As members of Christ’s church and citizens of His kingdom, we enjoy great benefits. Likewise, as citizens of the United States of America, we also enjoy great benefits. If nothing else, we can come together - at our own choosing - to honor and worship our God and our Savior. Of course, along with those great benefits of citizenship, come great responsibilities. It is clear from scriptures that we are expected to exercise our rights and responsibilities of our physical citizenship with the same emphasis and sense of importance as we exercise our citizenship in the body of Christ. You remember, no doubt, that when Jesus was challenged regarding whether to pay taxes (Matt. 22:15-22) that He made it clear that paying such taxes is the right thing to do. Romans 13:1-7 and 1st Peter 2:13ff specifically address our responsibilities to be obedient to the laws and leaders of the country, state, county or other governing authority. It is equally clear, however, that obedience to God and adherence to His standards is our first order of importance. In exercising our responsibilities to our earthly government, we cannot compromise our principles which, of course, are founded in God’s standard.
One of the rights and privileges we have in this country is to voice our principles and standards by voting. I hope that all of us who are eligible have registered and will exercise this right of citizenship on Tuesday, Nov. 8th (or, as some of us have done already, through a mail-in ballot). It is never a good excuse to justify not voting because we have a government that is so ungodly. Things will never change, if we who are followers of Christ fail to voice our objections to the current state or condition of our government and laws. When voting for the Presidency or other major national offices, I try to remember that imperfect candidates can change providing he or she does not espouse allegiance to or represent a political party platform with stands or positions in favor of important issues (e.g., abortion, same gender unions/marriages, etc.) that are in direct conflict with God's standard. What an encouragement it is for all of us to realize that we are all united in our efforts to demonstrate our continuing allegiance to God’s standard – without compromise! In my judgment, there is no better feeling after a voting period than that I have a clear conscience about the way, and for what, and for whom I voted. I trust that we will all vote and that the result of our individual efforts will be clear consciences about the standard that we used to determine how we voted (John 3:21 [NKJV] and Eph. 5:8-13 [NASU]). Let’s all be good citizens and vote – responsibly! May God be honored and glorified by our efforts!
In this life on earth there is many troubles, much anger and hate. What can we do to change the environment in which we live? We can't turn water to wine like Jesus. We can't walk on water like Jesus. We can't heal like Jesus, but what we can do is our best to love like Jesus. We can do our best to forgive like Jesus. In this world full of us imperfect people we will need a lot of love and forgiveness. We have all probably done or said something that someone forgave us for, and showed us love, maybe even if we didn't deserve it.
God so loved us that He sent His son to "die" for our sins so we may live. I know no greater love shown to any man than that. John 3:16-17 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him." The love that was shown for us was not because of anything we did, just undeserved love was shown. We need to try to live by this example of unselfish love for others, always putting others needs ahead of our own. Even if they might not deserve it, we should reach out to them and try to help and show them love as we were shown. These types of actions could change the environment around you and others around the world. This kind of love can be infectious and spread and bring people to Christ. Perhaps people you never even meet will find Christ because of your example of love to one another. Just as Jesus was willing to give His own life for us, we should be willing to give our lives back in service to Him and let others see Him in us.
Ephesians 2:4-7 "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
There are times in this life when things happen that knock you down in many different ways. Physically or spiritually, there could be issues at work, with family, with friends or financial. Our biggest hurdle to overcome is sometimes ourselves and deciding to get back up and not let life keep you down. It will be different for each and every one of us, but we all experience our own issues. Even those families you see that seem to have a perfect little life are dealing with something. We were not promised that we would have a perfect pain free life here, since the fall of man by his sin. We do have a much larger promise of a pain free eternity if we will accept it. But while we walk the earth we are just people that can be hurt and feel pain and fall down. When my family suffered a great loss it hurt and it definitely left emotional scares. We had to choose to not let life knock us down.
As Christians we have a hope that can bring us so much strength and comfort. A hope that can be found nowhere else, only in Christ can you find this hope.
2 Corinthians 7:10 (For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.) When we are knocked down we have that hope and the love of our brethren here to help pick us up. Without their love it's very hard to get up sometimes. For people without that hope we have through Jesus it can be an over whelming emotional loss they can't overcome on their own. If you are reading this and have that hope, you understand the comfort. If you don't know this comfort please read this and study and consider carefully. Romans 6:3-4 (Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.) We will help you with any study, or needs, or any hurt you might need help with. Choose to get up and find hope. We all have struggles as you may. We are here for each other always and are here for you also. Please don't leave today without that hope. John 3:16 (For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.) Get up, choose life.
