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Monday, March 21, 2016

Easter Is My Favorite

Ask anyone what their favorite holiday is and they will tell you… right now! Everyone has one. Everyone knows what it is. Throughout the chapters of your life, your favorite holiday might change. I remember being a kid on the farm and declaring that Christmas was my favorite… most kids will say this. The overwhelming excitement of being out of school for two weeks with no homework, sled riding on the hill, eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate, getting presents, spending time at my Aunt’s house, and playing 99 games of Monopoly with my brother was the best. Yep, Christmas was my favorite back then.

Then… a miracle happened in 1969. I was 11 years old and I asked Jesus into my heart. It was the year that this little farm girl became a child of the King. Everything in my 11 year old heart changed, including my favorite holiday. When I truly understood that Jesus loved me so much that He suffered and died on the cross for my sins, and that He rose from the grave to conquer death, Easter became my new favorite holiday. I never looked back. After almost 44 years of being saved, Easter still remains my favorite.

Here are some reasons that I love Easter:

We celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior. When I visited Israel this past summer, I stood at the base of Golgotha (the place of the Skull) during the daytime and nighttime hours. The imagery of that horrible crucifixion played out in my mind. The spot is a jagged rock overhang and it looks like a badly shaped skull. The eyes, nose, and uneven skeletal features make you feel unsettled. There is unease in your heart as you study it. As I looked at the mocking rock formations, I mentally heard the loud angry chanting sounds from the people as Jesus hung on that terrible cross. It is an uncomfortable and solemn place to visit. I have peered and stood inside the Garden Tomb in Israel. I studied the hastily hollowed out rock burial site. I learned that no human DNA evidence has ever been discovered on those stones. There has never been a decomposing body on that gray, white, and brown stone grave. As I sat on the manmade rock ledge outside the Garden Tomb, I breathed in the sweet fragrance of hope that Jesus lives. Then as I floated in a replicated first century boat on the Sea of Galilee, I stared over the side and into the water. Mesmerized by the fact that I was on the Sea of Galilee, my heart sang a line from a familiar song “because He lives, I can face tomorrow.”

I have celebrated my birthday on Easter Sunday several times. Starting out a birthday morning with an Easter Resurrection Sunday Morning Service… how special is that?

My Mom’s famous lamb cake… can never be forgotten. Years ago, Mom took a cake decorating class. She bought a Wilton 2 piece lamb cake pan. Mom learned all the decorating techniques. First, she would bake both sides of the lamb cake and let them cool. Then, she put the two sides together. Next, the cake was covered with mostly white and some green coconut (Mom would put coconut and a couple drops of green food coloring in a plastic baggie and... shake, shake, it's green!) This would be used to surround the resting lamb so he looked like he was lying in the green grass. Finally, the finishing touches were applied. The lamb had very long icing eyelashes with black jelly bean eyes. He had the sweetest little pink icing nose. Colored jelly beans were scattered all over the green coconut grass. The lamb cake was always the centerpiece of our Easter dinner table.
Easter Sunrise Service was my all-time favorite church service. Someone once asked me what my favorite Easter memory was… well… this is it. My Mom, my brother, and I would go together every year. Mom would lay out our clothes the night before. She would have our entire Easter ensemble laid out. This included our shoes and perfume/cologne. It would look like a walking outfit minus the human form of my brother and me. We would laugh at the silliness of those clothes lying in wait for us to jump into. Mom was very particular about how we looked on Easter Sunday. "Beth Ann… you better not scuff up those white patented leather shoes! And… make sure your little white gloves and embroidered hankie fit in that matching 3 inch by 4 inch white purse."

I loved flying the kite that you got in your Easter basket.

I love the Christian centered music of Easter.

I love breathing in the brisk spring air with the scent of newness of life as you leave your home for the church.

I love Easter afternoon walks in the woods to search for the wild crocus and the little green daffodil spikes.

I love beautiful flowers and flora dressed in colored foil pots on the front altar of the church.  The vibrant colors, the delicate blooms, and the perfect petals of each spring flower designed by their Creator. The amazing aroma and tantalizing fragrance that is unique to Easter Sunday Morning.

Then there is… the Bride of Christ, His people, His Love, the glorious Church that He gave His life for. She never looks more beautiful than She does at Easter.

Have a blessed Easter.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Jesus Is Our Cheat Sheet

Steve Winger from Lubbock, Texas, writes about his last college test, a final in a logic class known for its difficult exams:
To help us on our test, the professor told us we could bring as much information to the exam as we could fit on a piece of notebook paper. Most students crammed as many facts as possible on their 8-1/2 x 11 inch sheet of paper. But one student walked into class, put a piece of notebook paper on the floor, and had an advanced logic student stand on the paper.

The advanced logic student told him everything he needed to know. He was the only student to receive an "A." The ultimate final exam will come when we stand before God and he asks, "Why should I let you in?" On our own we cannot pass that exam. Our creative attempts to earn eternal life fall far short. But we have Someone who will stand in for us.

