Remember The Sabbath And Keep It!

I have been gifted a work by Walter Brueggemann, “Sabbath as Resistance: Saying NO to the CULTURE OF NOW.” In his preface he speaks of “A distinct faith identity in the midst of a culture that is inhospitable” to anything that reduces “the requirements of the market.” A few pages on he talks about “the system of commodity” which requires that “we want more, have more, own more, use more, eat more, and drink more.” This is the biblical definition of “greed” or covetousness which Paul called idol worship [Colossians 3:5].

This led me to a greater understanding of the first of the ten commandments. “You shall have no other gods before me” [Exodus 20:3]. Before in Hebrew might be better translated beside, in addition to, being preeminent above. What might confuse us was the word other. It would have been simpler had the Lord said, “You shall serve me, only!” But as unavoidably clear as that is, we need to know that the market place is another god!

What was God saying? Ask any woman about her husband’s girlfriend. God has from the beginning seen Himself as a husband to Israel [Hosea 2:16]. What might we think the word unfaithfulness means in this context [Leviticus 26:40 NKJV]?

The remaining commandments can be understood in this light. Replacing a worship for God with a inordinate affection [greed] for the market place leads to all sorts of corruption culminating in envy, which leads to theft and adultery, and which can—and does—lead to murder—the ultimate “cover up.” And obviously, to saunter down this path means that first we have owned a total disregard for family—mom and dad, hopefully, our first source of wisdom.

How do we avoid this precipice? Well, gather together 1 day in 7 to worship God and fellowship with men and women of like mind. For 1 day in 7 we can “fast” the malls and the soccer fields. I remember the first Sunday night I had to preach while my team was playing in the Super Bowl! I survived.

I just finished reading Carol Roth’s book on a well-thought out plan by the government, along with the coastal elites, to transfer all personal wealth from Main street to Wall street. [A must read!]  In “You Will Own Nothing” Ms Roth, a “recovering” investment banker; entrepreneur … and a New York Times bestselling author, alerts us of this ultimate power grab, which I think we must admit that we saw coming. To quote John Locke, “I have no reason to suppose that he, who would take away my Liberty, would not when he had me in his Power, take away everything else.”

We can and should take steps to be economically responsible toward family as well as pushback on an undeniable evil that wants to control us by impoverishing us. But does this contradict what we just said?

Oh! Contraire!

The best thing we could do to counter such an assault on our personal well-being is go to church!!! Separate out one day per week for God. Fast the media and find a renewed interest in prayer which will prove in more ways than one—our salvation.

Said another way, Whatever they take, don’t let them take your faith [Luke 18:8].

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Can the Lottery Be Dangerously Grotesque?

I was not prepared for what I was about to learn on reading Walter Brueggemann’s Commentary on Isaiah. In his note on Isaiah 2:6b-8, he wrote, “The prophetic tradition, long before Karl Marx, understood that distorting religion and distorting economics provide mutual reinforcement and together seriously impinge upon the character and identity of the community.”1 This is what Jesus, Himself, warned about: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” [Matthew 6:24]. In Brueggemann’s words, You cannot serve “religion and economics.”

For those, as myself, who know little about Marxism, here is an excerpt from his manifesto. For the record: I think Marx is misrepresenting the market as a place of trade but he has shown an uncommon astuteness in describing the greed that has overtaken it. Capitalism—a system in which trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state—Marx contended, “has pitilessly torn asunder the motley … ties … and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment.’”2 Even the least observant has come to view “Wall Street” as the purest form of greed. Anyone there, is there for one purpose, only, to make money—as much money as possible. The New Testament word for greed—perhaps, you recall—means “wanting more, getting more, having more, wanting more ….” And Paul called it idolatry! “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: (he listed here ) evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” [Colossians 3:5 NIV]

Marx, went on to say, that capitalism “… has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor … in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless and indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—Free Trade.”3 Here he confused trade with greed, which is a bit like blaming the gun for someone’s murder. But still, if this is socialism, it is a war on the middle class, but not by the poor but the elites. Marx, nonetheless called it “… exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation. … The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the [capitalist] over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.”4

In Graham Ward’s edited short work on Postmodern Theology he alerts us to this ever present danger of greed. He sees it in terms of consumerism. To the market dweller, we are only here to spend the money they give us. We serve no loftier purpose. And for this to work, we need to be consumed with an interest in consuming, purchasing—and not just shoes or the latest smart phone!

