Should we support Government?

Hi folks

Romans chapter 13 verses 1-7 says “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. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.  Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.  Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs! to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour.”

The subject of government in the Bible is indeed extensive. As we begin, notice that Paul writes that “there is no authority except from God” (verse 1). Though this statement appears in relation to civil authority, God’s oversight is broad and deep. Even Satan’s authority, as god and ruler of this world is assigned by God. Jesus tells Pilate, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” Those in the church with a position of authority also receive it from God . These are important statements on God’s overall sovereignty.

In verse 2, Paul mentions “the ordinance of God.” God’s ordinance states His will, and He clearly establishes civil government. Therefore, we are responsible for obeying civil authority also, for in doing so we are obeying God. These verses do not imply that we must always obey civil government. Other verses show that we must obey it as long as the civil authority does not contradict God’s laws. In verses 3-4, Paul comes close to stating that the civil authority somewhat parallels the Old Testament “avenger of blood.”

In verses 5-7, God extends our responsibilities to submit to government as a means to keep our consciences clear, as well as to pay taxes, not only so the state can afford to employ these civil servants of God, but also to submit to community customs regarding them and even to give them honour.

These seven verses show three general reasons why humans must be governed. First, law-abiding citizens must be protected. Paul’s life was saved when Roman soldiers stepped in to save him from the murderous intent of angry Jews. Second, evildoers must be restrained. Third, the general welfare is promoted by helping to establish peace. In the first book to Timothy chapter 2, Paul commands us to pray that this function is carried out.

So for our protection during a pandemic, for society to be kept safe from those who would do bad things and for us to be able to live in peace as Christians in a multi cultural society while all others can also live in peace, lets pray.

Have a good week

Mark

What is my focus?

Hi folks

Galatians chapter 5 and verse 22 says this :But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.”

This verse and the teaching on this subject were in my view beautifully put by one of our church leaders recently and got me thinking more about my own walk as a Christian at work.

It is not difficult to trace the source of biblical patience in God’s children. 1 Corinthians 13 v 4 states, “Love suffers long and is kind.” Patience is directly associated with love and hope. In the “love chapter,” Paul lists patience first among love’s works . Paul continues when he writes to the Christians in Rome as he adds  that “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”

This makes it evident that God’s patience stands behind His children’s patience as its source and pattern and as a link in a chain. Because the Bible lists it with the fruit of the Spirit ( notice it is not “fruits” with an s but is only one fruit even though it has 7 flavors) it is less a virtue achieved than a gift received. It comes with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we reproduce it.

However, since we are beings of free choice, we are still obligated to God to activate it, exercise it, and use it as a witness that God lives in us. To this end, Paul writes,

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, , kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

“Put on” is literally a dressing term. Used as an idiom, it can also mean to assume the office, manner, character, disposition, or perspective of another. We must “put on” Christ, meaning we must conduct our lives as closely to the way He would were He in our position. Chase Christ, not the fruit. He will develop the fruit in us. We are to practice His way of life because it is eternal life—the way God lives His life. Jesus Christ demonstrated this for us. It will help prepare us for His Kingdom, and it enables us to glorify Him here and now.

Patience is a vital part of the process that enables God to work over a long span of time, if needed, to produce in us other important aspects of His image so that we “may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” God is the Source and His Spirit the means of this very valuable fruit.

So, thank you to Rob for his teaching on this and I trust these few developing thoughts I have from Scripture help my readers too.

At work we are in the spotlight. Focusing on Jesus is the answer to our witness so folk around us see, benefit from and sense the fruit. Not least patience.

Mark

How to Pray

Amos is a little read book in the Old Testament but in chapter 7 verses 1-6 we get some great insight. We read this: “Thus the Lord GOD showed me: Behold, He formed locust swarms at the beginning of the late crop; indeed it was the late crop after the king”s mowings.  And so it was, when they had finished eating the grass of the land, that I said: “O Lord GOD, forgive, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, For he is small!”  So the LORD relented concerning this. “It shall not be,” said the LORD. Thus the Lord GOD showed me: Behold, the Lord GOD called for conflict by fire, and it consumed the great deep and devoured the territory.  Then I said: O Lord GOD, cease, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, For he is small!” So the LORD relented concerning this. “This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.”

Given insight into what God would soon do, Amos was distressed over whether Israel could survive. God relented both times, probably as a result of Amos’ prayer. But because of His earlier pronouncements and the people’s lack of repentence, there is a sense that God would not postpone Israel’s punishment much longer.

