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Twisted – Tragedy in Boston, Oklahoma and Beyond

Have you ever watched a child on a swing? Not when they use the swing as it was designed, but when they sit on the swing and twist it in circles. It can be fun. The chains that hold up the swing become more and more twisted until the child simply isn’t strong enough to twist it anymore. In a rush the potential energy is released! The child spins out of control screaming cheerfully as the world whirls by in a blur of color and wind.

I sometimes wonder if that’s how the world works. Yesterday was a day of tragedy.

  • A tornado passed near the city of Wewoka.
  • Last night Oklahoman’s were shaken by 5 different earthquakes felt from Oklahoma City to Owasso and beyond.
  • In 2011 Officer Chad Peery was partially paralyzed while breaking up a bar fight. This past weekend Officer Peery was involved in a car accident. He died yesterday.
  • Monday afternoon at the end of the Boston Marathon two explosions took the lives of three people, including an 8-year-old boy, and injured hundreds.

Words are never adequate to the task of expressing condolences, compassion or the depth of grief associated with events like these. Our hearts and prayers are with those affected by each of these tragedies. More than that, really. Many will donate blood or give money, resources or time to help advance the healing. Most people stand ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary to bring justice, peace and some sense of meaning to each of these twisted tragedies. Some will search for those responsible for the bombing. All will search for answers.

Days like yesterday cause people to ask questions. Why? Who? What? How could anyone possibly do something like this? These are legitimate questions with surprisingly few genuinely satisfying answers. My only feeble explanation is the swing.

This life we’ve been given is precious. It’s valuable. We’ve also been designed by our Maker to enjoy life a certain way. Like the swing, there is a back and forth to life that, when rightly handled, can be a remarkably exhilarating experience. It can be the kind of experience that makes you believe you can fly, that ‘anything-is-possible-moment’ when the swing reaches its highest peak and for a brief second you rise above the bar to move faster, rise higher and see farther than ever before. Getting there takes time, effort and energy. You’ll never experience such a moment if you don’t use the swing the right way.

And that’s our challenge. Instead of experiencing life the way it was designed we go our own way. We sit still on the swing thinking we’ll never get anywhere. We get bored. We get distracted. We begin twisting the swing in ways it was never designed to work. The pressure increases as the chains get tighter. The effort required to simply rest and sit still becomes  more difficult to manage. The tension builds until we can’t hold it anymore. The twisted chains spin us out of control. You might think once the tension is released the ride is over. But it’s not. You never spin back to center. The swing always goes past where you started. Things get all twisted and the tension builds again.

I wonder if this is how the world works. It often seems that way.

When tragic times come there are no truly satisfying answers, only one relevant question, “What’s next?”

  • In light of the new circumstances, how will I pray?
  • As facts come to light how will justice be satisfied and by whom?
  • Am I experiencing life the way God designed or am I somehow increasing the tension?
  • How can I use who I am and what I have in this moment to straighten out the twisted things of this world?

Psalm 62:1-2 say, “I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation my fortress where I will never be shaken.”

What is your next step of faith?

Promises from God I Could Live Without


I love the promises of God. 2 Corinthians 1:20 says, “All the promises of God have their ‘yes’ in Christ Jesus.” It means God keeps his word. He proved it through Jesus. I like that. It’s comforting to know that when God says, “I forgive you,” he means it and won’t take it back.  When I’m afraid, anxious, or worried I can trust that he is with me and working all things for my good because in his Word he says so. But there are some promises from God I could live without.

2 Timothy 3:13 says, “But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived.” That’s a promise I’m not too thrilled about. There’s another like it, “In this world, you will have trouble…” (John 16:33). I don’t need trouble. I prefer the other thing! How about John 15:19, “…because…I chose you out of the world, the world will hate you.” Isn’t it nice to be in the ‘popular’ crowd? What about 2 Timothy 3:12? “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” These are all promises I can live without.

