. I’ll guarantee you that if you pull up in the parking lot some Sunday in a shiny 1976 AMC Pacer heads will turn and more than one person will smile and say, “Where did you get that?”
I want you to know that God is all for that which is “attention getting.” Just look at what He has created. How can you see the incredible beauty and variety of the colors and shapes of the creatures He has placed in the ocean and not be amazed? How can you stand on a snow covered mountain and watch snowflakes falling with the grace and elegance of a Baryshnikov and not be amazed? God has placed within us an attraction for the magnificent. He has placed within us a propensity for wonderment, but rather than being amazed at what is truly amazing, we’ve become amazed with stuff. Continue reading ““Where Did You Get That?” Romans 13:7-10”
Unity In Times of DisagreementFor two weeks we’ve been taking a look at the first seven verses of Romans 13. We’ve taken our time trying to understand this important section of God’s Word because it is crucial that we do so. We’ve come to understand the God given authority and the purpose of the authority of those who serve as God’s “ministers” in government. Last week, we got a good grip on the responsibility that God has placed at our feet: we are to submit to those who rule over us. Our submission translates into our doing that which is “good” and avoiding that which is “evil.” We are to obey the laws of the land. We are to honor our leaders, not slander them, and pay our taxes.
This week we are going to take one last look at this important section of God’s Word. This week I want us to try and understand when, if ever, we should refuse to submit to that which our leaders ask of us. How about we begin by taking a look at our Scripture once again? Turn with me to Romans 13:1-7.
1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 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 he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:1-7 NIV)
As we began our study of Romans 13 we sought answers to two questions: First of all, where do those who serve as governmental authorities get their authority? Secondly, what is their purpose as they serve the citizens of the city, state, and nation? We learned from God’s Word that our civil servants are “placed” in their position by God. You can go back and read our study to see example after example of this truth from God’s Word. Those who serve do so because God has called them to their position of service. Secondly, we learned that those who serve in civil government do so with a calling on their life. Three times in Romans 13:1-7 we see that Paul calls them God’s “ministers.” Their “calling” is to do God’s will, to shepherd those who have been placed under their care, and to restrain evil.
This week I want us to try and answer another question as we continue our study. The question I want us to address this week is “What is our responsibility, first as followers of Jesus, and secondly as citizens of this society?” We know what our governmental leaders are called to do, but what are we, the followers of Jesus, called to do in this community and nation in which God has placed us?
So far, as we have been studying Romans 12-13, we have learned some remarkable lessons about how we are to relate to various groups of people. We have learned how we are to relate to God, to our brothers and sisters in Christ, with non-believers, and even how we are to relate to our enemies, those who oppose us personally or those who oppose the cause of our Savior. The direction and counsel we have received is not based on a public opinion poll or what seems “right,” but it is rooted and grounded in God’s dealings with us. In Romans 12:1-2 we read,
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)
Unity In Times of DisagreementIn Paul’s letter to the church in Rome there is no one section of the letter that has gotten more attention than Romans 13:1-7. What is the relationship of the follower of Jesus to the State, to civil authorities? This is an important lesson for every believer in every age. In the present climate of our nation this lesson is crucial. The Body of Christ does not need political debate. We need biblical truth.
Politics and party entrenched politicians have a strangle-hold on our nation, and sadly, the Church has become entangled in the mess. The divide is so broad and the animosity so intense that the possibility of reconciliation seems to be outside the realm of possibility.
Politics and the various arms of the Body of Christ have become so interwoven that you can ask a person if they consider themselves an evangelical, liberal, or conservative Christian and almost always guess their political party. This is tragic and it does neither the cause of Christ or our society any good at all. We as the followers of Jesus are called to be the best citizens of our nation. We are called to be salt and light, the embodiment of righteousness and holiness, prayer warriors of those in office, and a blessing to our land regardless of who occupies the seat of power. This morning I pray that you will be able to clear your mind of your presuppositions of politics and political parties and give your absolute attention to God’s Word concerning our relationship to the “ministers of government.” Let’s turn to Romans 13:1-7 and we will get started. Continue reading “The Ministers of Government Romans 13:1-7”
Unity In Times of Disagreement
Today we are going to finish our study, “Bless Who?” Let’s read our Scripture together. Turn with me to Romans 12:14-21 and let’s begin.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21 NIV)
If you will remember, in the first section of Romans 12 Paul gave us some great guidance about how we are to relate to our brothers and sisters in Christ–this includes those that we may not be naturally drawn to as well as those that get on our last nerve. Beginning in Romans 12:14, Paul turns his attention to those who persecute us, those who do “evil,” those who would consider themselves to be our enemies.
In Romans 12:14-21, Paul gives us 8 roadside markers to chart our course, to give us guidance as we relate to those who oppose us or those who oppose the cause of Christ. We covered the first four in our last study. Let me mention them.
1. We are to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.
2. We are to live in harmony with one another.
3. We are not to be proud, but we are to associate with those who hold no position in society, those who are forgotten and considered as unimportant.
4. We are to never repay evil with evil.