Ward called it a “fetish” (an excessive and irrational devotion or commitment to a particular thing) writing: “It is significant that the structure of commodity fetishism involves both a recognition that the fetish is a substitute, not the object desired itself [the pleasure is not in having the newest whatever but in the purchasing of it!], and, simultaneously, a disavowal of its substitutional character [we deny that that is what is happening!]. It has the grammatical structure of “I know, but even so. . . .” As Jacques Lacan pointed out, this intrinsic disavowal renders desire itself unstable. The desire can then continually displace itself onto new objects. The pleasure of not getting what you want drives consumerism. Consumerism becomes an endless experience of fetishism – as Marx was inchoately [not fully but in a rudimentary sense] aware.”5

The Progressive idea of economic health is based on a demand side economics: Give people money to spend. As a country we are unaware of the danger, for example, in encouraging the citizenry to attempt to win a lottery worth over three-quarters of a billion (with a ‘B’) dollars! Someone or ones will be momentary happy and then comes “hell.” As Jesus warned, “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” [Matthew 16:26]. The lottery is feeding a dangerous beast and only making it hungrier!

And Isaiah, having God’s wise counsel, reported that the economy of the nation of Judah under Uzziah and Jotham prospered, but with that prosperity came a worldview, a Zeitgeist, that excluded God: “Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their chariots.…they bow down to the work of their hands” [Isaiah 2:7]. ] Judah became, what Brueggemann called, “an accommodationist money economy in pursuit of affluence … like all the nations.” 6 They were trapped in an endless cycle of insecurity—needing money to buy weapons to guard a growing treasury. And God was replaced by “the works of their own hands.”7 Their self-reliance was exposed and humiliated, which—the prophet lamented unforgivably—that this forebode their own destruction. “So people will be brought low and everyone humbled—do not forgive them.,” Isaiah excoriated them [Isaiah 2:9].

Some scholars think it harsh of the prophet to claim no forgiveness for Judah but they were beyond repentance having gone through cycles of prophetic warnings, Only repentance could “save” them but this was not on the agenda for a self-dependent society!

“But Jeshurun [Israel] became fat and kicked, you got fat, thick, and stuffed! Then he deserted the God who made him, and treated the Rock who saved him with contempt” [Deuteronomy 32:15 NET].

Then Brueggemann wrote, “the triad of money-weapons-idols forms a convergence that is at the core of Karl Marx’s critique of an alienated society.” Wanting to learn more about this alienation, I went to the writings of Ludwig von Mises of the Austrian School of Economics who lectured on Marxism for the Freeman Magazine, delivered at the San Francisco Public Library in 1952. “Don’t think it is possible for a man to practice all his life a certain ideology,” he concluded, “without believing in it.”8 And Judah had replaced the teachings of the Mosaic Law, God’s, so-called, “Old” Covenant with something culturally and spiritually alien to the Lord’s explicit instructions for their life.

“This threefold ‘fullness,’” Brueggemann lamented, “has decisively shifted the identity of the community, which now neither depends upon Yahweh … nor obeys Yahweh. No wonder Yahweh has rejected [it].”9 Judah had been brainwashed into an ideology that replaced Torah.

But Isaiah would take comfort in the prophetic knowledge that someday the truth would win out and God “…will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths” [Isaiah 2:3]. But that was a distant hope, that we now know is written into the “New” Covenant in the Savior’s blood at Calvary.

This, however, does not mean we are not vulnerable to the same Zeitgeist Judah fell victim to. Brueggemann warns, “This analysis, which pertains to an ancient society, is a workable model for our continuing social analysis of our own time and place, an analysis that is at the heart of prophetic faith.”10

1 Brueggemann, Page 28.
2 Karl Marx; Friedrich Engels.The Communist Manifesto . Hewlett-Packard. Kindle Edition.
3 Ibid
4 Ibid.
5 Ward, Introduction “Where We Stand” Page xxi.
6 Brueggemann, Page 29.
7 Isaiah 31:7
8 Ludwig von Mises, Page 37.
9 Brueggemann. Isaiah 1-39, Page 29.
10 Ibid.

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Much More

Romans 5:10. If while we were still enemies we were reconciled with God through the death of His Son, much more rather now we shall be saved in being reconciled by His life.

If God, who is an eternal God, would go so far as to rescue His enemies from death in order to be reconciled as friends with them, this must mean forever, else why would He express such an extreme love!