(Excerpted from Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 4)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Have you been giving some thought to what the new FBC Singles' Ministry should look like? Remember the second meeting will take place Thursday at 7:00 in the church fellowship hall.

Join us for food, fun and fellowship.

We will be playing some games together, so if you have a favorite board or card game, bring it. And we'll have some munchies on hand, but if you want to bring an appetizer or dessert to share that would be great, too.

To whet your appetite, here is a brain dump of a few of the ideas we've come up with so far for activities for the singles ministry.

[ ] Mission trips
[ ] Road trips!
[ ] Crawfish broil
[ ] Tall ships
[ ] honoring our couple events (fancy restaurant style)
[ ] kayaking/white water rafting
[ ] snow tubing
[ ] card games
[ ] mexican fiesta
[ ] ice cream afternoons
[ ] campfire fridays
[ ] hiking
[ ] crock pot freezer meal nights
[ ] war room prayer evenings
[ ] game nights
[ ] movie nights out or in somewhere
[ ] book reviews
[ ] bible study
[ ] coffee/ dessert
[ ] dinner
[ ] concerts
[ ] dinner concerts
[ ] escape room
[ ] canoeing
[ ] encouragement cards to teens/shut ins

If any of that sounds like something you could enjoy, then DON'T MISS THE MEETING!!!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Midweek Maneuvers

As is our custom at Friendship Bible Church, we will gather at 6:30 on Wednesday Evening for our prayer meeting. We do so in obedience to Scripture, which commands us to pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

We do so also because we have learned from experience as well as study of the Scriptures that prayer brings power and success in our walk with Christ. Spurgeon said, "Much prayer, much power. Little prayer, little power. No prayer, NO POWER."

I wonder, have you joined us in prayer much, little, or not at all to date? Aim with us for MUCH POWER and join us at 6:30 Wednesday evening.

One additional note - there was a VBS planning session scheduled immediately following prayer meeting, but we need to cancel that for this week.

One even one more additional note for the singles out there - don't forget the second meeting of the FBC Single's Ministry is this Thursday, March 17, 7:00 PM in Fellowship Hall. Are you single… divorced… widowed? Then join us for food, fun, and fellowship.

Friday, March 11, 2016


Don't forget to set that clock ahead ONE HOUR this coming Saturday night! Not BACKWARDS… FORWARDS.

I'm reminded of one of my favorite verses from the Old Testament, a verse which reinforces what I believe is the default direction we should all be traveling in our walk with Jesus. Never backward… EVER FORWARD.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they GO FORWARD. (Exodus‬ ‭14:15‬ ‭KJV‬‬)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Pay Attention To Your Own Game

This sermon was preached on March 6, 2016 at Friendship Bible Church.)

Read - Romans 14:1–13

Key Verse - Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. (‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:1‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Key Thought - Whether or not we agree with one another as Christians, we are to accept each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, for we are all on the same team, and we all answer to the same Master.


In Romans 12–13 Paul has been talking a lot about how we interact with others, both believers and unbelievers. Here in chapter 14 his focus narrows to believers. He answers some questions for us here which are quite timely. How should a Christian react toward other Christians who have a different set of standards than they do? What if I think it's perfectly ok for a believer to participate in a particular activity, but you think it's not. How should you react toward me? How should I behave toward you?

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Paul is discussing not just Christians who hold to a different set of standards, but rather Christians who are at different levels of maturity in their Christian walk. If I were to look around the congregation in most any Bible believing church, I would find some who had been saved many years, and some who had been saved only weeks or months. I would find some who were faithful to reading their Bible and had a vibrant prayer life, and some who never opened their Bible. I would find some who are growing in their faith and some who are stagnant in their faith. I would find some who are mature and some who are babies. It is this diversity amongst believers that Paul addresses in this chapter. And he is specifically aiming his comments at those who are the more mature in their faith.

This is the last major issue that Paul addresses in Romans. Once he finishes this section he will talk a bit about his future plans in the last part of chapter 15 and conclude with a long series of personal comments in chapter 16.

He makes two main points here, I think, both of which address the issue - how do I relate to other Christians, especially those who are less mature in the faith than I am? In the first half of the chapter he says the mature believer needs to pay attention to his own game. And then in the second half of the chapter he adds a little tension to that argument by pointing out that the mature believer also needs to be concerned about the others' game. Let's examine the first thought in this study.

Accept Them

Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. (‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:1‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

The ESV puts it like this, As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. (‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬) And the NIV like this, Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. (‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

This opening verse is the theme verse for this entire section, which spans Romans 14:1–15:13. You will recall that Romans* can be divided into two major sections, with chapters 1–11 being primarily doctrinal in nature, and chapters 12–16 being primarily practical in nature. Paul will spend more time on the topic he addresses in our text than on any other topic he's discussed in this practical half of the letter.