I don’t like the idea that evil people and impostors will flourish. I hate to be lied to. I don’t like to see the people I care about conned by self-deception or by the clever half-truths of others. My sense of justice comes out. It bothers me to think that with pure motives and good choices I could do all the right things and still be disliked, hated or even persecuted for it. Shouldn’t doing the right thing make things easier? If it doesn’t make life easier or better, why bother?

But there’s a difference between God’s promise of salvation and this promise of persecution. The former comes from God’s overwhelming desire for you and me. It’s an active promise initiated and paid for by God through Jesus. He made the promise and has moved heaven and earth to keep that promise. The promise of persecution isn’t about a word to keep, but a fact to recognize. Like the laws of nature, there’s no active promise here, just the unwavering confidence that what goes up must come down. Gravity’s effect will always keep you down to earth even if your head is in the clouds.

The promise of persecution isn’t God’s way of punishing or provoking. It’s a simple statement of fact. “This will happen. Get ready, watch out, plan your response, trust me.”

It’s an old cliché, but it’s true, “When you’re squeezed, what’s in you is what comes out.” God warns us of persecution, he tries to communicate to us a reasonable expectation for how people will react to Him and His people. He doesn’t candy-coat it. He doesn’t oversell it. He simply says, “This will happen.”

As difficult as living through that kind of pressure may be God doesn’t stop there. He makes deeper promises. John 16:33 ends, “…be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” 1 John 4:4 reminds us, “…greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” The end of 2 Timothy 3 outlines the tools God has given to help us remain faithful. He’s given us his Word. We have one another. We can remain faithful, we can hold on, even when holding on is hard or painful. I’ve always thought that faithfulness gives us a front row seat to all the promises of God. It’s through the pain and persecution that God writes the epic story of salvation in you and me.

When you face the promise of persecution will you trust God to keep His word? Hold on and experience your front row seat to all the promises of God.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Help me hold on. Thank you for the promises you’ve made and kept. Thank you that I know for certain you can be trusted. Help me to be trustworthy as well. When I face opposition, rejection, pain or persecution, allow me to respond in a way that honors you and adds value to others. Help me encourage those who are being deceived. Help me fight those who are deceiving. Help me enjoy this epic story you’re writing in me.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

A Prayer for You

2 Thessalonians

SCRIPTURE

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, “So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (NLT)

OBSERVATION

This is Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica. In the U.S. Wall Street in New York City is recognized as the economic center of our nation. Chicago is a close second with the Chicago Board of Trade. Thessalonica is to Greece what Chicago is to the U.S. It is a city that still stands today. It’s population is roughly equivalent to Tulsa and the surrounding area.

The book begins with an encouragement I hope can be said of me, “…your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.” He challenges them to stand fim in the face of persecution and assures them that God knows, cares and will one day bring justice. He ends with a prayer. It’s a prayer I pray for me, my family, friends, church and others.

APPLICATION

I want to live a life worthy of God’s call. That doesn’t mean I’ll always get it right. It doesn’t mean I’m trying to earn God’s favor. But by God’s power and because of God’s grace I can do better. I can become more than I imagined possible on my own. I want to live in a way that honors God. These verses say that living that way will bring you honor too.

God leads us where he wants us to go. Paul’s prayer covers that, “May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.”

What has your faith prompted you to do today? God has given you the power to accomplish it. What holds you back? What’s your excuse? None is sufficient. It is God working in you and through you to accomplish what your faith has prompted you to do. There’s no need to wait any longer. Become the answer to the prayer I’ll pray today and do all that your faith prompts you to do.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for giving us everything we need for life and godliness. Today I pray the same thing Paul prayed. I pray this for myself, my family, my friends, the people of my church and for those who are reading this – I ask God, “…to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Thank you.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Ready

Today you finished 2 Peter – let’s go to Nahum next. It only has three chapters so you can finish the entire book in three days!


2 Peter 3

SCRIPTURE

2 Peter 3:14-16 “And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him—speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.” (NLT)

OBSERVATION

What are you waiting for?

