A Taxing Situation

Romans 13:6-7 (NIV)

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

I’m pretty sure this verse comes around on Income Tax Day each year…. While none of us really like paying taxes (and there are too many to count); taxes are quite necessary for the functioning of our society.  And understanding the necessity of taxes to fund needs for the common good and welfare, probably none of resent taxation itself. Yet, I believe our disgruntlement and frustration stems from how our tax dollars are allocated or spent. My personal criticism is how I feel tax resources are wasted by our government. Nevertheless, let’s look at our verse in the surrounding context and similar passages with this theme in mind:

Romans 13:1-8 (NIV)

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 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 you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Thus, we are to submit to the authorities over us. This has been a principle for the people of God since the time of judges and kings being appointed over the people of God … and different forms of government have been forged over the millennia of history:

Ecclesiastes 8:2-6 (NKJV)

say, “Keep the king’s command for the sake of your oath to God. Do not be hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand for an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases him.” Where the word of the king is supreme; and who may say to him, “What are you doing?” He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful; and a wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment, because for every matter there is a time and judgment, although the misery of man is great upon him.

Titus 3:1-3 (NIV)

1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 

Yet, we find that even kings and government authorities can abuse their roles and fail to fulfill their appointments by God:

Isaiah 10:1-4 (NASB)

Woe to those who enact evil statutes and to those who constantly record unjust decisions, so as to deprive the needy of justice and rob the poor of My people of their rights; so that widows may be their spoil and that they may plunder the orphans. Now what will you do in the day of punishment, and in the devastation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help?
And where will you leave your glory or wealth? Nothing remains but to crouch among the captives or fall among the slain. In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away and His hand is still stretched out.

And there can be conflict when we disagree with those authorities.  Here is an example that illustrates that tension:

Acts 4:18-22 (NIV)

18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened.

So where does this leave us?  What is the application?

1 Peter 2:11-17 (NKJV)

11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from sinful desires which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13 Therefore submit yourselves to every human authority for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 Live as free people, yet not using liberty as a cover-up for evil, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

So, today, Father, I lift up and pray for all those in authority over us.  I pray that they will seek You, O God, for wisdom and understanding … to make laws and regulations that will conform to Your will for all people … that honor and protect widows and orphans … that will not oppress the poor … that will preserve the sanctity of life You have given … that will honor Your Word in all truth.  Protect and bless those in government who administrate your will for the peace and well-being of your people.  Rebuke, correct, and disciple those authorities who do evil in your sight and do not uphold Your Word.  May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven through those You have appointed to govern over us.  And, Father, in all things, may we conduct ourselves in a manner that honors and glorifies You and Your Name … that we might expose darkness and bring light and hope to those around us.  In Your Name I pray.  Amen.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Wisdom From Heaven

James 3:17-18

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Wisdom….  We all need it.  We are urged by the Apostle James to ask for it.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5) But we need to distinguish the wisdom that comes from God … and the wisdom that comes from the world and human intellect.  In seeking the wisdom for living that comes from God, James writes:

James 3:13-18 (NIV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Here we have a challenge … that our very lives should emulate the character of Christ Jesus. And James has some fairly salient points for us to consider.  He starts with the premise that those who are wise and have spiritual understanding demonstrate their “depth of faith” by living a “good life”.  And then he defines a “good life” as “deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom”.  So as to further explain his instruction, James then contrasts the differences between the “earthly” or “carnal” wisdom of the world with the “heavenly” or “spiritual” wisdom that comes from God.  I think it might be useful to breakdown these “distinctions” James brings to our attention:

Wisdom that does NOT come down from heaven is labeled earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. It is manifested in human conduct such as “harboring bitter envy” or “selfish ambition” in your heart.  He goes on to observe that wherever you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”  In other words, envy, jealousy, pride, covetousness, idolatry, and greed proceed from a pattern of life that is sensual, brutish, and of this world.  Such behavior is inconsistent with a life rooted in the love of God. By contrast, we see that those who live a “good life” through the wisdom that God gives are:

            Pure                            (i.e. seek holiness and self-control)

            Peace-Loving             (i.e. seek resolution to conflict and reconciliation)

            Considerate               (i.e. seek the good of others above themselves)

            Submissive                 (i.e. not only to God but to each other)

            Full of Mercy             (i.e. readily forgiving)

            Full of Good Fruit    (i.e. acts of service and compassion)

            Impartial                    (i.e. righteous judgement; unbiased)

            Sincere                       (i.e. genuine; unpretentious, faithful)

So we can infer from these “distinctions” in wisdom for living what is best, good, and wholesome in our relationships with others versus what is immoral, destructive, and unrestrained to the extent that physical, emotional, and spiritual harm ensues to another.  Only the wisdom that comes from above equips a person to live the righteous life God intends for each of us to live!  Perhaps that is the very reason God has drawn us to believe in His Son – so that we might be filled with His Spirit … the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (Cf. Isaiah 11:2).

