Monthly Archives: November 2011

Honor to Whom Honor is Due

In less than a year Americans will head to the polls once again. At this point, it’s tough to know who is going to serve as our President from 2012-2016. I’m no political know-it-all but I can make one guarantee about the election. Regardless of who get’s elected, someone will be unhappy about it. That’s just the way politics work. There will never be a political leader that every single person accepts. As Christians, we often have good cause for being unhappy with those who become leaders. Too often the leaders of our country make decisions that stand opposed to what God has ordained. However, can we often let our feelings towards a political leader go too far?

Imagine being Paul the apostle during the first century. Talk about a corrupt government. The Jewish leaders opposed Christianity completely and persecuted anyone who called himself or herself a follower of Christ. Even the Romans would eventually turn against Christianity. If there were a time when Christians could be unhappy about the leadership in the government, the first century was it. You would almost think Paul would spend time in his letters bashing the government or mocking specific leaders who clearly stood opposed to God. That’s not what he did though. In Romans 13, Paul instead tells Christians to respect the authority of the government. He even goes on to specifically say, “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:7). Is Paul telling us that we should still honor our political leaders regardless of whether we support them? Some might argue that we only have to honor those leaders whom we feel are “due” that honor. However, is that for us to decide? We don’t get to decide whether those leaders are “due” our taxes or customs. Why should we be the ones who decide whether our leaders are due our honor?

Should we as Christians stand up for the truth? Yes. Should we seek to vote for individuals who are going to stand for what is right? Yes. Should we hold fast to God’s word regardless of who our leaders are? Absolutely! But does God give us the freedom to publicly or privately bash or slander those who have been put into positions of leadership? Not according to Romans 13.

As the political races heat up over the next year we need to be cautious. It is important that we stand up for certain issues, but when God establishes a person as a leader (Romans 13:1) we need to remember to give honor. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with them or stop fighting for the issues that are important. On the other hand, what we may think of as a simple joke or email may be dishonoring in a way that God does not approve of. We need to remember that men like Paul, Peter and even Jesus went toe-to-toe with some of the most crooked of political leaders. Never do we see any of them treat those leaders in a disrespectful way. If those men could honor their leaders during that time of great persecution, surely we can show honor to whom honor is due in our world today.

Give Thanks

Give thanks.

I wish these words were more common outside the month of November. Don’t get me wrong. I love getting together with family, enjoying good food and remembering what we’re thankful for each Thanksgiving Day. I’m also glad that the world, for at least one day each year, thinks about the things they have in their life that they can be thankful for. I just wish it were something that more individuals considered every day of the year. Being thankful is something that should be a part of a Christian’s life at all times.

As the world celebrates Thanksgiving next Thursday, the focus of most people will be on the physical things that they have. Some will be thankful for family and friends. Others may be thankful for the daily provisions that they have. There’s nothing wrong with that. We should always be thankful for the physical things that God has blessed us with. As Christians though, I wonder sometimes if we overlook the spiritual blessings we have to be thankful for. Our prayers usually express thanksgiving for food, our homes and jobs. How often do we forget to thank God for those spiritual things that matter so much more? I want to encourage us to be thankful, each day, for a few things we may often overlook.

Give thanks for Christ and His sacrifice.

There is nothing in this world we should be more thankful for. Without Christ and His willingness to die for our sins, none of the other blessings we receive would matter. Regardless, we often forget to express our thankfulness for Jesus Christ. If we do remember, it’s usually something we throw in at the end of our prayer just so that we can say, “and it’s in His name that we pray. Amen.” I wonder how often we sit down to pray with the sole intent of thanking God for His Son and the great sacrifice that He made. When we are baptized into Christ, we come in contact with His saving blood. If He had never died, we would still be lost in our sins. For that, we should give thanks.

Give thanks for the church.

Too often Christians forget about the great blessing that the Lord’s church is for us. There are many Christians in certain parts of the world who would love nothing more than to be able to spend time with others from God’s family. Those of us who do have this opportunity often overlook this great blessing because we have become so accustomed to it. Ecclesiastes 4:7-12 reminds us how important a support system can be. We should be thankful for the fact that we have others with a common goal who can lend support and encouragement whenever we need it. Paul expressed his thankfulness for almost every church that he wrote to and spent time with. We can show our thankfulness for the church not only through our prayers but also by taking advantage of the opportunities we are given to fellowship and worship with the other saints (yes, that means not just Sunday morning).

Give thanks for opportunities to share God’s word.

Seen more as a chore than a blessing, the opportunity to evangelize to the world should be something we are thankful for. We have in our possession the greatest story that has ever been told: the Gospel. Sadly, evangelism has been painted by some as a job and not a blessing. It is becoming more and more rare that you would find a Christian who claims to really enjoy evangelizing. It’s something we should enjoy though. God can use us as a tool to bring others to Christ when we allow Him to. When you look at Paul and the other apostles, they saw preaching God’s Word as a great blessing that they were unworthy of. We should strive to do the same. Every time an opportunity arises to share God’s Word with someone, we should give thanks (and then take advantage of that opportunity).

This next week as you gather with family, remember not only the physical blessings that you’ve received but all that God is doing in your spiritual life as well. Then, take these things into your everyday prayer life. God surely has blessed us with so much.

Give thanks.

Playing Dress Up

Almost two weeks ago I handed out candy to dozens of children in costumes. I saw firemen, bunnies, penguins and even a zombie or two. My nephew may have been convinced otherwise but I recognized that these weren’t real penguins and bunnies coming to my door. They were kids. Kids wearing masks and costumes. They may have looked like a fireman (and may have even acted like one) but I knew what they really were. They were just kids (and sadly a couple of teenagers who seemed to be having a difficult time letting go of their childhood).

If you spend very much time talking to a non-Christian about your faith, don’t be surprised if you hear them make the broad claim that, “Christians are hypocrites.” They state that they know many people who claim to be Christians but really live their life no different than the world. While I don’t believe that all Christians are hypocrites I do know that hypocrisy in the church is a massive problem. It’s something I have even struggled with on my own in the past. Some Christians, just like those children who came trick-or-treating at my door, may look like Christians and may even act like Christians on occasion. On the inside though, they are just like the world. It’s a problem that the Bible tells us we need to address.

Look at the way that Jesus dealt with the Pharisees. These men were the religious hot shots of the day. They spent time in the synagogues and around the temple. They knew the Law and the Prophets inside and out. These guys would have won the Bible Bowl every year if they competed. They gave large sums of money to the temple. They could be seen in public praying and worshipping. From the outside, the Pharisees were as religious as you could be. Jesus, being the Son of God, was able to see through these things though. In Matthew 23:27-28 He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full or hypocrisy and lawlessness” (NASB). It didn’t matter to Jesus that the Pharisees were trying to appear religious. He was concerned with their hearts! The Pharisees may have been able to fool the people but Jesus saw right through them. God never calls us to “look” religious. He calls for us to surrender our lives to Him.

We may not be able to change the way the whole world views Christianity but we can start with our own heart. Each Christian must examine their own life and determine whether they are living their life as a Christian or whether they are merely playing “dress up.” The fact is, Christianity is not a mask that we can put on and take off when it’s convenient for us. Too often we put on our Christian costume in public and take it off when we come home at night. In fact, we may only put it on when we go to church on Sunday and hang it back up during the rest of the week. That’s simply not the way it works. Our faith is not something we can put on and take off. Our appearance should not be an attempt to hide what is inside but it should be a reflection of what is in our heart.

The question we must each ask is, are we living as Christians? Or are we living like the Pharisees, only doing what it takes to appear religious? Only you can answer that question for yourself. Do we go to church on Sunday and to filthy movies on Saturday night because the world tells us it’s funny? Can we name all 66 books from the Bible but can’t name the last time we spoke to someone about Jesus? Do we have perfect attendance at Wednesday night Bible class but are no longer striving to live a perfect life? True Christianity is not a costume. It is a complete and total dedication to Christ in EVERY aspect of our life. Hypocrisy is a large problem in the church today but it is a problem we can fix. The solution starts with the individual. It’s time we take off the Christian costume and allow ourselves to “be transformed” from the inside out (Romans 12:1-2).

Calling a child a bunny doesn’t make them any less of a child. Calling yourself a Christian changes nothing unless you change who you are on the inside.

What needs to change in your life?