The first vision of Amos 7 may be a natural calamity of locusts rising out of the earth and destroying the crops and the grasslands “after the king’s mowings,” a practice akin to our income tax. Without the late crop, the first cutting for the king would be sparse, and without produce for their personal needs, the people would starve. God decided that Israel would be protected from natural calamity in the main, but a few people may suffer very badly and may even die.

The second vision, a divine fire, could literally be fire on the earth.! “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God”. Fire, in biblical symbolism, is a purging and purifying punishment against sin. To save and turn the people back to morality and obedience, God decrees a purifying fire to come upon Israel, probably in the form of a divinely inspired war. Again, God relents, giving the nation another chance to repent.

This exchange between Amos and God illustrates a wonderful method He uses to teach us what we need. God sometimes leads us into situations that force us to decide what we really need. We ask Him for it, and then He gives it to us. We think He answered our prayer—and He did—but He also led us to pray the prayer (see Romans chapter 8 and verse 26)! He guides these situations so that we come to think like Him! When He wants to produce character in us, He will work in whatever way is necessary to build it.

We can learn much from this technique. In our earnest prayers, we cry out to Him, believing we truly need what we have requested. We should also pray to understand how God is working, moulding, shaping, and leading us to grow and overcome. When we finally see things from His perspective and pray that prayer, He will respond. How we need this kind of thinking now!

Have a great week

Mark

Stay Awake

Good morning

As businesses across the world try to plan the future I am reading more and more comments from folk who believe they have a crystal ball …. “This will happen” That will happen” and even from Church circles “Jesus will return now because of this pandemic”.

Our only true source of reference about the future must be Scripture.

1 Thessalonians chapter 5 and verses 1-4 say this “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labour pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. “
 

Thieves send no warning messages ahead of them that they are coming, so break-ins are usually sudden and shocking events. We are assured that Christ’s return will be equally surprising to most on the earth. The Bible’s indications are that He will come when a majority of people least expect Him: when newscasts assure us of “Peace at last!” and the whole world is busy with the affairs of this life (See Matthew chapter 24). Then, everything will fall to pieces with a bang!

Yet, Christians should not be taken by surprise. We are supposed to be aware of the signs of the times, evaluating the course of events, and growing in the grace and knowledge of God, so that, no matter when He comes, we are prepared to meet Christ in the air. Because we are not in darkness, our eyes should be fixed on what is truly important during these troubled times: God’s Kingdom and His righteousness.

Like his Master, the Apostle Paul who wrote the words of our text tells us to watch, and he adds, “Be sober” (verse 6). A sober person’s mind is unadulterated by anything that would cause poor judgment, as a drunk’s ability to make proper decisions is affected by the booze in his system. One who is sober is serious, thoughtful, cautious, calm, and not given to excesses of any kind. He/she weighs matters carefully and chooses the wisest course of action.

This should be our stance now, despite what people claim about the timing of Christ’s return. The promise of His coming has not been delayed, and things are not as they always were. God’s plan marches on; He is manoeuvring events, circumstances, and individuals into place. We have been given front-row seats to witness the most astounding series of prophetic fulfilments in human history, and to keep our seats, we must watch, be sober, and prepare for the return of Jesus Christ when ever that might be.

Have a great week

Mark

Which payment to use?

Hi there and welcome to the end of a working week for most of us. Romans chapter 6 verse 23 says this: “ For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It is a verse that came to mind today at work as I was considering some contract work actually. The human race and everyone in that race has a contract to answer and be accountable to.

One of the most basic truths in God’s program involves the fact that the wages of sin is death . The death we are intended to understand here is what happens after we die in the normal sense. If we accept that there is a heaven and a hell as the Bible describes then there is a second and very terrible death coming our way too.

There are only two ways to satisfy this basic truth and be accountable to the eternal contract God spells out: First, all humans must be paid that wage of death because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God . Second, as an alternative, another, an innocent One on whom death has no claim because He never sinned, must pay that wage in our stead, substituting His death for ours. These are the only two ways of satisfying that contract because sin = death. Tough words but words many millions are blindly going through life ignoring or are oblivious too and are rushing helter-skelter into the result!

We find both aspects applied to practical Christian life in the book of Romans. Paul writes in Romans 5 verse 8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It is essential that we thoroughly understand that Christ died, not merely as a benefit, but for us, that is, in our place. His death substitutes for our well-deserved death, which we earned through sin. Earlier, the apostle had written in Romans chapter 4 and verses 1-5

What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness! .” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.