Peter challenges us to remember the works and the word of God. He reminds us of the coming judgement of God. He recounts the creation of the world and God’s work to purify his creation. I don’t know how you feel about our world today. Some may say it’s worse than it’s ever been. You may look around and see how people refuse to believe, how they reject the faith, how they deny the truth. You see these things and think the times we live in are quite desperate. Then I read 2 Peter 3. Within Peter’s lifetime and only a few decades after the death and resurrection of Jesus the times were no different than they are now.

People will always doubt. They will always deny. They will alway scoff at the things of God.

God delays his punishment because of his kindness, because of his desire to give all people time to repent. Not all will – but it won’t because they didn’t have a chance. It will be because they rejected that chance.

Side note – In verses 14 – 16 Peter calls the letters of Paul, ‘Scripture’. That’s a bold statement. It shows the influence of Paul and demonstrates that the most significant leader of the early church believed the words of Paul to be inspired by God. This knowledge helps us better understand the context of Paul’s writings. They aren’t simply great devotional material. They are more than letters designed to encourage his converts in their faith. They are the Word of God, profitable for reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.

Back on track – What are you waiting for?

The time will come when the certain judgement of God will fall on all people. Will you be found faithful? Better question – who will be found faithful because of you? There is a coworker you’ve been waiting for just the right moment to share Christ with. You have a family member who needs to experience the love of God. That guy on your kids ball team you’ve just been introduced to – he could use a dose of grace. What are you waiting for?

Right now there’s time. Time to let the story unfold. Time to share the gospel well. Time to love all people to Christ. But someday the time for such things will end. The work will be done. Christ will come. The day will pass. The thousand years will be over and – ready, or not, – we will meet him face to face.

APPLICATION

Will you be ready? Who will be ready because of you?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your Word and your promises. Thank you for waiting to cast your judgement on me and the rest of the world. Thank you for your patient endurance as you lovingly lead me into repentance. Forgive my sin. Remove me from temptation. Allow me to make decisions today based on your grace. Give me your wisdom. Help me be ready – to share the gospel, to live by faith, to do things your way, to follow you. Allow me to help others be ready to do the same. Like Paul was an encouragement to Peter, may I encourage others to follow you. On the day you return, may others be ready because of me.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

First Things First

Today you finished Haggai – let’s go to Joel next. It only has three chapters so you can finish the entire book in three days!


 

Haggai 1 & 2

SCRIPTURE

Haggai 1:6, “You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!” (NLT)

OBSERVATION

Another minor prophet with a major message. I’m reminded that I’m so much like the nation of Israel. In some seasons I draw near to God. In others, I run away. The pattern is always the same. I become discouraged and distracted by life. My schedule gets in the way. My desire for success, for significance, for wealth, for comfort, for pleasure – all these things distract me from what matters most. My life gets out of balance. First things get set aside for convenient things. What I notice in chapter one is the deliberate way God doesn’t condem these things. Instead he says, “Get them in the right order.”

There’s a verse in the New Testament with a similar idea. Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Sometimes that seems easier said than done, but God knows. He’s given us some best practices to help us.

  • He says, “I want you to be generous. Put me first in your finances.” And gives us the discipline of tithing to help us practice giving.
  • He says, “Your success is a platform for ministry. It’s a way for you to use your talent and resources for the benefit of others.” He gives us the discipline of service to help us practice humility.
  • He says, “Your rest comes from me. Work hard, play hard, rest well.” And gives us the Sabbath Day to cause us to slow down enough to appreciate all his gifts and practice rest.

Did you notice what happened in chapter one? They received Haggai’s correction, responded to God’s Word and enjoyed God’s favor. Haggai 1:14 tells us, “…the Lord sparked His enthusiasm…” in the leaders of the nation. It highlights a truth. Genuine repentance always sparks something more. Along with repentance comes the motivation to act, the desire to change, the will to rearrange. It’s actually a decent way to evaluate whether or not you’re truly sorry or simply sorry you got caught. Real repentance leads to restoration of spirit, relationships…life.