Receive one who is weak in the faith…

Accept him.

We are all different. Thank God for that. We are not clones. Look around the room in any church gathering and that becomes clear. We are all different. And with those differences come some marvelous positives. Some can sing and lead us in worship. Some can preach and teach us the truths of God's glorious Word. Some are mechanically apt and keep the heat and air conditioning flowing. Some are fastidious and keep the Lord's house clean. Some are creative and make it beautiful. Some are outwardly evangelistic and help keep the seats full. Some are quietly prayerful and their contribution may only fully be appreciated in eternity. We are all different.

Yet along with all the positive things that accompany such diversity, there are also problems. While we tend to praise God for the gifts others bring, we also have an annoying and sinful tendency to disapprove of things in others with which we disagree. We may accept them, but with conditions. We want them to be like us, to worship like us, to pray like us, to dress like us, to sing like us, to read the same Bible version we do, and to conduct their Christian life just like we do. When they do not, our lips curl and the acceptance becomes strained.

In his commentary on Romans, Boice tells some things about my favorite preacher Charles Spurgeon, and uses those vignettes to remind us that we are all different, yet as believers in the same Savior, all accepted in the beloved:

Charles Spurgeon was the greatest preacher of his age, but he was frequently criticized for being funny. When one woman objected to the humor he inserted into his sermons Spurgeon told her, "Madam, you would think a great deal better of me if you knew the funny things I kept out." Spurgeon was a character. A young man asked what he should do about a box of cigars he had been given. Spurgeon solved his problem. "Give them to me," he said, "and I will smoke them to the glory of God." On another occasion Spurgeon was criticized for traveling to meetings in a first class railway carriage. His antagonist said, "Mr. Spurgeon, what are you doing up here? I am riding back there in the third class carriage taking care of the Lord's money." Spurgeon replied, "And I am up here in the first class carriage taking care of the Lord's servant."^[Boice, James Montgomery, "Romans, Volume 4: The New Humanity (Romans 12–16): An Expositional Commentary"]

Differences. This is the issue Paul addresses in this section. He is talking to two classes of Christians here. One group he refers to as "strong" and the other as "weak" or "weaker". And in describing theses two groups he draws upon two issues that were apparently a concern in the church at Rome.

The first issue is seen in vss. 2–3 and has to do with variations in diet that were apparently a concern to some. Apparently some believed they needed a vegetarian lifestyle as Christians. Now I'm not sure why, and Paul doesn't explain it here. it's possible that the scruples some felt in this matter related to the "meat offered to idols" issue described in 1 Corinthians 8, but we can't say for sure. It doesn't really matter why some had this concern though. Paul's point was not to discuss the merit of the issue, but rather to simply point out that it existed. Some struggled with scruples related to diet.

And his command was clear - regardless where you fall on this issue, Christian, accept those other Christians who might fall on the other side of it. If you are the "strong" Christian who knows that our faith has nothing to do with food and drink, don't look down on the scruples of the "weaker" ones who do. And if you are the "weaker" Christian who has not yet come to grips with the grace of God in areas such as this, don't judge the "stronger" Christian who has.

Another example Paul gives is the observance or lack of observing certain days. He turns his attention to that issue in vss. 5–8. As with the eating of meat - it is merely an example of Paul's larger point, and he doesn't go into detail explaining it. There were those who were the "stronger" believers, understanding that our faith is not determined by rigid observance of feasts and holy day observances which were hold overs from Old Testament Judaism. And there were "weaker" believers who still felt the pull of those religious requirements.

These were two examples Paul shared. You can probably think of many that are more relevant to us today. But here's the thing - regardless of the issue, and regardless of whether you fall on the "strong" side or the "weak" side of it, you are to receive and accept those whose understanding of it differs from your own. Romans 14:1 is an imperative… a command. It is the theme of the rest of chapter 14 and half of chapter 15, and it applies to all of us regardless of whether we think ourselves "weak" or "strong".

Now let me point out a couple reasons Paul gives for this instruction.

Accept Them Because God Has Accepted Them

Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. (Romans‬ ‭14:3–4‬ ‭NKJV‬)

You probably ought to circle that phrase God has received him in your Bible.

One reason for receiving others, even if they have different scruples about things than us, is because God has received them. Who are we to not receive one whom God has received?

I suppose one of the hardest things for us to get our minds around as we consider another Christian is this - they don't work for you. They don't work for me. We all answer to the same King, and to Him alone. Other Christians are not my servants, and they are not your servants. They, like you, serve the one King and Savior. Walvoord put it like this, "One Christian is not above another as his judge; all are equally under Christ, the Judge."^[Walvoord, John F., Zuck, Roy B., "The Bible Knowledge Commentary"]

So we are not to judge somebody whom God has already accepted, and who belongs to Him. Neither are we to think less of such because they have a differing set of scruples about things than we do. None of us answer to anybody else except God. If we all concentrated on pleasing Him and Him alone, every problem would cease!

