Should we submit to the government?

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Rom 13:1)

Among all the the things we have experienced in 2020, we can add a season of political turmoil. A season that doesn’t want to end. Come January though changes will happen. Some of you may be glad for those changes while others will disagree.

Whether we agree or disagree, we are to heed the instruction found in God’s Word. We are to be subject to the governing authorities. Whether they represent our political party or not, we can be subject to them because every authority has been instituted by God. Paul even goes so far as to call them God’s servants for our good and the avenger who carries out God’s wrath (Rom 13:4).

Given some authorities bent towards immorality it is hard to believe they are put in place by God, considered His servants, and are to carry out His wrath. But God’s Word reveals that is their position. It is how the sovereign Lord uses them. Since they are appointed and used by God, we are to respect their position. We are to pray for them. Where we can, in good conscience, we are to follow their direction and the laws of the land. To be sure, God is our first ruler. Where His law would be transgressed, we are to resist, but by and large we are to respect and honor our rulers.

While we may believe that to be a radical request, Paul, the author of Romans, is writing these words while living under Roman rule. Rule that was ruthless and, at times, antithetical to and persecutor of Christianity. As Christians in the USA we experience much more freedom than those in Roman society. While many would like to erode those freedoms, we are still to trust the Lord, His wisdom, and His Word. We are to be subject to the ruling authorities for they have been instituted by God.

What can God do through you?

I’ve been reading the book of Ephesians devotionally for the last few weeks, slowly working my way through the text in study and prayer. The practice of intentional meditation has fostered a deeper level of praise and worship for what God has done for us in Christ.

This morning I finished reading Ephesians chapter 3, specifically verses 20 and 21,

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:20–21)

Context

Contextually, Paul has in mind the power of the Holy Spirit to unify both Gentile and Jew in Christ, so that they become one new humanity (Eph 2:15-16). Imagine that, a people who are completely and utterly opposed to and different from one another brought together in harmony and unity, so that they are loving and serving one another. Only God can unify in that way. Only God can break down those barriers.

One new humanity at the foot of the cross

God creates one new humanity at the foot of the cross. We are all sinners who are in need of salvation from God’s wrath (Eph 1 and 2). Those who are Christian (followers of Jesus) have been saved in exactly the same way, through the spilled blood of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in our life who causes us to recognize our need for a Savior and to believe that Jesus is our Savior (Eph 2).

Seeing God work in and through opposing humanity to create one unified group that loves and cares for one another in ways unimaginable causes Paul to break out in praise as he closes chapter 3 with a doxology.

God can and will do far more than we can imagine

Just as God is able to reconcile two opposing groups to Himself and one another, God is also able to do in and through us far more than we could ever imagine. He reconciles us with people who are different, creating a new bond between us and others of different cultures, races, and nationalities, so we will work together for His glory.

Not only will God create bonds where there were divisions, but God will also do in and through us far more than we could ever ask or think. Our God is a powerful God and He will use us in powerful and mighty ways. Ways that will ultimately bring Him glory.

What can God do through you?

He can do the imaginable. Not for your glory, but for His.

Question for Reflection

  1. How has God used you for His glory?

It’s Not Luck, It’s God

Today, in our journey through the Bible together, you should have read a portion of the Joseph narrative.

Pharaoh’s Dream

If you remember, Pharaoh has two crazy dreams. In the first, seven ugly and thin cows eat seven plump and fat cows but their appearance doesn’t change. The second dream involves seven thin and blighted grain eating seven ears of plump and good grain. Although Pharaoh is troubled by the dream, no one in the kingdom is able to interpret it for him, except Joseph.

The dream, Joseph tells Pharaoh, is about a future famine, which will occur after seven years of plenty. God is warning them of the famine so they can prepare during the years of plenty for the years of famine by storing up the excess.

The Future

After hearing Joseph’s interpretation, Pharoah places him in charge. Sure enough, seven years of plenty turns into seven years of famine. Since Egypt saved during the years of plenty, they were able to provide for the whole earth and grow economically during the famine as the entire earth came to buy food from them. Joseph’s long lost family were included in the ones who came. Fast forwarding a bit, after giving his brothers who sold him into slavery a hard time, Joseph reconnects with them. Eventually, his family settles in the land of Goshen where they become fruitful and multiple.

What Struck Me

As I read the story again this morning, I was struck by Joseph, Pharaoh, and his brother’s recognition that God is the one who is in control.

  • As Joseph is interpreting the dream for Pharaoh, he pushes Pharaoh to recognize that God is the one who is showing Pharaoh what He is about to do (Ge 41:28).
  • Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge because he recognizes God is the one who has shown the future to him (Ge 41:39).
  • Joseph names his first son Manasseh saying, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” His second son he names Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Ge 41:51-52).
  • At one point, during their imprisonment, Joseph’s brothers come to the recognition that God is dealing with them concerning their sin against their brother (Ge 42:21-22).
  • On their way home, when Joseph’s brothers discover that the money they used to purchase the grain was placed back in their sacks, they say, “What is this that God has done to us?” (Ge 42:28).
  • Once Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, he gives God all the credit for what had been done (Ge 45:4-15)

These passages and more show us that Joseph, Pharaoh, and his brothers didn’t view these events as luck or chance. Nor do they pat themselves on the back for their ingenuity or intellect. Instead, these events led them to recognize God is the One who is in control.

We need to come to the same conclusion. Instead of attributing things in our life to luck or a lack thereof, we must recognize that God is the One who is in control and He is working out His plan, of which we are apart. You see, it’s not luck, it’s God.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you recognize it’s God, not luck?

Resource

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Is Anything Too Hard For God?

In Genesis 18 God meets with Abraham and tells him that he will have a son within a year, even though Sarah is beyond childbearing age. Hearing God’s promise Sarah laughs in doubt. But God doesn’t think this is a laughing matter. He is serious about finally providing them with their promised child. In a remarkable exchange with Abraham regarding Sarah’s unbelief, God asks Abraham.

Is anything too hard for the Lord? ”” (Ge 18:14a)

The answer to God’s question is important not only for Abraham but us as well. God’s ability to fulfill His promise to Abraham either confirms or denies His power and abilities. Power and abilities we place our hope in today. For if God can’t provide a child to a childless woman beyond childbearing age, how could He ever raise us from the grave, provide us with a glorified body, and return the world to an Edenic state?

How do we know nothing is too hard for God?

Think about who our God is for a moment.

He is our Creator

Genesis 1 tells us that God created everything that you see, including you and me. The way God creates is much different than how we create. God doesn’t need raw materials or tools. He doesn’t have to set up a factory or an assembly line. Instead, God is able to create something from nothing just by speaking.

Imagine being able to say I want a new car, and there is one in the garage. Or I would like my dream home, and there it is. Or I want the next, next iPhone, and it is right there in your pocket. Imagine being able to create something from nothing, just by speaking, like God does.

In case you are wondering, we know this is how God creates because we have Genesis chapter 1. As you work through that chapter, you see the constant refrain, “And God said,”; “And God said”. Over and over again, we read those words before we read of something else He created. As we do, we are reminded of just how powerful our God is.

He is our Sustainer

Jesus, who is God, does the impossible task of holding everything together. Paul in Colossians 1:17 confirms this when he says,

And he is before all things [speaking of Jesus], and in him all things hold together.” (Col 1:17)

You see, the reason the universe functions as it does. The reason everything doesn’t spin out of control. The reason we don’t cease to exist is because God is sustaining it all. Every atom, every particle is sustained by God.

He is our Healer

Lepers, blind men, those who are lame and deaf, those who are dying or dead, Jesus healed them all. Doing what is impossible just by a touch or word.

He is our Savior 

The way that God saves is contrary to how we might imagine someone saving us. God doesn’t use political or military might. He doesn’t use money or technology. Instead, He uses a dying Messiah. Something that, if we are honest with ourselves, doesn’t make much sense.

But with God, that which seems foolish is actually wise. Consider what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 about God’s wisdom in using a crucified Messiah,

“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Co 1:22–25)

So our God not only creates, sustains, and heals, but He also saves. He does so in a way that reveals His wisdom and might.

Nothing is Impossible with God

When you consider all these things, I think it is safe to say that nothing is impossible for God. If God wants Sarah to have a baby, even if it is physiologically impossible for her to have one, then she is going to have one. Likewise, if God wants to heal us of a disease, extend our life a few more years, provide us with a job, spouse, or child, then it’s going to happen.

We shouldn’t doubt His abilities. Instead, we should trust God to do the impossible in our lives, in our families, in our community, and in our nation. Nothing is too hard for God!

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you believe God can do the impossible?
  2. How should our knowledge that God can do the impossible affect the way we live?

Resources

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Posted adapted from my sermon: Is There Anything that is Too Hard for God? which you can listen to here.

On God’s Grace

Isaac Watts wrote a hymn in which he takes up our Lord’s image of salvation being like a great banquet. Picture yourself coming into a grand banqueting hall where a marvelous feast is spread out for you.

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast
Each of us cry, with thankful hearts, 
“Lord, why was I a guest?”

Does this not amaze you? Lord, why me? Why am I in Christ? Why did you bring me in? Why has your grace laid hold of me?

Why was I made to hear thy voice
And enter while there’s room
When Thousands make a wretched choice
And rather starve than come?

‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste
And perished in our sin

Apart from God’s grace, you would never have come to Christ, and neither would I. Our sinful hearts would have taken us away. We would be outside, like thousands of others, still refusing to come.

So let God’s grace lead you to worship. Once you taste God’s grace, you will spend the rest of your life coming back to this question: ‘Why me?’ The staggering answer is that He loved you simply because He loved you.

Question for Reflection

  1. Does your unworthiness of God’s grace drive you to worship Him?

Resources

Colin Smith, Jonah: Navigating a God-centered Life, 99.

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On Being Apart of God’s Grand Drama

The Word of God invites us into the unfolding cosmic drama of which we have always played a part, even without being aware of it.

Our childhood experiences, triumphs, and tragedies are all part of God’s shaping of our lives, which are, more importantly, about the shaping of His story.

When we understand that our lives are not a random collection of experiences but rather a part of God’s grand drama we discover that we are gifted by God, blessed with talents and treasures, not for our own ends, but as resources to contribute to His plan to redeem the world by His Word.

Leaders then begin to recognize the design and purpose inherent in their lives.

Question for Reflection

  1. How have your life experiences shaped the way the Lord uses you today?

Resources

Quoted from Mark Sayers, Facing Leviathan, 70

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