APPLICATION

Chapter 2 completes the pattern.

  • Wrong Committed (1:1 – 11)
  • Sin Confronted (1:1-11)
  • Repentance Received (1:12-13)
  • Relationship Restored (1:13-14)
  • Enthusiasm Sparked (1:13-14)
  • Strength Provided (2:1-4)
  • Confidence Built (2:5-9)
  • Warning Given (2:10-19)
  • Promise Kept (2:20-23)

There’s great value in following the practices God has given us. They teach us how to have success that lasts beyond the moment. They protect us from misguided steps. They empower us to accomplish more than we could on our own.

There’s another principle in this passage. We won’t focus on it here, but it’s something we shouldn’t miss. 90% of your income in the hands of God is greater than 100% of your income in your hands alone. 6 days of your week dedicated to God are more productive than 7 days devoted to you.

It’s not really about the numbers. It’s about obedience. It’s about the heart behind the numbers. It’s about following God first and trusting him for everything that pertains to life and godliness.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Where is my life out of balance? What priorities do I have that are out of place, inappropriate or misguided? Show me where I’m weak, where I’ve failed and the way back. Thank you for your grace and mercy. Thank you for the enthusiasm you fill me with when I obey. Thank you for your favor in my life. Provide for my family exceedingly abundantly above all that I could ask or think. Protect us from sin, temptation and harm. Fill us with your Spirit and the fruit of your Spirit. Teach us to trust you more.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Truth Investment

Today you read and finished 3 John – let’s go to Philemon next. It’s only one chapter so you can finish the entire book in one day!


3 John 1

SCRIPTURE

3 John 1:11, “Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.” (NLT)

OBSERVATION

Faithful to the truth. That’s the theme of this short book. Will you be faithful to the truth? Will you support those who teach truth or will you follow the bad example of someone who seems to be something.

Leadership is an interesting quality. It seems when people discover someone is really REALLY GOOD at one thing we believe they have the authority to speak about MANY THINGS. We see this in sports and entertainment. Why would we assume that a man who’s spent his life training to make touchdowns has the expertise to tell us what car to drive? How does being an exceptional actor qualify you to speak with authority on political issues?

We all follow this pattern. Find someone who can do ONE THING really well and we’ll believe they can speak with authority about MANY THINGS.

APPLICATION

It’s why it’s important to know the truth and test those who claim to speak it. 3 John 1:11 gives us the test. Does the ‘truth’ they speak line up with the ‘good’ defined by God? If it does they are worth following. If it doesn’t, run away.

The application here is practical.

  1. Know the truth, God’s truth. He’s shown it to you in His Word. So, get to know God’s word.
  2. Test those who claim to speak the truth. How? Measure their words, actions and the product of their choices by God’s Word.
  3. Support those who speak the truth. Stand with them. Share their message. Give to their cause. The truth is valuable. Invest in it.
  4. Learn to do ONE THING really well. From this one thing you will earn the influence to speak with authority about MANY THINGS.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for giving us your truth. Thank you for your Word. Help me to remember what you’ve said, how you’ve said it and what I’m supposed to do about it. Allow me the privilege of supporting those who promote your truth. Give me the wisdom, resources, strength and endurance to invest in those who speak, live and produce the blessings of truth in others.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Let’s Talk about Sex

Today you read and finished Jude – let’s go to 2 John next. It’s only one chapter also so you can finish the entire book in one day!


Jude 1

SCRIPTURE

Jude 1:17-19, “But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ said. They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.” (NLT)

OBSERVATION

This one’s controversial.

It’s an old fashioned idea, unpopular, perhaps even antiquated. Sex is not love.

Our culture has been thoroughly deceived and promotes the lie it believes. We celebrate physical intimacy as the highest, most fulfilling expression of love. But that’s not the case. Sex is only one expression of love. Sometimes sex isn’t an expression of love at all, but the fulfillment of a selfish desire, the physical intimacy of using someone else for your own satisfaction. When this happens it’s not love at all. It’s something else.