In the Disney movie, "Miracle", about the 1980 Olympic hockey team, there is a scene where one of the players is concerned about the performance of a teammate. Coach Herb Brooks fixes a stern gaze on the complainant and barks, "You worry about your own game. There's plenty there to keep you busy."

This could be the theme of this first part of chapter 14. Christian, you worry about your own game. Don't waste time judging or looking down on another whose game you think inferior to your own. Why? Because the same God who put you on the team put that person on the team. So we are to accept them, because God has accepted them.

We are all on the same team. I recently picked up a copy of Erwin Lutzer's book entitled "One Minute After You Die" and I can't wait to read it. Jesus gave us a glimpse into that minute in Luke 16 with the the story of the rich man (who was in hell one minute after he died) and Lazarus (who was in paradise one minute after he died.) In that story Jesus described the "great gulf" that exists between the lost and the saved in eternity. That's the divide… that's the gulf. It exists between the lost and the saved. There is no gulf between the saved and the saved, but sadly we want to put it there sometimes, don't we? But we are all on the same team.

Now an important distinction needs made here, and if we don't see it we could go far astray in interpreting this passage. Paul is talking here to people who ARE on the same team - Christians striving wholeheartedly to serve the King. He is not concerned here with unbelievers, nor is he concerned with unrepentant or nominal Christians wrestling with sin. The assumption that ties everything together in this section is that all concerned are genuine Christians serious about their walk with Christ.

I think this point comes out clearly in vss. 5–8. Notice Paul's use of the phrase to the Lord. He uses it six times in this section. He is not talking about worldly believers here who just ignore the demands of Scripture and live a worldly lifestyle. He's not talking about those who refuse to repent of their sin and live separated lives for Christ. He's talking about Christians who are genuinely trying to the best of their ability to live for Christ. And we are to receive such, for we are all striving in the same way to serve the same Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. (‭Romans‬ ‭14:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

That point is key to understanding vs. 5 - Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. Paul is not in the slightest agreeing with the "everything is relative" mindset that permeates our own age. He is not saying that truth is what you want it to be. He is not freeing you up to design your own God or fabricate your own method of getting to heaven. He is applying that phrase narrowly and only to those who are striving genuinely to serve Christ. Moule puts it like this, "The individualism of Rom. 14… is the holy and healthful thing it is because it is Christian. It is developed not by the assertion of self, but by individual communion with Christ."^[Moule, H.C.G., "The Epistle To The Romans"]

And so another reason for receiving others, even if they have different scruples about things than us, is because they are striving to serve Christ just as we are. He has accepted them on the team. We are all on the same team.

Another illustration from the movie "Miracle" is helpful here. The 1980 Olympic hockey team was comprised of members from various elite college hockey teams from around the country. When the men assembled for the first time as a team, they found themselves suddenly teammates with men that were opponents in college. Throughout the early days of their preparation for the olympics, these old rivalries were a problem, constantly surfacing and contributing to a general disunity in the team. Coach Herb Brooks solved it in a particularly memorable way. After they had lost a scrimmage precisely because they weren't playing as a team, Brooks refused to let the worn out men head to the locker room, but instead made them line up and race back and forth between the baselines. Over and over he would say "again" and force the exhausted men to race from one end of the court to the other. Periodically he would stop them and ask one of them, "Who do you play for?" And the answer would come back from each man, naming his college. "I play for Boston University" or "Minnesota" or "Bowling Green." Brooks would hear these responses and the whistle would blow and he would yell "again" sending the men once again from end to end of the court. This went on for what seemed hours. The men were barely able to stand and were to the end of their rope when finally, in response to the repeated question "who do you play for", Mike Eruzione of Boston U said, "I play for the United States of America." And, satisfied that somebody finally got the answer right, Brooks let them crawl to the locker room.

Brothers and Sisters, we may have differences, and we may be at different levels of maturity in our walk with Christ, but we are all striving to serve the same King. He has accepted us, and we are all on the same team.

Accept Them Because We All Will Answer To The Same Judge

Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. (Romans‬ ‭14:4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: " As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:10–12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

There are a couple more phrases you might want to circle in your Bible - who are you and we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ.

It is not our responsibility to judge other Christians. That is reserved for the Judgement Seat of Christ, where every Christian will give a reckoning.

There are several judgements mentioned in Scripture. One is the great white throne judgement mentioned in Revelation 20:11–15. It is a judgement not for Christians, but rather only for those who never became Christians. If you are in that number, and keep putting off believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, refusing to call on Him and receive the gift of salvation He offers you, then you will experience the great white throne judgement. The only verdict that will be pronounced there is "guilty", and the only sentence will be hell, forever. If that is the judgement you face, then you will be without hope, forever.