Much More

If His death removed the sin and reconciled us, what would His resurrection provide!! [Romans 6:4].

Not only does our Lord pour out His love [Romans 5:3] and His Spirit [Acts 2:17], there is a “much more” attached to His many provisions! Not only is He merciful, the Bible uses the plural, mercies, but they are much more, brand new daily, like the manna; so, He is not just faithful, His faithfulness is great [Lamentations 3:23]. Everything about our God is immeasurable or infinite:

  • “To God who is able to do for us what will far exceed anything we might request or imagine…..” [Ephesians 3:20].
  • “in order that in the coming ages of forever He might demonstrate that immeasurable riches of his grace ….” [Ephesians 2:7].
  • “If God did not spare his own Son but instead sacrificed Him in our place, what else would He not grant us!” [Romans 8:32]?
  • The wealth of God’s wisdom and knowledge are beyond our understanding! His decisions beyond logic and what He does on our behalf we could never presume to know [Romans 11:33].

We are:

  • Not only justified but, much more, saved from wrath [Romans 5:9].
  • Not only reconciled to God but, much more, forever [Romans 5:10].
  • Not only forgiven but, much more, free from the sin [Romans 5:15, 17, 20].
  • Not only was the Old Testament Law glorious but much more, Our Lord’s ministry is among us. [2 Corinthians 3:9, 11].
  • Not only is gold valuable but, much more, is our faith in Christ! [1 Peter 1:7].

And there’s even MORE …MUCH MORE! … A Celebration!!! [Romans 5:11 NLT]. Are you ready!!

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.

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On The Subject of Monogamy

Those who claim that monogamy is not natural for human beings are simply recognizing the proclivity toward procreation that characterizes the human species, the animalism that the body represents. But, vital to human relations, the soul still exercises an oversight over the body’s impulses because we are more than physical beings, we are social ones, as well. [We might add: we are spiritual ones also, made in God’s Image. This is, however,  not essential to the argument before us.]

The body as a body must necessarily be absolutely selfish, carnal, and it must interpret copulation as the single most important thing for self-preservation. It is in this regard we speak of objectifying another person, seeing them solely in a physical sense [body to body].

But the soul, that makes humans social beings, sees relationships. It is, therefore, because we have a soul, that sexually we are monogamous: only one for only one. Monogamy is a social term—not a physical one. Monogamy is a relational term because it is part of a social contract, a social conversation, one person has with another. To say we are not monogamous requires that we do not believe in the soul—an idea no Christian could maintain.

Can we argue, by social definition, that one man can be in a monogamous relation with more than one woman? After all, we can have more than one sibling or more than one parent and in a social relationship with each. But we may argue that the sexual relation is different in that it is both social and physical. Language recognizes the difference in its terms for love: affection and eroticism. If we believe we have a soul, we consent to this difference as reasonable or a validly recognized distinction. It is the soul of man that now argues against multiple sexual partners or promiscuity of any sort through the emotion of jealousy which is the soul’s claim on its partner for itself.

Social Contracts and Covenants

It is the soul that recognizes social contracts—including the marriage contract. It is the soul that goes into covenant with God. Some argue that it is by the spirit not the soul that we have a relationship with God but this is a distinction without a difference. Are we dichotomous [body and soul] or trichotomous. [body, soul, and spirit] beings is a question debated in freshman seminary classes which soon lose interest because both terms speak to relationships. We like to define our relationship with God as spiritual and with each other as social—that is all.

But society is seeking to evolve past all this, to imagine life without a soul, without a moral contract, to make relations more fluid that can be easily divorced and reestablished in a faultless social environment. Society is seeking to keep relations casual and more animalistic, that is, seeking pleasure rather than partnership—the physical over the social.

Redefining society this way will destroy the very fabric social relations are made of which is a way of saying we have gone from social beings to every man for himself. No society can survive this scenario. The dissolution of the monogamous relationship, and consequently the nuclear family, is a world without a definable social order and a world that cannot appreciate God’s design and desire upon the soul.

But,  then again, speaking of the soul, those who support social change of this kind, are saying man does not have one, anyway.

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10 Reasons for Owning a KJV Bible

The joke goes about the translation of the Bible, “If the King James was good enough for Peter and Paul, it’s good enough for me.” But is this really laughable? Here’s 10 reasons for using the King James over other versions:

  1. The King James Bible is less expensive to buy.
  2. The King James is not under copyright infringement law; so, you can copy all of it if you want in your latest book.
  3. The Blue Letter Bible study app defaults to the King James providing study links to each word. This is not available generally in the other translations.
  4. It is best in a group setting, especially a Bible study, because it is readily available for all. Most churches stock copies of the KJV in pew racks, for example. Use it as notes.
  5. Memorizing scripture means you must choose a translation. Most scripture memorization in VBS and Sunday School programs are in the KJV. The KJV is tried and proven for this important aspect of Christian life.
  6. The Psalms are poetry. as is a large part of the Old Testament, which best matches the rhythmic cadence of the KJV translation. Most Scriptural songs are taken from the KJV.
  7. The KJV is the most popular version among Protestants and universally accepted. It is clear that after more than 400 years, the King James Bible has more than proven its staying power. It’s had a very powerful influence on our language and our literature, to this very day.
  8. Most Christians, doctrinally, support the Verbal Plenary Theory of Inspiration which says the words—and not just the ideas—are inspired, [That’s why we study Biblical languages.] This gives added credence to a literal (word for word) translation of the Bible, like the KJV. Some, so-called, paraphrased translation, are more like a commentary of the Scriptures, rather than the Scriptures. themselves. So, if you are doing a group word study, the King James version gives you opportunity to focus on any word that you want to whereas interpretations of the Bible may not. Often the NIV is like the Message, a free flowing interpretation that makes it hard to locate the word in question. Word-for-Word is regarded as the most accurate. It leaves the least wiggle room for error or misunderstanding.
  9. Most Concordances for Bible study, like Strong’s Concordance, use the KJV as their base translation. For the scholar who wants to dig deeper but is not familiar with the original languages, there is a lot of material if you are familiar with the KJV.
  10. Why change! Churches began using it and stuck with it because it met the needs of believers. If it’s not broke ….

A Summary: The KJV remains the most popular Bible in the English-speaking world. It’s because of its amazing literary qualities, its memorability, and the fact that many of the Study Bible cross references originated with the KJV. To paraphrase the joke: If it was good enough for gramma, it is good enough for me.

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The Strong

[taken from my commentary on Romans, Chapter 15]

As there are times the Spirit pulls on our hearts to stay in prayer a bit longer for reasons made immediately evident to the faithful, Paul is not finished writing in Chapter 15 about the relationship between the strong and the weak in Christ that he spoke of last chapter. For his literary masterpiece, which continues through Romans 15:13, God inspired one more brushstroke, past chapter 14, these 13 verses, before Paul would say, Yes! That’s it! This is my heart! This is all of it!Paul’s message of a grace that invites us to come to the Savior [Matthew 11:28] or seek God’s mercy [Hebrews 11:6] is offered to all—all classes and all races and all nations and all peoples [Romans 4:17]. Whosever may come [John 3:16].

This cannot be a salvation dependent on some condition or achievement or grade or religion or ethnicity—you get the point—because many who want salvation would, on that basis, not qualify for it. In parable, Jesus, disclosed God’s heart in the matter: He does care where you came from, how good or bad you’ve been or what language you speak or if you have to limp along or are handicapped in some way and need someone’s help; He just doesn’t want any empty seats at His banquet [Luke 14:23]. As much as this should be received with great anticipation, some are offended. They are offended out of some kind-of prejudice. I am to be seated next to …him!! [You fill in the details.]

The only requirement is to trust God [faith]. But for reasons hard to understand, there are many excuses why some will not come—excuses that sound rational. For some so much has been invested in trying to live the right way [as they see it], they are like the migrant worker spending all day in the hot sun and getting no more for their efforts than the fellow who shows up an hour before quitting time. The sun is setting and the evening breeze affirms the end of the day [Matthew 20:10] and everyone has the same amount in their pay envelope! Not fair!

Grace is hard to wrap our brains around. That, in itself, is a chief reason we must accept God’s mercy by faith alone This is the Epistle to Rome.. But if you have been reading Romans as an historical essay on the spiritual journeys of the believers in Rome, you are too close. They are but one tree in a forest of religious prejudice, of denominational distinctives and theological positions. Step back to see the forest, the relevance of it all to us, to our church, to our fellow believers. Maybe we are not as ethnically diverse as the persons to whom Paul immediately wrote, but certainly we are as spiritually diverse as they were.