When confronted by such scriptures that cannot be broken, our only possible conclusion is that the sin-debt that each person owes to God absolutely cannot be worked off by being good. No matter HOW good that might be.

It is so huge and serious that an already sin-defiled person cannot pay it off. Once a person sins, his debt is absolutely irredeemable by anyone or any action except through death. Either each individual pays for himself ( horrific) , or Christ pays in his place ( wonderful). These are the only acceptable payments. I was wondering which one everyone I know has as payment ready to be made because rest assured, if you are not ready to meet God, He is ready to meet you and the only way to have the debt si sorted is to ask for the solution… it is not an automatic right.

Thanks for reading

Mark

Don’t ignore the obvious

 Morning folks

2 Timothy chapter 3 verses 1-5 tell us this “ But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away”

The apostle Paul writes that “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived”. People today are no different from when Moses wrote the words he did ( named as the Pentateuch) or the Apostle Paul his letters to the early churches ( called the epistles), but the  incentive to sin and thus sin’s frequency and intensity are we would all agree at their highest levels since just before the Flood. In other words, the environment to commit sin more easily grows ever more amenable, and human nature is taking advantage of it. We have been born into—indeed have unwittingly contributed to creating—an environment in which it is exceedingly difficult to remain faithful as a Christian at work or indeed at play!

My thought for today may be a little punchy but I trust it will help us stop and think about ourselves….

We live in a world in which self-centeredness is being promoted to its greatest extent in human history. Appealing advertising hammers away at us to gratify ourselves: Why wait, why deny ourselves, why sacrifice, why not go along with everyone else? Constantly we hear, “Indulge yourself because you deserve it.”

This world always appeals to moral and ethical standards lower than those of the great God and His way of life. In technicolour with emotion-stirring music, Hollywood “sells” adultery for example, as acceptable as long as the couple involved are attractive and somehow oppressed—thus “deserving” of a “better” relationship.

War, murder, lying, stealing, coveting and idolatry are acts that almost everyone in the world would claim as being wrong, yet most unwittingly commit them to some degree and promote them in our culture. They justify their sin because everybody else is doing it, and they see no good reason why they should not just go along. If they try to swim against the tide, they think they will be taken advantage of.

Not too long ago, a person’s word was their bond, and mere handshakes sealed major business agreements. Tales of Abraham Lincoln’s honesty over pennies are an almost legendary part of Americas history. Historians say that faithfulness was such a hallmark of the Roman Republic that not one divorce occurred in its first seven hundred years! But in the last fifty years our nation has seen a calamitous, family-destroying rise in the divorce rate that threatens the very stability of society. Mr Churchill said that the truth was so precious it is often protected by an impenetrable circle of lies.

Faithlessness is playing a major role in this destruction. People are without natural affection . Child abuse is becoming ever more prevalent. Athletes seem to break contracts almost at will. Manufacturers lie about the quality of their products, and workers fudge in the quality of their work.

Faithlessness is rising to its peak because self-centeredness, the father of irresponsibility, is being promoted to its utmost. It is the spirit of this age, but we have cause to resist it by what God has offered us in His revelation. God-centeredness in our lives is the answer to faithlessness and irresponsibility. But God-centeredness is not cheap, and few are willing to pay the price: their lives!

Take care

Mark

Live in confidence

Hi folks

Hebrews , a book in the Bible, chapter 11 and verse 3 says this: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”

We have generally understood this verse to mean that the material creation, which we can clearly see, was produced from invisible spirit, the Bibles referencing to Atoms even back then before science even knew about such things!!.

It is certainly a possible meaning, because typical of Scripture, there are multiple deep meaning so often, and so with this it is a meaning but it is probably not its primary one.

The word “worlds” is translated from the Greek aion, meaning “age,” in the sense of a period of time or a dispensation. It derives from a root that means “continued,” and it is used as “world” only when “world” gives a better sense of a period of time, not the physical creation. It could be used if one said “the world that then was” or “the world to come.”

“Framed” also appears in Hebrews chapter 10 and verse 5 where it is more clearly and accurately translated “prepared.” It means “to complete thoroughly,” “to rule” (even “overrule”), or “to order” (by God in this case). “Word” is not logos but rhema, meaning “revealed words.” Finally, “made” is ginomai, which means “to generate,” “to cause to be,” “to happen,” or “to come to pass.” It is not the word normally used to indicate God is creating.

Using these definitions, we could translate the verse as, “By faith we perceive by the revealed words of God that the ages were prepared, so that the things we see come to pass not from things that appear.” Those of us who walk by faith as one born again by Gods Spirit as a Christian know that a great Unseen Hand guides, indeed overrules, events on this earth. This verse means that the historical events we read of in God’s Word were not chance occurrences, but God was working behind the scenes to bring His purpose to the conclusion He has foreordained. In other words, it says, “God controls the march of history.” The great men and women listed in Hebrews 11 lived their lives firmly knowing this truth. That is why they could live in faith and this is why we can too.

Every blessing

Mark

Patience

Morning folks

James chapter 1 Verses 2-3 tells us this: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

We are counselled here by James, who was Jesus’ brother. Hardly anyone knew Jesus as James did—he grew up with Him. He was able to watch Him over the course of His entire life, and so he knew the mind of Christ exceedingly well. James says that we are to consider trials as a reason for great joy because trials are capable of producing good results. However, we must understand that trials do not automatically produce good results. They can easily make one bitter rather than better. Whether one comes out better for the experience depends upon how faith, hope and love are used. How the trial is used is the issue, and whether faith, hope, and love produce a higher level of spiritual maturity. What determines whether they make us better rather than bitter is how we use them.

James describes a person surrounded by trials of many kinds. We live in exactly that kind of period right now and we are taught by Jesus that we will need endurance during this time. We are assaulted by many kinds of trials, and they will increase. James is concerned about whether they will produce perseverance in us.

Hope is not directly mentioned here, but James does mention patience and this is linked to endurance. There is no active endurance unless one actually desires to accomplish something, and he has the hope of good to come from what he is enduring.

Take care all and stay strong in Him.

Mark

Who to trust

Good afternoon folks

Matthew 7 verses 15 to 20 say this in the Bible “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. “

The description here is very apt—wolves in sheep’s clothing. They appear on the outside to be something they are not. When Jesus uttered this, He was probably thinking of false ministers who would sneak themselves into the church by appearing to be sheep within the sheepfold as it were.

Jesus uses this terminology in regard to His relationship with the church. He was the Shepherd, and we are His sheep. Here we have wolves (false ministers) who look like sheep, but it is hypocrisy. They only look that way on the outside. He tells us we will know them by their fruits. The fruit that is produced will not necessarily appear quickly. But Jesus Christ guarantees that over a period of time the church will be stripped of its true spiritual vitality in terms of the character that will be produced within the flock, making the rise of wolves in sheep’s clothing more likely.

What is He saying? The implication is that Jesus is connecting belief with practice. If we believe a certain set of doctrines or ideas, we will practice something because of the teaching. A religious creed or the dogma that a group is following will produce a certain kind of conduct by the people. Belief and practice, creed and conduct—Jesus is saying they are vitality connected. In other words, the teacher cannot hide what he is going to produce. Eventually it will come out. Their false philosophies, no matter how attractive they may appear at first sight, will in the long run be exposed for what they really are.

As we emerge from COVID-19 I see a growing number of advertisements encouraging a person to “follow me into prosperity and happiness”. My council from Scripture is to be ware and remember the only real safe place to put ones trust is in Jesus Christ as found in the Bible.

Have a lovely weekend

Mark

Do you know who I am?

Hi

I am part of our Inclusion Council where I work which is designed to ensure we focus on all folk being included and equal such as the recent international BLM initiative is trying to achieve.

One of our council members was explaining the challenges of being black in that a black person cannot hide their colour as a religious person could hide their faith to avoid persecution.

This struck a chord with me.

Ephesians chapter 5 verses 14-17 says this “Therefore He says: ” Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

My thought is that very quickly folk should know I am a Christian by how I live and how I speak. It must be as obvious as someone with a different colour skin to mine .

So, notice the encouraging reason Paul gives to wake up and carefully mind how we live: “Christ will give you light.” This is an outright promise that He will give us the help to do what we must do. Backed by this promise, we are to redeem the time “because the days are evil.” If his days were evil, what would Paul think of ours?

This passage reveals how the early church regarded time as it applies to a Christian. For us, all days – every period in which God’s people have had to live their lives by their God-given understanding, thus by faith – are evil. God’s truth has always run counter to the course of this world. Thus, the truth adds a peculiar, stressful difficulty to life regardless of when it is lived. On top of this, since each called-out individual ( a Christian in the true Biblical sense) has only one opportunity to lay hold on eternal life, and must overcome, grow, and prove his/her loyalty to God during that time, he/she must make use of every experience.

Conclusion, I am to live differently as, with the power of Christ in my life, I kick against the evil days in which I live and THAT will NOT go unnoticed!

Have a lovely day

Mark