Don’t get me wrong. Sex is good…check that – sex is great! In the right context sex is holy, blessed and encouraged as a gift from God. In the wrong context sex is a fire that slowly sears the conscience and distracts us from ever having a deeply intimate and loving relationship with someone else.

Scripture teaches that God blesses and encourages sex in the context of marriage. He clearly defines marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. Today we scoff at this idea. We argue that two people who love each other should be able to express that love through physical intimacy, regardless of their commitment to one another, their spouse, or their gender. And certainly we can. But just because we can do a thing doesn’t mean we should do that thing. Just because we enjoy it doesn’t make it right. Just because I want it doesn’t mean I should have it. Scripture calls sex outside of marriage immoral. It’s a line in the sand that says, “On this side of the line sex is beautiful, good, right, holy and blessed by God. On the other side of that line sex is the wrong way to express love. It gets in the way of genuine love.”

Now let’s face the truth. You draw the line too. You may not draw it where Scripture does, but you draw a line.

Few people would deny the strength or significance of a mother’s love for her child, but would be horrified at the suggestion that her love is somehow incomplete without the physical intimacy of sex. This is true regardless of whether or not they are ‘consenting adults’. Most people condemn sex with minors. Those who passionately argue for same sex marriage often argue just as passionately against polygamy or pedophilia.

We all draw the line somewhere.

APPLICATION

This is what Jude is talking about. He starts by saying we should defend the faith that has been entrusted to us. He encourages believers to draw the line, not where they think it should go, not where it feels right, not based on convenience or culture, but on conviction. God drew the line. It’s our responsibility to stick to it.

There are some who want to move the line. Certainly we can try to do that, but it doesn’t change the Scriptural standard. In the right context sex is encouraged, blessed and even holy in the eyes of God. It is a remarkable expression of love. Outside that context sex is something else.

We’ve lost something when we limit love by equating love with sex. Men can have significant, masculine and loving relationships with other men without sexual intimacy. Women can have deep, loving friendships with other women without crossing the Scriptural line. Unmarried men and women, and those who are married can have caring, meaningful and loving relationship with others who are not their spouse without sex being an issue.

There are some who would argue that Scripture doesn’t really speak to this. They would suggest this is an antiquated part of Scripture we can choose to ignore, rewrite or reject. But that’s not the case. While culture may have changed, God’s view of sex hasn’t. In the right context it is a beautiful, blessed and holy, expression of love. Outside that context it’s something else.

Jude warns us to be careful where we draw the line. He uses sex as the example, but there are other issues in our lives where lines are drawn. Do you draw lines based on your own opinion or do you let God determine what’s right and wrong?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Help us know where you draw the line. Give us the strength, courage and patience to stand firm on the lines you have drawn. Help us overcome temptation and live according to your will. Thank you for the gift of sex. May we experience that gift in the context you intend. Teach us to have deep, meaningful, significant, intimate and loving relationships with others, regardless of gender and based on your standard of love. I’ll finish my prayer with the last few words of Jude, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. To God our Savior who alone is wise be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.”

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Now for something funny – here’s a video on the topic to make you laugh.


Here’s how this works.

Each day I’ll read and S.O.A.P. one chapter of the Bible. S.O.A.P. is a simple way to focus on what God is speaking to you through what you read. It stands for ScriptureObservationApplication, & Prayer.

Every time I read a chapter God always focuses my heart and mind around a specific part of that chapter. Sometimes it’s just a verse. Sometimes it’s more than that. That verse or group of verses becomes the focus of my devo.

There’s one other practice that helps me know, understand and follow scripture – memorization. Consider memorizing the verse or verses you S.O.A.P.

True to Yourself

FB_be yourself 02It’s January 16th! If you’ve kept up with the reading you’ll finish Romans today! Congratulations!