The Weak and The Strong

There are the spiritually weak: persons who do love God but somehow still think that one has to work at being saved. The strong simply enjoy their salvation effortlessly following Jesus without self-deprecation and without the fear that unless they keep apologizing to God—asking for His forgiveness—He might be offended. The weak seek assurances through effort, working at being good. The strong simply enjoy following Jesus which is why the Beatitudes call them “Happy” [Matthew 5:3-12]. Sadly, the weak depend mostly on the religious structure that has been built around them. This is their security. The strong live dangerously [abandoning all to His will and their own faith in Him] knowing God will provide for their protection and sustenance.

Watch what you say, God, in Your Word! Some are reading it! And taking You literally! They are like soldiers itching for a fight, aching for a chance to please You, Lord! Watch what You say! They have not learned the art of rationalizing away what You said—making it all sound meaninglessly irrelevant.

Who are these spiritual giants of the faith among us? They are not distinguished by age or how long they have been Christian [1 Timothy 4:12]. They are not identified by university degrees or even how successful life has been for them [1 Corinthians 1:27a]. And oddly enough, when it comes to money, they seem to wear poverty amazingly well (some, like a badge of honor, according to their testimonies). They are crazy content even without [1 Timothy 6:8]. And if you can do that, you can go anywhere and do anything—money is truly no object [Hebrews 13:5].

The strong saint needs no particular Bible translation read or song sung or religious routine followed … those kind of things, if I understood Romans 14:5 correctly. They have it in their heads that if all this changes—even, on-a-dime—they’ll follow whatever their Lord wants, no questions asked. I even think they’re hoping for this! The weak find change difficult.

God has reserved a task for the strong which is perfect for their spiritual talents: “bear the infirmities of the weak” [Romans 15:1]. Here we begin our study, if we are among the weaker saints, not to achieve academic excellence but to see if we might by God’s grace one day join the ranks of the strong, of so honorable an assembly [Hebrews 11].

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Form or Substance

[taken from my commentary on Romans, Chapter 14]

With the crucifixion and resurrection of the Savior came revolutionary changes in the interpretation of Torah law. 613 laws, 365 negative, 248 positive, both ceremonial and moral, have been for religious purposes—at least for Gentiles—happily discontinued in one way or another. The ceremonies connected to the Exodus now would no longer be the supreme example of God’s power and salvation. The Temple sacrifices would become, ceremonially speaking, obsolete under the New Covenant ratified by the Savior’s death. “In that He says, A new covenant,” The writer to the Hebrews exclaims, “He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” [Hebrews 8:13]. The Moral law could be summarized now in a word—love, agape love, “the fulfillment of the law” [Romans 13:10].

It is a marvel we understand as much as we do about whatever passion seemed to drive God to such extremes as to require His only son’s crucifixion to save us. 613 commandments after awhile might become second nature to us following them, but that was not their purpose… ever!. Religious people, though, seem to find reason to replace them, to materialize worship, to give it form, a ritual, a list of do’s and don’t’s, or an orchestrated routine that more than symbolizes devotion to God but becomes the very essence of spirituality.

To miss a Wednesday night Bible study when my wife and I were newly weds seemed next to blasphemous because we were told that this service was for those who truly loved God and not just church. So when we skipped out for a jaunt to the market one Wednesday and got a flat tire, I knew it was God’s punishment. Well, it wasn’t. I know that now. Wednesday night was the form not the substance of our love for God.

In writing to the Romans, Paul dedicated the entire 14th chapter to this one subject: distinguishing between the form and the substance. He would not condemn religious form because every idea, even our worship, must have some expression, and often that is how we know what worship is [3 songs and a chorus]. A table is a table not because it is made of wood (it might be metal), nor because it has legs (ask the Japanese) but because of its function to eat off or whatever else we use a table for. We must discover in our own experience what the difference is between the table and its function, between a church service and our worship while in it.

In Paul’s world, some believers were strict vegetarians; some brought a ham roast to fellowship banquets. There were a number of injunctions about eating in Torah law. I am glad he addressed this conundrum.

Oh, I mentioned 613 injunctions now discarded. But did you know they were replaced with what I call the 614th one. Matthew 6:14, forgiveness. And the 615th? Romans 6:15 “we are under grace, now!”

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Who’s in Charge!

For those who cherish their political freedom, a small government that exists only to protect and not control them, that is not taxing them into a lower tax bracket, or telling them what they can and cannot buy, Paul’s instruction to submit to such authorities, is unappreciated. Some have, in error, considered Paul a proponent of slavery because he didn’t speak up against it. And if he could be that silent on such a miscarriage of human justice and ethics, what other principles might he propose that make God appear more distant and unloving.