But the judgement mentioned in our text is different. Paul refers here to the Judgement seat of Christ, a judgement that is not for the lost, but only for the saved. This event is also mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:9–11, 1 Corinthians 3:12–15, 4:4–5. This judgement is not about salvation (If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:15 NKJV)), for as Christians our sin was judged on the cross. We learned in Romans 8:1 that there is no further judgment regarding sin. But that doesn't change the reality that we will all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and give an account of how we have lived for Him. Believers who have trifled away their walk with Christ on this earth will experience loss. I don't know what that means but I don't want to find out either. Paul said knowledge of this event motivated him greatly. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men. (2 Corinthians 5:11). I've heard people preach that there will only be rewards at the judgement seat of Christ. Nothing negative will happen there, and everyone will walk away rewarded in some way. But I don't get how they reconcile that teaching with some of Paul's words about it… words like terror and loss.

Now I don't think for a minute that we as believers should dread standing before Christ. I can't wait for the day.

What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see.
When I look upon His face, the One Who saved me by His grace.
When He takes me by the hand, and leads me through the promised land.
What a day! Glorious day! That will be!

No, I don't want to give you the impression, Christian, that you need to fear it. There can be nothing more worth looking forward to than that moment when we meet the King. But you also need to remember that there will be a moment there when He looks at you good and hard and demands an accounting of you. Are you ready for that? What will you have to say for yourself when you stand before the judgement seat of Christ?

I think Moule's words are helpful in contemplating the judgement seat of Christ:

They have been justified by faith. They have been united to their glorious Head. They "shall be saved" (1 Cor. 3:15), whatever be the fate of their "work." But what will their Lord say of their work? What have they done for Him, in labour, in witness, and above all in character? He will tell them what He thinks. He will be infinitely kind; but He will not flatter. And somehow, surely,—"it doth not yet appear" how, but somehow—eternity, even the eternity of salvation, will bear the impress of that award, the impress of the past of service, estimated by the King. "What shall the harvest be?" And all this shall take place (this is the special emphasis of the prospect here) with a solemn individuality of enquiry. "Every one of us—for himself—shall give account."^[Moule, H.C.G., "The Epistle To The Romans"]

That judgement seat of Christ should certainly motivate us toward a life dedicated to servng Christ, but should also motivate us to receive and accept other Christians, even when they serve Him differently than we do. We need not worry about that. We can accept them because they, like us, will give an account on that soon coming day. And then, with them as with us, the Savior will make everything right.


Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. (‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:1‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Are there other Christians that live according to a different set of scruples than you do, Brother? Sister? if so, Paul's word for you is clear. Receive them. Accept them. And do it because God has accepted them, and will one day soon judge both them and you.

I attended the Men's Conference yesterday with brothers Don and Tim. It was great, and I wish more men in our church would make a priority of such things.

The preaching was phenomenal.

But then there was the music.

I'm a firm believer in blended worship. We sing a mix of old hymns and new hymns and choruses. We have a praise team and a praise band, but their role is never to perform, but rather to assist you in worshipping God through song. Some musicians forget this, or simply reject it. They consider themselves performers and the song service becomes a concert. Many churches today have chosen to have a concert rather than congregational singing. They still call it worship, but I struggle with that.

Yesterday's music fell into this latter category. The percussion and band were so loud that you could barely hear the words. The choice of songs seemed more about showcasing the worship leader than encouraging group singing. As a matter of fact, as I looked around the room during several of the songs, nearly everyone was standing and not singing… as you would at a concert rather than a worship service.

Now I have to confess that I didn't like it at all. Actually, I hated it. To me it was ugly, and gaudy and anything but worship. I stood there with my arms folded, steaming about it. I remember the thought going through my mind, if Amy or Beth or Larry or Alaina or Josh or Jeff ever try to turn our worship service into this, they will be looking for a new gig. If they ever confuse worship with performance, we will have a problem. If they ever think for a minute the song service is somehow about them… about showcasing their talents, then fur is gonna fly. (Let me hasten to add here that I know their hearts and that will never happen. God has blessed us with godly and talented musicians who have it right.)

But yeah… That's what I was thinking as I stood there listening to that music.

And then the Lord reminded me what I was preaching today. Receive them. I watched the intensifying gyrations and struggled with that. God has received him. Who are you to judge another's servant? (‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:3–4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) I looked again at the faces of the performers. And whatever else I saw there I saw people who love the same Lord I do. They are on the same team I play for. It didn't make me love their music,and it didn't make me accept the performance style of leading worship. But it helped me accept THEM. My brothers, and my sisters. The rest can be left to their master to sort out.