Where will you go next? I’m headed to Jude. It’s only one chapter. Go with me and we’ll finish in one day. I’ve finished my reading of Romans, but I’m behind on my writing. Stay tuned here to finish Romans with me and check out Jude next!


Here’s how this works.

Each day I’ll read and S.O.A.P. one chapter of Romans. S.O.A.P. is a simple way to focus on what God is speaking to you through what you read. It stands for ScriptureObservationApplication, & Prayer.

Every time I read a chapter God always focuses my heart and mind around a specific part of that chapter. Sometimes it’s just a verse. Sometimes it’s more than that. That verse or group of verses becomes the focus of my devo.

There’s one other practice that helps me know, understand and follow scripture – memorization. Consider memorizing the verse or verses you S.O.A.P.


Romans 14

SCRIPTURE

Romans 14:1-3, “Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.”

OBSERVATION

Before we get to the serious part of my thoughts I have to point out the twisted delight I find these verses. Don’t they basically say that people who like vegetables have a weak faith!? That’s encouraging for one who NEVER eats them!

Seriously – this passage could be confusing. It seems to say that sin is measured by what you would call sin. In other words, be true to yourself. If you think it’s sinful, it is. If you don’t think it’s sinful it’s probably not. But that’s not really what it’s saying at all.

This passage isn’t about how we evaluate sin. It’s about how we evaluate one another.

As we manage our lives and our organizations we encounter CORE VALUES, FAMILY VALUES, and PREFERENCES.

Core Values are those non-negotiable beliefs and behaviors that define who we are and why we do what we do. Core Value Examples for Believers:

  • Jesus is Messiah, salvation comes through Jesus by grace alone through faith alone.
  • The Bible is the Word of God. It’s accurate and reliable.
  • The Trinity is real. God the father, God the son, and God the Holy Spirt are all God, three-in-one.
  • There are also lists of sins that fall into Core Values, behaviors we should or shouldn’t pursue; Honor your father and mother, don’t steal, lie, murder, or live in sexual immorality.

Family Values are those family rules that change from one family, one organization, even one generation to the next. In my house bedtime for my kids is around 8:30. In your house it may be 7:30 or 9:30. It’s not right or wrong, it’s how we do things in this house.

Preferences are how I like to do things. I prefer the house a little cold. My wife prefers it a little hot. My brother’s a little bit country. I’m a little bit rock and roll. Again – preferences are not about right or wrong. They are about how I like things done.

APPLICATION

We’re not satisfied to let CORE VALUES be our set of non-negotiable beliefs and behaviors. We have within us this natural tendency to try to force our family values and preferences onto everyone else. If you don’t do it my way you’re wrong. If you don’t it my way your in sin.

Romans 14 tells us that how we relate to one another is important. It tells us how we should handle preferences and family values. If it’s not clearly defined in Scripture as a core value then we shouldn’t condem someone because they do things differently than we do. We shouldn’t consider ourselves more righteous because our way is ‘better’. But there’s more.

This passage seems to say, out of respect, the more liberal viewpoint should submit to the more conservative. If it’s okay for you (the more liberal viewpoint) but your brother thinks it’s wrong (the more conservative view) out of respect for the views of one another the more liberal viewpoint should relent to the more conservative.

It doesn’t mean you give up your beliefs. It means you practice them privately. It doesn’t mean you don’t have conversations about it. It means you have the right kinds of conversations at the right time and in the right way. You persuade without condemnation or temptation. You convince through love rather than judgement.

Alcohol is one of those issues in our church. The Bible say, “Don’t be drunk with wine.” Some in our church interpret that to  mean DON’T DRINK EVER. Other’s interpret that to mean they can take a drink every now and then as long as they drink responsibly. Because the people of my church are respectful of one another and mindful of passages just like this it’s led to great conversations without condemnation.

Those who take a drink every now and then do it privately. Those who are t-totalers stick to their sodas. One is not tempted, the other not condemned, all serve together around the CORE VALUES of who we are as Believers.