We enjoy a great unity and love for the truth of the word, and a love for Christ here in the Lord's church. As we move forward together as a family of Christ we only grow stronger and closer.
The early church enjoyed a unity and was said to have all things in common in Acts 2:44 (And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common.) Are we here living as the examples of the early church? They were said to have been of one heart and soul. Acts 4:32 (And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul;) The writer continues to say all those who believed, so the unity always referred to, is the unity of those in Christ.
Unity is not always as simple as one would think; you actually have to work at it. It was not easy for Jew and Gentile Christians to get along, it was a struggle. For this reason, Paul writes to them in Galatians 3:27-28 to remind them they are all one in Christ. In Romans 15:5-7 (Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.)
So we need to strive always to have unity and be of one mind, one voice in praise to God. Being united in all we do and in all things together for the good of all, to edify each other in our service to God. Helping those in need, bearing one another's burdens. Lifting each other up when we're down and picking others up when they fall. There's much to do and it can get done if we stay unified in our service to God and in each other's needs. A fresh start, a fresh breath of air, a new beginning in service for our family here.
I spent this past week on the campus of Harding University for the annual Kerusso conference. Kerusso is a preacher training camp for young men in high school who have a possible desire to pursue a career in ministry. It is always a rewarding experience to spend several hours talking with young men about the preaching life. I believe that the Kingdom has a bright future.
This year, the books we focused on were Hosea, Amos, and Micah. All of these “Minor Prophets” discuss God’s judgment for His people who had been disobedient, but also hope that remained if they would repent. One key characteristic of each book is the “prophetic edge” to the preaching of the prophets. All of them brought difficult messages to the people on behalf of God. It wasn’t easy for the people to hear. It certainly wasn’t easy for the prophets to preach. They were messages full of judgment. Harsh criticism. Impending doom. Political incorrectness.
As one reads through the messages of these prophets, it’s natural to ask, “Have preachers today lost that prophetic edge?” Are preachers as “politically correct” from the pulpit as politicians are on the campaign trail?
Granted, it was a different time in the days of the prophets. Not only did the prophets speak to the people on behalf of God, they spoke to kings and dignitaries as well. Their sermons weren’t confined to the church auditorium. To borrow our terms, they were preached on Capitol Hill and from the White House lawn. And the politicians allowed it. They may not have listened, but they allowed it. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. But at least the word of the Lord was proclaimed. Would our country be a different place today if preachers were preaching in the same environments today? Possibly.
But one thing we can certainly observe—preaching has lost its prophetic edge. Where are the sermons of judgment? Where are the sermons highlighting the danger and evil of sin? Where are the sermons of destruction? They seem to have become a “thing of the past”. That could be because in the past, the attitudes of those preaching them weren’t the best. One difference between prophetic preaching and preaching which has been done—the prophets threw themselves into the problem with the people. They said, “We’re going down with the ship, too.” If a preacher preaches a sermon of judgment but believes he himself is above the fray, that’s not only dangerous but equally as destructive. The preacher is a preacher for the people, but also of the people. He can’t believe he is any more “holy” because of his profession.
But preachers, we’ve got to regain our prophetic edge. We can’t preach judgment every week, but we can’t stop preaching judgment. We must call “sin”, “sin”. We must remind people that Hell is still hot. We must remind people that Jesus is still the ONLY way to the Father. We must remind people that God is serious about worship—the method and the meaning. We must remind people that a life that hasn’t been immersed in the blood of Jesus through baptism is a life that is still separate from God. Grace, mercy, atonement, forgiveness, patience, love, joy—these are wonderful sermon topics as well. But everything needs balance. And part of balance still includes that “prophetic edge.”
Yes, today’s article is more for preachers, but all Christians need to think about it. When was the last time you heard your preacher remind you that the same God who will bring you into Paradise has the power to send you to Hell? When was the last time you heard your preacher say that the only thing about truth that is true is that truth is absolutely true? There is so much “sugar coated” preaching that churches are becoming diabetic. Don’t lose that “prophetic edge”.
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