"Let's stop dumping on one another, and let's allow God to deal with each of his servants how, when, and as kindly as he will. And while we are at it, let's be thankful that he has dealt as kindly as he has with us. If he had not, we would all be in deep trouble."^[Boice, James Montgomery, "Romans, Volume 4: The New Humanity (Romans 12–16): An Expositional Commentary"]

What about you, Christian? Do you struggle to accept those whose scruples and level of maturity differs from your own? Some need to kneel here and pray for forgiveness for that unaccepting heart, and ask for help to live out Romans 14:1.

Prayer and Postcards

Hey... Do you remember what this evening is????

It's prayer meeting time - one of the most important events that FBC holds each week. Nothing we do here - not the preaching or the singing or the fellowships or the outreaches or the food... NOTHING is more important than the PRAYING.

And so we gather for 45 minutes to an hour every Wednesday evening at 6:30 in the sanctuary, and we pray. Will you join us? I'm especially looking at YOU, oh brother / sister that has never tried it. You don't have to pray out loud (although that's always a blessing to the others in attendance)... You won't be called on or embarrassed in any way... You can simply participate at whatever level you are comfortable.

And you will be BLESSED for having come. Join us?

OH and don't forget that immediately following prayer meeting this evening we will be labeling and stamping the Easter postcard invites. Imagine the joy of walking the streets of Heaven, and having somebody walk up and thank you for the postcard that brought them to Easter services in Randolph, where they heard the gospel preached, and where they prayed that all important prayer that resulted in their salvation. "I'm here because you put a label on a postcard!"


Join us for one of both of these activities tonight. We need lots to pray. We need lots to help mail. And of course, the best of all worlds would be - JOIN US FOR BOTH!

BTW - Coffee and such will be provided.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Christian And Authority

(It has been requested that the sermons be provided in print format, so I'm going to try and honor that request by posting them to the BLOG each week.  This past Lord's Day we were privileged to hear from a missionary, and so this is a sermon that was preached on February 7, 2016 at FBC.  This sermon also caused some to respond with questions, and so perhaps after reading it in print, those questions will be answered.  If not, give me a call and I'll try to clarify.)

Read - Romans 13:1–7

Key Verse - Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. (‭‭Romans‬ ‭13:1‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Key Thought - Christians should submit to authority, except when it would violate our submission to God.


Some have opined that this is one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament. I don’t think for a minute that they were saying it is difficult to interpret. No, what Paul says here is completely unambiguous and decidedly clear. What they were saying is it’s difficult because there are so many questions that arise from the very clarity of Paul’s words.

We are in an election cycle here in the United States. There is no doubt that the Christian’s response to and responsibility to government is much on our minds right now. So Paul’s instructions concerning the Christian and government… to authority… are very timely.

Now the primary interpretation of this passage has to do with the Christian’s response to CIVIL authority. The context clearly demands such an interpretation. However, the principals regarding the Christian response to authority can be applied, I think, to other areas as well - marriage, parenting, employment, schooling… basically any relationship where there is someone in a position of authority. We won’t go there in this study, but it’s a thought worth studying on your own.

So, what is the proper Christian response to be toward government?
  • Must we obey it? Always?
  • What about when we disagree with it? What about when our political party is out of power and we really don’t agree with the party in power?
  • What about when our rights are threatened? We have a marvelous document here in the United States called the Bill of Rights. It was added to our constitution early in our history to protect the rights of American citizens. We have watched it slowly fade away until it is a largely irrelevant document now. Must we submit to a government that is intent on stripping us of rights we have long held dear?
  • What about when government takes our taxes and uses it for things we disagree with? We know that tax money is used to fund abortions, an abomination that is unprecedented in history. I recently saw a pie chart depicting the ratio of American deaths in war vs. American deaths by abortion. The deaths from the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, the Korean War, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, The Gulf War, and the war in Afghanistan all combined were just a tiny sliver on the pie chart, almost totally obscurred by the deaths attributed to Roe v. Wade… abortion murders.
  • What about when our government approves things that we know God does not approve?
  • What about when our government tells us what we can and cannot say as Christians… what we can and cannot do as Christ’s church?
What is the proper Christian response to be toward government?
  • Corrie Ten Boom lived during the Jewish holocaust and rather than go along with her government’s program of not harboring or helping Jews, she chose to do the opposite, and helped the Jewish people. Was she right to disobey?
  • Oscar Schindler is another who, despite his government’s organized policy of murdering the Jewish people, chose to actively work against that government policy to save hundreds of them from destruction. Was his rebellion against governmental authority right? Or should he have obeyed and let hundreds more die?
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian during WWII. When things started looking bad as the war was gearing up he moved to America where he thought he would be better able to work. Later though, as the extent of what was happening in Germany became clearer to him, he moved back into the midst of it and actively worked against his own government. Bonhoeffer was executed just as the war was ending because he had actively participated in a plot to assassinate Hitler! Was his response to government right?
What is the proper Christian response to be toward government? Where is the line between being a good citizen and civil disobedience? Should a Christian EVER participate in civil disobedience?

These are difficult questions… timely and hard hitting questions to be sure . These are areas where we all find our mind wandering from time to time. So let’s dig into what Paul has to say about it. We will tackle it by first noting the PRINCIPAL taught in Scripture. Then we will address some clear LIMITATIONS that are mentioned. Finally, we will find great help from a couple EXAMPLES in scripture.

The Principal

What is the proper Christian response to be toward government? Well, Paul says it very plainly in the first verse - Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. (Romans‬ ‭13:1‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

We have to start off by being honest with ourselves. This verse is very clear. It is not ambiguous. It does not provide for a wide latitude in interpretation. There is no nuance in the Greek that will get us off the hook. No… It means exactly what it says - Christians are to be good citizens, and are to live lives marked by submission to government.

ALL Christians. EVERY soul.

This is not the only place where such a principal is stated in our Bible:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1–4 NKJV)

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, (Titus 3:1 NKJV)

Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 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. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men– as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:13–17 NKJV)

So the first principal is submission.

Paul doesn’t just dump that load on us, though, without explanation. He tells us why, as Christians, we are to submit to authority. Our submission is primarily due to recognizing the sovereignty of God in the affairs of men. there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. (‭‭Romans‬ ‭13:1‬ ‭NKJV‬)

Now this is an amazing statement to be sure, but one supported throughout Scripture. Nobody has ever sat upon a throne, won an election, or ruled a nation whom God did not put in that role.

So let’s try and get our minds around that for a minute. Those of you who vote Republican will howl, but the truth is God put Obama in office. And those who are Democrats will howl as loudly to consider that God put George W. Bush in that same office. In just a few months now we will all exercise one of the wonderful rights we have as citizens in America and we will vote. And whether Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton comes out on top after that election, it will be because the sovereign God of the universe so chose.

But let’s take it further.
  • God put Adolph Hitler in charge in Germany.
  • God put Joseph Stalin in charge in Russia.
  • God raised up Pharaoh, who oppressed God’s people brutally, enslaving them and using them for his own purposes, and to whom Moses was sent to demand their release and relief. Paul already used him as an example back in chapter 9 - For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth. (‭‭Romans‬ ‭9:17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) cf. Exodus 9:16
  • God raised up Emperor Nero in Rome during the very time in history when Paul wrote this letter. When Paul wrote this letter Nero’s atrocities had not reached their zenith. He had not yet lit Christians on fire and used them as torches to light the streets, but that was coming in just a few short years.
Harry Ironside had this to say about Emperor Nero:

“As we come to the study of this thirteenth chapter, it is well for us to remember that he who sat upon the throne of the empire when Paul gave this instruction concerning obedience to the powers that be, was one of the vilest beasts in human form whoever occupied a throne—a sensuous, sensual brute, who ripped up the body of his own mother in order that he might see the womb that bore him—an evil, blatant egotist of most despicable character, whose cruelties and injustices beggar all description. And yet God in His providence permitted this demon-controlled wretch to wear the diadem of the greatest empire the world had yet known.”(Ironside, Harry, “Lectures on the Epistle to the Romans”)

The point we must see if we are to understand our responsibility toward authority is simply this - whoever occupies the position of authority on earth, they are there because God put them there, and we are to therefore submit to God by submitting to them.

This is my Father's world
Oh let me ne'r forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong

Daniel answered and said: Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding. (‭‭Daniel‬ ‭2:20–21‬)

“There is no ruler anywhere or from any time in history who was not set in his exalted position by God.”(Boice, James Montgomery, “Romans, Volume 4: The New Humanity (Romans 12–16): An Expositional Commentary”)

So the principal then becomes submission to God, by submission to those He has placed in authority over us. Paul states this principal positively in vs. 1 and negatively in vs. 2.

Now all of us are squirming in our seat a bit. If we just stop there we know it’s not sufficient. We know there are times when blind submission to despotic authority cannot be the will of God. So let’s consider some times where submission is NOT the right answer… some LIMITATIONS to the principal set forth in Romans 13:1.

The Limitations

This passage needs to be understood in light of something Paul said a few verses earlier - If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:18‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

The fact is, it’s not always possible to obey. This is clear from the very reason Paul gave for our submission - God’s sovereignty. When we say we are submitting to God by submitting to those He places in authority, we are stating plainly that God is the ultimate authority. And time after time we see that ultimate rule described.
  • We saw it already in the example of Pharaoh. God reminded that evil ruler that any authority he had was only because God had raised him up.
  • Sennacherib is another example of God’s ultimate authority and control over worldly rulers - Because your rage against Me and your tumult Have come up to My ears, Therefore I will put My hook in your nose And My bridle in your lips, And I will turn you back By the way which you came. (‭‭II Kings‬ ‭19:28‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) This rotten leader had gone where he ought not, and done what he ought not, in trying to destroy the people of God. God reminded him that He controlled him just like a fisherman controls a fish.
  • Yet another example is Nebuchadnezzer who ruled in Babylon. His pride at leading such a great empire had no bounds, and so God knocked him down a peg or two so that he would remember Who the ultimate ruler is. Daniel told him, This decision is by the decree of the watchers, And the sentence by the word of the holy ones, In order that the living may know That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest of men. (Daniel 4:17 NKJV). If you read Daniel 4 you will find that the phrase The Most High rules in the kingdom of men is mentioned several times there - vss. 17, 25–26, 32, 34–35. Nebuchadnezzar had to be reminded Who was really in charge. And he eventually got the message - Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down. (‭‭Daniel‬ ‭4:37‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)
God is ultimately in control, and our ultimate alliance is to Him, and so that fact must take precedence over the principal stated in our text. Our submission to authority here must not violate our submission to God.

Billy Graham said, “As long as we are on this earth, we possess dual citizenship. On one hand we owe allegiance to our nation and are called to be good citizens. But we are also citizens of the kingdom of God. Our supreme loyalty is to him.” (Graham, Franklin, “Billy Graham in Quotes”)

Boice says the the correct way to view the authority of God vs. the authority of Caesar Is to recognize both “the authority of God and Caesar but with God in the dominant position.”(Boice, James Montgomery, “Romans, Volume 4: The New Humanity (Romans 12–16): An Expositional Commentary”)

So there is a limitation to the principal stated in the text - if the government (or any authority in your life) requires something of you that would force you to violate a clear command of the ultimate authority, God, then you must choose to obey God.

The Examples

There are several very helpful examples in Scripture. I’d like to close this study by drawing your attention to three such examples.

There is the example of the apostles. cf. Acts 4:1–31.

In that passage we see that they were forbidden to speak by the authorities. But they recognized that in this case the authorities had overstepped and were asking them to do something that violated the will of God.

As Christians we KNOW it is God’s will for us to proclaim the gospel. It is the ONLY reason we are here and not yet in heaven. And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark‬ ‭16:15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Since the authorities… the rulers of the people (vs. 8) were demanding something that would violate the clearly defined will of God, the disciples stated they could not submit in this case vss. 19–20. Then they prayed for God’s help to rightly disobey(!) vs. 29. And then they DID disobey vs. 31. It’s all summed up nicely in the next chapter - Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us! But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: We ought to obey God rather than men. (‭‭Acts‬ ‭5:28–29‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

There is the example of Jesus in His exchange with the Pharisees. cf. Matthew 22:15–22.

He clearly taught that we should submit to authority and render to that authority what it was entitled to - render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. He also taught that the authority has limits - and to God what is God’s.

There is the example of Jesus standing before Pilate. Cf. John 19:1–16

Perhaps this is the clearest example of all, and one we ought to meditate on as we wrestle through Romans 13:1.
  • Jesus clearly submitted to governmental authority. Cf. vs. 1, 5, 16
  • Pilate claimed ultimate authority, but Jesus reminded him such was not the case. Cf. vss. 10–11a
  • Jesus rebuked Pilate’s error and reminded him that he would be held to account. Cf. vs. 11b
  • Jesus submitted to the authority even when it meant inconvenience, pain, loss of freedom, even loss of life because God had put Pilate there and given him the authority to do those things. And of course Jesus knew that nothing Pilate was doing violated God’s will… rather it was a fulfillment of His will and plan to save us all.
  • But Jesus proclaimed the truth. “You are only in authority because God, who rules over both you and I, wills it. You are responsible to do right with that authority, and not doing so is sin, for which you will be judged.”


Some years ago I was in a local sporting goods store making a purchase. I was standing at the gun counter waiting for the clerk to finish the transaction. Looking around I noticed something was missing. Many gun stores have a picture of President Obama with the caption “Salesman of the Year” on it, because his restrictive policies and threats have caused more guns to be sold than ever. So in a sad attempt at levity I mentioned the omission to the man behind the counter. “Where’s your Obama poster?” “What do you mean,” he asked. “You know, the one that says he is salesman of the year.” The man fixed me with a stern gaze and said, “Sir, I am a Christian, and the Bible teaches me to be a good citizen, and to not speak evil of the ruler of my people.”

Now I’ve had a few rebukes in life that have stuck with me. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that one. I practically had to crawl out of there I felt so convicted.
  • Christians should be the best citizens on earth.
  • We should pay our taxes, obey the laws, vote faithfully, and participate in government.
  • We should recognize that human authority is delegated by our sovereign God, and must therefore, whenever possible, be obeyed. To disobey the authority is to disobey God.
  • We should never speak evil of our leaders, but rather pray for them constantly, that they might be saved… and that they might govern rightly under God.
  • We should take every opportunity to recognize that our primary task, no matter what’s happening in the halls of government, is to proclaim the truth.
  • And finally, if the occasion does arise where submitting to earthly authority would cause us to go against God’s authority, we must resist.


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