Today – what are my core values? What family values or preferences do I spend too much time arguing about or condemning others over? What family values or preferences do I have that need to change? Am I living FREE or am I still in bondage to some older mindset that keeps me tied up?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you, Father, for not making salvation about a list of do’s and don’t’s. Thank you for saving me from all my sin and for clearly defining the core values of what matters most. Today, help me identify my family values and preferences. Give me the wisdom to discern right from wrong, the patience to have great conversations with people who disagree with me and the maturity to adjust my life to match your word when I’m wrong. I can learn from others. They can learn from. Help us to listen to, learn from and love one another – especially when we disagree.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Establishing a State Religion

firstHere’s how this works.

Each day I’ll read and S.O.A.P. one chapter of Romans. S.O.A.P. is a simple way to focus on what God is speaking to you through what you read. It stands for ScriptureObservationApplication, & Prayer.

Every time I read a chapter God always focuses my heart and mind around a specific part of that chapter. Sometimes it’s just a verse. Sometimes it’s more than that. That verse or group of verses becomes the focus of my devo.

There’s one other practice that helps me know, understand and follow scripture – memorization. Consider memorizing the verse or verses you S.O.A.P.


Romans 13

SCRIPTURE

Romans 13:1, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.”

OBSERVATION

An ancient Chinese proverb – some call it a curse – says, “May you live in interesting times.” For those who are Believers we certainly live in interesting times. History books have called America a Christian nation. Without an official edict or government mandate the history of the U.S.A. is filled with stories of people who have placed their faith in God and called on Jesus as their Savior. Our Ivy League institutions were founded as centers for higher learning. Many were focused on teaching people and preachers the depths of theology in preparation for ministry. Higher learning in these days meant not only the advancement of traditional sciences but a recognition that there is more to this world than science can explain. God is on high and any truly higher learning must include a study of him.

But we’ve gotten away from this as a nation. Our Ivy League schools are more interested in business, law, science and engineering. Our government still doesn’t have an officially established religion, but it would seem we do have a State sponsored set of doctrine.

  • Prayer in schools and government institutions is acceptable, just don’t mention Jesus.
  • Talk about sin is okay, just don’t be so specific as to include sexual immorality in your discussion.
  • Conversations about how faith influences politics are just fine as long as you land on the liberal side of the aisle. If faith talk leads you to a conservative answer your words are not ‘sanctioned’.
  • Diversity of opinion is okay, encouraged even, as long as you agree with the current administration.

There’s more to the unofficial doctrine of the U.S. Government, but I won’t list it here.

Romans 13 is a challenging chapter in light of our current social and political climate. It seems this nation, once open to Christianity, is slowly rejecting the most basic principles of our faith. Our government is becoming increasingly combative toward and exclusive of people of faith. How should we respond?

APPLICATION

I won’t go into a full response here. This is post is intended to be a more devotional space. Let me point out a few things. When Paul wrote these words there was nothing ‘Christian’ about the government. Political leaders in the Romans Empire were pagan. Caesar worship was common – meaning the man at the top of the government was considered a god. The government of Rome was not inclined to assist people of any faith. They saw religion as a tool to keep the masses under control. When religion stepped out of the bounds the Roman response was quick and severe. They would identify the religion and wipe it out.

They tried this with Christianity. They didn’t like it. They didn’t understand it. They saw it as a threat. So Christians became the stuff of sport, entertainment in the Colosseum, dinner for hungry lions. During Paul’s time Christianity was so young the Roman government didn’t really know what to think about Christianity, but things were headed this direction.

Still, Paul writes Romans 13.

America, as a whole, has an established religion. We may sometimes hear the traditional language of Christianity used to describe this faith, but the heart of our established religion isn’t Jesus or the Bible. It’s secular humanism. This established religion is defended by law and slowly eating away at our religious liberties.