Was Paul imagining a form of government more benevolent? God gave him a vision, [2 Corinthians 12:2-4]⁠1 during those silent years in Arabia when he receive the message of a salvation by grace [Galatians 1:16-17].⁠2 This was when God clarified to him and all of us, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” [2 Corinthians 12:9]. Somehow, tribulation would never be a big deal to him other than having the undeserved honor of sharing in our Savior’s sufferings [Philippians 3:10].⁠3 A person of this mindset is most likely to discourage us from arming ourselves against a government we think is—somehow—hurtful.

On top of all this Paul saw himself as a citizen of heaven [Philippians 1:27 NLT]⁠4 and just a stranger here [Hebrews 11:13].⁠5 Was he shutting out reality? To him all governments are temporary [2 Corinthians 4:18]⁠6 and, beside, he longed soon to be with His Lord? [2 Corinthians 5:18 NIV].⁠7 He resigned himself to be God’s sacrificial servant [Romans 8:36]⁠8 and, little doubt, this had to season his view of things, including tyrannical leaders. In Paul’s mind, the eternal God he served would bring judgment and he was going to leave the matter to Him [Romans 12:19 RSV].⁠9

So Paul wrote in Romans 13:1-2:

  1. Let every one submit to the authorities [higher powers over them] because there is no authority other than God’s. And all existing authorities have been appointed by God.
  2. The result is this: whoever resists authority, opposes God’s ordinance; those who resist shall receive judgment.

Authorities, higher powers – Any level and every type of government is meant: democracy, constitutional republic, oligarchy, plutocracy, socialistic, communistic, an autocracy, ejusdem generis. Paul uses here the word authority and not power. Authority can be usurped; power cannot be. The word power speaks to one’s ability to do such and such. Authority does not; some authorities have been historically seen as incompetent.

Appointed – Scholars say that government is a divine institution because God made us social beings and every ruler is, in effect, given a divine dispensation.

Judgment – Is this what Jesus meant: “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” [Matthew 26:52]? Scholars say that God will avenge His institution. But if this is so, is He not possibly on the side of tyranny instead of the poor who are under the scourge of political bondage? Was the American revolution wrong!? Paul appeared to be admonishing the Christians of Rome to submit to the emperor (some of whom attempted Christian genocide) and whom many thought answered to the antichrist of the Revelation! But, goes the argument, submission is not worship!

Another Perspective

Here is another perspective: Solomon wrote, “A man’s heart devises his way: but the Lord directs his steps.” [Proverbs 16:9}. In the year King Uzziah died [after reigning for 40 years in Judah and the nation was, consequently, in political turmoil] Isaiah had a vision: “I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne….” [Isaiah 6:1]. God never abdicated the throne, for if He ever did, He would be nullifying His first commandment that no one take His place in the heart and lives of His people—you and me [Exodus 20:3]. Uzziah was never over Israel; he only appeared so in a political sense. God was …and is …and will always be!! [1 Corinthians 15:28]

If any ruler were not under the oversight of God, how would God be—well—God. Our faith in Him rests on His Supremacy over all the circumstances of our lives. Thomas a Kempis wrote:

For the resolutions of the just depend rather on the grace of God than on their own wisdom; and in Him they always put their trust, whatever they take in hand. For man proposes, but God disposes; neither is the way of man in his own hands.⁠10

Who is really in charge?  Here is one of my favorite Scriptures. Can you see the relevance?

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You: because he trusts in You” [Isaiah 26:3].

1 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago… was caught up to the third heaven. He was caught up into paradise and heard things too sacred to be put into words, things that a person is not permitted to speak.
2 to reveal his Son in me so that I could preach him among the Gentiles, I did not go to ask advice from any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, but right away I departed to Arabia, and then returned to Damascus
3 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
4 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.
5 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
6 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
7 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
8 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
9 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
10 His celebrated ‘Of the Imitation of Christ’, is the second most widely read Christian text after the Bible itself.
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Redefining Society

Society is being altered at its roots and Christians should be concerned about this for a couple reasons.

Reason One: Moral

Society is defined by its moral code which is culturally reflected in what is acceptable and good [words I borrow from Romans 12:2]. We are watching this code being rewritten.

  1. Relationships have gone casual; sex is an acceptable activity among adults and no longer the cornerstone of a romantic intimacy between 2 becoming 1 [Ephesians 5:31]. As a result…
  2. More and more young adults are considering themselves binary. This is saying that relationships are no longer definable—anything goes in a spirit of experimentation. We are losing our identity as a society and culture because society is built on morally well-defined relationships! As a result…
  3. It is no surprise that we are being told that humans are not monogamous. This is a lie! This is only a rationale for justifying social change. Marriage is no longer understood to be a life commitment between a man and a woman.
  4. As a consequence of the changes 1-3 there are fewer children being born. The news adds, “social issues are at play” pointing to the cost of raising them, but depressions and wars never stopped us before. In fact post WW2 produced a generation of “boomers.” As a result…
  5. This should tell us something about the changing narrative. Connect the dots! The LGBTQ+ community in America amounts to a little over 7% of our society, yet society is being altered not to care about them [that we might understand. Christ died for all] but to elevate them to a place of social prominence. We are redefining society by their lifestyles!
  6. And now there is an effort to reform our children, too.

It all started with telling God to get lost [Romans 1:21] and it ends with a culture that no longer recognizes Truth. [Isaiah 5:20; Romans 1:32]. Christians should be concerned enough to counter this assault on the intelligence of our children and young adults. In parochial and church schools in the appropriate classes, these issues should be raised and the Biblical message supported!

Reason Two: Relational

Why be concerned? Paul in Ephesians 5:30-32 wrote that the monogamous relationship within the nuclear family was a type of our relationship with Christ. Underline this!

For we are members of His body. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Society is losing sight of this truth which is tampering with our theological understanding of our relationship with Christ. If we think this untrue, we are more than deceived, we are blinded by the false arguments and probably a bit lax in our Bible reading. We are the bride of Christ which speaks to a very special “oneness” being formed in us with our Lord. A life long love relation between a man and a woman was suppose to typify this eternal relationship.

Give this subject some thought … on your knees before God.

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The Epistle to the Romans

It is worth noting that the New Covenant in Christ which Paul details in his letter to the Church at Rome is far more than a theological treatise on the Cross. Every chapter addresses some aspect of the ongoing conflict with a secular culture and the forces of evil which a believer faces in their Christian experience and which the covenant faithfulness of God effectively deals with.

We must not read The Epistle to the Romans as a Jewish argument against grace because it is every form of religious legalism against grace. There is often a struggle within the young believer whose whole life has been consumed with religious duty. As Paul affirmed, ritual and ceremony cannot save us. We need to be rescued from the evil we have unleashed upon ourselves and our descendants.

Sadly, some have become comfortably familiar with the prison cell they have made of their lives. Even with the chains removed and the doors off the hinges of this prison of an old life—a freedom Paul trumpeted for all by faith in Christ—their religious commitments deny them the joyous freedom that should be theirs as believers. Legalism replaces following Christ because following in His steps seems too mysterious, even though it is the most practical and reasonable lifestyle for a believer.

Some young believers are not yet aware of the transformation the Gospel is making within them. And if they are suspicious of the change, it often seems to conflict with everything they once knew and called morally acceptable and culturally right. Confused and ignorant of the possibilities that are theirs in Christ, the message of the Cross has become merely a religious status symbol or a ticket to heaven and not—as it must become—a transformation of the heart and life.

Some find grace too forgiving or somehow unfair or as a favor that in some sense always must be earned or paid back—like a debt. To some, nothing here seems reasonable. But for these very persons Christ did die! How to start a legitimate conversation with them that the Spirit can guide to bring them to the Savior is Paul’s burden to the Romans. God’s sense of reasonableness is a bit different. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” [ Romans 8:32].

We also must not shy away from Paul’s description of sin and final judgment. It is terrifyingly unreal to the average person whose life is comfortably simple and ethical.  God’s wrath is a word deserving special attention. For Paul, this is part of the Gospel message and needs to be said. We would rather not, but this would then be a serious omission in the message of Mercy proclaimed from the Cross.

As you study Romans, when you read “The righteousness of God” read instead, “the covenant faithfulness of God.” It isn’t the same covenant God made with Abraham but it is the same covenant God who now covenants with us under the terms Jesus ratified at Calvary. We, as Abraham, go into covenant with God by faith. But when you read “faith” ask yourself if this should also mean our faithfulness, since “faith” and “faithfulness” are one and the same Biblical word.

May the Lord bless you as you spend time with Him in conversation while studying this inspired, and inspiring, Epistle.

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