No doubt, to be filled with the Spirit of God is essential to living a “good life” as James envisions it.  And I can almost hear Paul chime in with his Letter to the Galatians on this matter … parsing out the same contrasts as James:

Galatians 5:13-26 (NIV)

13 You, my brothers and sisters, have been called to liberty. But do not use your liberty to indulge the flesh (and its nature); rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Cf. Leviticus 19:1815 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (the wisdom that comes from heaven). 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

So my prayer is that we will seek wisdom … ask for wisdom … and apply wisdom to our hearts so that our lives will be good and beneficial to others.  This is HOW we are to love one another as we ourselves have been loved by God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  So I will conclude with an excerpt of the prayer Paul offered up for the believers in Colossae: “I do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Cf. Colossians 1:9-10)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Radiant Son

Hebrews 1:3

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

We have discussed this verse before … but in light of the recent tide of verses we have received in these days approaching Easter, I cannot help but believe the message here is something the Spirit wants to draw to our attention.  Yesterday, our verse focused on the mercies and forgiveness granted to us through Christ Jesus. Paul explained to us that God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) In 1 John 4:8-16, the Apostle John declares, “We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.” And here the writer of the Book of Hebrews asserts that Jesus, the Son of God, is the “exact representation of God’s being.”  God is love … therefore … Jesus encompasses and embodies the love of God in all of its fullness.  If anyone ever wants to know how much God deeply loves them … he or she need look no farther than Jesus … who is the image of God. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15)

John 15:9-17 (NIV) – Jesus is speaking:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

Verse 13 reveals how “great” the love of God is towards us.  Jesus was willing to lay down His own life for us.  And Jesus called us friends because He has made known to us the heart of the Father.  As His friends, we should do what He commands.  In Verse 17, Jesus said, “This is my command: Love each other.”  In doing so, we bear the image of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us!  In doing so, we demonstrate our gratitude and thanksgiving for His mercies upon us.  In doing so, we bear fruit – fruit that will last!  Oh, I pray we will somehow better grasp the radiance and power of our Lord Jesus Christ – who sustains all things by His Word.  I pray we will consider how best to serve Him … how best to live worthy of Him and His calling upon our lives. (Cf. Colossians 1:10)  And I believe this is a great verse to inspire us toward that goal as we revere Him in our hearts….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/09/19

2 Thessalonians 1:3

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.

This verse is a nice reminder to be thankful for our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  Paul indicated to the Thessalonian Church that his offering of gratitude to God for fellow believers was the right thing to do in light of their faith; its perseverance; its ever-increasing growth and maturity; and its abounding love for others.  Paul said he boasted to other bodies of believers about their perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials they were enduring.  Wow!  What kind of testimony do you think Paul would give to Second Chance Church?  Other churches in our community?  What kind of prayer would he offer for the Church today?  Well, I’m glad you asked because I think Paul would offer the same prayer for us that he did for the Thessalonians:

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (NIV)

11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s examine his prayer a little more:

1. With this in mind ….

What is Paul referring to with this phrase? In Verses 5-10, Paul discusses the challenges and suffering the Thessalonian church was experiencing from non-believers and the culture around them. Sound familiar?  Yet, he offered them hope that justice would be accomplished when Jesus returns and explains how that will occur.  Perhaps, we should take note….

2. We constantly pray for you….

What a great comfort to know that another person is praying for you.  Even better, like Paul, tell other people you are praying for them … and often.  And let them know what you are praying for them … and asking God to do in them and for them….

3. That our God may make you worthy of His calling…

This is an interesting petition.  Notice the implication of what Paul is saying here.  You and I do not make ourselves worthy of the call God places upon us; rather HE makes us worthy. The questions here become: “How does God make us worthy of His calling?” and “Why is it important for us to pray for worthiness?”  My thoughts are that worthiness  is something we cannot accomplish within ourselves; however, we can respond to His call upon our lives by living a life worthy of the calling we have received.  You see this phrase and similar petitions in other epistles of Paul.

4. That by His power He may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith

Again, note that it is the power of God that brings fruition our desire for goodness; to our desire for holiness; to our service and ministry for others prompted by our faith.  So this verse corroborates that our salvation is by grace through faith … and not of works.  Our desire for goodness and serving others is fulfilled by the power of God working in us.  His Spirit will equip us for being effetive and productive … living lives worthy of our calling (Cf. 2 Peter 1:8)

5. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him,

Notice that the purpose of his prayer is for the name of the Lord Jesus to be glorified in His disciples and followers … AND each of us to be glorified in Him!

I thought this opportunity to examine a powerful prayer was too important for us to miss.  And I hope that you will consider how your prayers for fellow believers will not only encourage them – but will strengthen your own faith as you petition the Lord and observe His grace and power unfold in the lives of His people according to your prayers.  So I have reprinted some additional prayers of Paul for other churches below.  Note the similarities and content of his prayers.  I hope these examples will “reset your mindset” regarding prayer and inspire you and I to pray more intentionally and powerfully.  For you know these prayers will be answered because the Lord Jesus will be glorified through the fruit we bear as we live lives worthy of the calling we have received.  Amen!.

Ephesians 1:15-19 (NIV)

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, 19 and His incomparably great power for us who believe.

Ephesians 4:1 

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Colossians 1:3-12 (NIV)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and      increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 

1 Thessalonians 1:2-5 (NIV)

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and  your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that He has chosen you,because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. 

1 Thessalonians 2:11-13 (NIV)

11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children,12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory. 13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually    is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. 

Philippians 1:3-11 (NIV)

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!