Yet Paul’s response is still the same. Give honor to those in authority. Paul’s example is a good one. He used his citizenship as an opportunity to spread his faith. He used the law of the day as a platform for ministry. His goal wasn’t to establish a state religion. His goal was to establish faith in Jesus Christ in the hearts of people.

His method worked. We’re still talking about his faith today.

Regardless of what our government does. Even if living your faith means facing the same persecution Paul did, respect the authority of those in office. Express your faith. Share your opinion. Use your influence, position and the laws of the day to establish faith in Jesus Christ in the hearts of people. In the end, that’s so much more valuable than trying to legally establish a state religion.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for our President, Congressional leaders and the Justices of our Courts. Bless them with your favor today. They may or may not believe they serve you. Whatever the case, surround them with people who will help establish faith in Jesus Christ in their hearts. Let them know your favor in every position, law, argument and issue that lines up with your will and your way. Resist them in every plan that is contrary to you. Teach them to lead well.

Since we are a government of, by and for the people – convict the people of our nation, grant us the gift of repentance and the capacity for forgiveness. I ask you to bless America, but not simply with prosperity and peace. Bless us with your presence and the courage and strength to follow you.

Show me how I can use my influence, position, citizenship and the laws of our day to establish faith in Jesus Christ in the hearts of people.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Get the Facts Straight

factsHere’s how this works.

Each day I’ll read and S.O.A.P. one chapter of Romans. S.O.A.P. is a simple way to focus on what God is speaking to you through what you read. It stands for ScriptureObservationApplication, & Prayer.

Every time I read a chapter God always focuses my heart and mind around a specific part of that chapter. Sometimes it’s just a verse. Sometimes it’s more than that. That verse or group of verses becomes the focus of my devo.

There’s one other practice that helps me know, understand and follow scripture – memorization. Consider memorizing the verse or verses you S.O.A.P.


Romans 11

SCRIPTURE

Romans 11:9-10, “Likewise, David said,

“Let their bountiful table become a snare,
a trap that makes them think all is well.
Let their blessings cause them to stumble,
and let them get what they deserve.
10 Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see,
and let their backs be bent forever.”” (NLT)

OBSERVATION

Sometimes I read Scripture and it sounds like today. We live in the most prosperous nation on earth during the most prosperous time in history. The poor of this generation are certainly in a pitiable state, but their poverty does not compare to the poverty of generations past. Common citizens amass wealth greater than ancient kings or civilizations could imagine. In a few short hours I can be on the other side of the world. In a few short seconds I can post a message available for the entire world.

We live in a bountiful time, yet it seems like a snare. I see people with the resources to buy happiness who discover all they can afford is a better class of misery. People don’t pay attention to facts. They choose facts to fit their current worldview. Their backs are bent forever bearing the weight of a fruitless pursuit.

In spite of all this, God is there.

Romans 11:32, “For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.”

Recognize the prison. Thank God for His mercy. Trust His Word. Follow His plan.

APPLICATION

Sacrifice is giving more than you think you can afford and trusting God to provide. It’s giving up something you love for something you love even more. What ‘facts’ do I believe about myself or my world that aren’t really facts at all, but the walls that imprison my thinking and keep me bound to old habits that break my spirit and cause me to stumble? Am I willing to give those ‘facts’ up and trust God to provide or do I love the comfort of what I think I know more than the reality God has revealed for those who believe?

It’s time to examine what you think you know. It’s time to reconsider your standard of success. Romans 11:29, 32 & 36 say it all. The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. He has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone. For of him and to him and through him are all things to whom be the glory for every. AMEN.

Get the facts straight and trust him.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thanks for moving heaven and earth – not simply to save me, but to convince me. Thanks that your gifts and calling are irrevocable. thank you for imprisoning everyone in disobedience so that you could have mercy on everyone – even me. Today, help me examine the ‘facts’ through your word. Give me the wisdom, discernment and understanding to know right from wrong, truth from error. Give me the courage and strength to choose right. I surrender all that I am, all that I have and all I ever will be.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad