The Christian Conscience and Mandates

We are living in a time when the government mandates many things – from health insurance to certain shots. And while many may take the stance that Romans 13 addresses how the Christian should respond to such mandates, I believe that is a blanket statement in which the blanket has far too many holes in it to keep anyone warm.

Now, to be clear, most of the people I personally know that have been faced with the more recent mandate, have actually gotten around it by applying for an exemption. Some of the exemptions have been medical and some have been religious. And it seems that there is a controversy as to whether religious exemptions are biblical.

Those in charge in many places were expecting people to apply for religious exemptions, specifically tied to the fetal cell argument, so they sought to obscure the truth, (see link here). My thoughts today are not to talk down that line of thinking for applying for a religious exemption because of the deeply held belief that abortion is wrong, but to also offer another train of thought in regards to exemptions – namely the idea of a Christian conscience.

Many have seemingly forgotten one of Christianity’s deeply held ideas, that every Christian has a conscience and to go against one’s conscience is sinful. On October 31st, the church across the world celebrates Reformation Day, which is the anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Chapel.

As history taught us, the ruling powers in the church at the time did not take kindly to what Luther thought, so they started persecuting him and asking him to take back what he had said against the pope and the church. It is in that context that he is reportedly to have said: “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”

Christians today could learn a lot about the sheer boldness and fortitude possessed by Luther, because the conscience is an important part of how we are to live out our lives as believers. Deep within our souls we know right from wrong and God expects us to do what is right.

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17

James does not hold back here, it’s sinful to go against your conscience. The Bible doesn’t address every area of sin. It doesn’t mention how much time we should spend on Facebook or in what ways we should use computers, but it does say that the law of God has been written on the hearts of men. And James draws from that, the idea that we know the difference from right and wrong and we must do what is right. Where the Bible is silent, in other words, we must follow what God has put into our hearts.

Now we know according to Jeremiah 17:9 that the heart is exceedingly deceitful, so how does this play into our conscience? Well the Bible answers that in the New Testament. Hebrews 9:14 says, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Put simply, because of Jesus and his atoning work on the cross, our conscience is being purified. Now this doesn’t mean it’s perfect and we should certainly pray over our responses in critical situations, but as James said, we can’t go against our conscience as that would be sinful.

Now I’ve said all of that to say this, when it comes to government mandates, the Christian must search his conscience and do what is right to him, for to do anything other would be sinful. The Bible is clear that government has its place and it is to be God’s servant for your good (Romans 13:4). It should be honored and respected. But the Government is not God and when the government tells you to do something that goes against God or your conscience, then you have a duty to do what is right before God.

This line of thought was summed up perfectly in the early church when Peter and the apostles were brought before the local authorities and were instructed to stop preaching the gospel. Now they could have obeyed the principle in Romans 13, but instead, they understood the principle in James 4:17 and chose to stand up for what they believed and said, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

So I’d like to encourage you in a couple of areas today. First, if you are facing a mandate and it goes against your conscience, stand strong. Secondly, if you are having discussions with friends and family on this subject, and their conscience is telling them something different than what yours has told you, please love and respect them. We are free to disagree with one another, but we are not free to hate on one another. Christians should be known for their grace, not their vitriol, even in times like these.

WHICH GOD DO YOU SERVE?

This is a story almost as old as time. As a people, we were created to worship. Now some, possibly those who are atheist, would say that we are not created to worship and that they are choosing not to worship any god. They would however be wrong.

When we think of worship, a lot of times we think of it as kneeling down before our chosen deity. Yet, worship is more than that. It’s really about what do we give reverence to or to put it another way what do we make the highest authority in our life.

Whatever is our highest authority or whatever we give the most reverence to is what we are worshipping. We may never sing songs to it and we may never physically kneel before it, but make no mistake, we are worshipping it.

At any given times, multiple things or people are vying for our worship. One of these easiest gods to point out is the god of money. Jesus never says that money is evil, it’s fairly neutral, but it’s the “love” of money that is evil. Or to look at it another way, it’s the worshipping of money that is evil. That’s why Jesus also says that you cannot serve two masters – god and money.

That’s a principle worth noting – you cannot worship two gods. You might think you are worshipping God and money or God and popularity, but in truth one will always take the place of the other, meaning you will always hold one in higher esteem and if you are holding one in higher esteem, then the other isn’t really being worshipped. Jesus is essentially saying that if you are choosing between God and anything else, then God is the one who will lose out. You must determine that He alone is God and that nothing else is worthy of your worship.

One of the seemingly shared characteristics of all gods is their ability to save us from hell. I heard a preacher say years ago, that if being poor is hell for us, then of course money will save us. If being being single is hell, then of course a spouse will save us. If being rejected is hell, then you will worship popularity. We worship the god that we think will save us.

This brings us to our current state of affairs. Sometimes you will see that certain entities will create a “hell” so that it can also save you from it. Today governments all across the world are creating a “hell” for people so that it can offer salvation. This hell is the inability to enter restaurants, stores or even work at certain jobs without having the proper “medical credentials”. The government now has the ability to save you from this hell by offering you salvation in the form of a shot and the proper paperwork. The reason for this is simple, the government is demanding your worship.

Some will say that Romans 13 is an open checkbook for us to obey any and all demands of the government, but they fail to take into account several instances in the Bible where people didn’t obey the ludicrous claims of the governing authority, especially when those demands went against their faith. The Apostles never stopped preaching the gospel, even though they were commanded to under the threat of death.

“But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”

Acts 5:29

Look at the stories of the midwives in Exodus 1 or Rahab in the Book of Joshua. Look at the life of Daniel and the three Hebrew boys. There are many examples of defying tyrants in the Bible. In fact, some would say that it’s one of the hallmarks of being a God-fearing person. You fear God more than you fear the government.

“Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God”

John Knox – Scottish Reformer

Again, we worship whatever we hold in the highest regard. If it’s God, we will certainly attempt to live quiet lives, seeking to love others and to love God. But don’t expect the government or money or whatever not to fight for your worship. I believe every Christian will have to face the question, which god do you serve? You can only choose one. Which one do you serve today?

Pregnant With The Wind

In this episode we are discussing what it looks like to be pregnant with the wind, or to put it in other words, to labor for something that never comes to pass. Have you ever worked hard only to find yourself in a fruitless situation several years down the road? Have you ever had a dream that never came true or didn’t amount to what you thought it would. We hit on all those things and more in this episode.

Pregnant With The Wind Everyday Jesus

In this episode we are discussing what it looks like to be pregnant with the wind, or to put it in other words, to labor for something that never comes to pass.    http://www.everydayjesus.net http://www.facebook.com/everydayjesuspodcast http://www.instagram.com/everydayjesuspodcast  

(For those getting emails, you will need to click through to the website in order to see the podcast player or head to spotify, itunes, etc. and search for Everyday Jesus)

Leadership 101: Leaders Are Tested

One of the things I’ve said before is that all of us are leaders. Some are leaders in the family, others leaders in their employment. Even if you don’t have a “title” or “position”, you can still be a leader.

Leaders are those that take initiative and keep going when everyone else stops. Godly leaders know that it’s not good enough to simply know the truth, you have to put the truth into action. You have to be a doer of the word, not just a hearer only, as James writes.

What I have found in my life is that when I put a biblical truth into action, I am tested. It seems like it’s almost immediately in most instances. I grab a hold of a new truth that God has given me and suddenly, there I am in the furnace of testing. God wants us content with his truth, but not complacent with it.

So we are tested.

When we enter into a time of testing, most of us think that we have done something wrong. For myself, I immediately start taking inventory of my life. “Where have I sinned?” But God doesn’t need us to sin to test us. He tests us for our own good. He already knows how we will respond when the furnace is turned on; it’s for our good that he flips the switch on us.

I am reminded of God’s servant Job. Job had it all, but it was all taken from him. You want to talk about being tested? Job was tested. His family, his friends, all that he owned…Job was being tested in every area of life. Most of us would not survive a testing like Job went through. But Job went through it, so we could learn from it.

“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth like gold.”

Job 23:10

Job understood testing better than anyone and I love his bold statement here… “I shall come forth like gold.” Job understood the purpose of testing. He understood that God wants to refine us in the testing. He wants to get the impurities out. These impurities are thoughts and actions that only bubble to the surface in the refiner’s fire, in the testing. Job understood this.

Where are you today? Are you being tested? Do you feel like God has abandoned you? Take heart. God has not abandoned you, even if you feel like it. Job knows how you feel. In the midst of the trial it can feel like you are alone, but you are not alone. God is with you.

This is the life of all of His leaders. If you desire to lead others, you will be tested. You will have times where things don’t go the way you want them to, but it’s only a test.

I recently came out of a time of testing and I wasn’t sure I would make it through it. My emotions were all over the map, one minute I could sense a victory over the situation and a few minutes later, I felt nothing but defeat. When you are in the fire, you cannot trust your feelings. Lean into His word. God assures us that He doesn’t leave us. Hold on to His promises. True leadership is forged in fires like these.

The best analogy that I can come up with is that of an airplane flying into a storm. When the pilot flies into the storm, he can’t trust his gut. He can’t trust his feelings. He has to trust his instruments. Those are his guides. He can’t see where he is going. The storm is all around him. It’s easy to get turned upside down if you don’t follow your guides. The instrument cluster on the plane tells you where you are going and how far off the ground you are. As the pilot you have to trust those gauges. As a godly leader, your instrument panel is the Word of God. When the storm rages, check your instrument cluster and make sure you stay the course. God gave us these tools. Use them!

Podcast: Living as Sons Part 2

You Are Called Everyday Jesus

In this episode we look at whether everyone has a distinct calling and purpose with God or if that's just something for pastors.  http://www.everydayjesus.net http://www.facebook.com/everydayjesuspodcast Music from http://www.hooksounds.com  
  1. You Are Called
  2. Pregnant With The Wind
  3. Having a Revival Mindset
  4. Seek And You Will Find…
  5. Three Ways To Halt Spiritual Growth

How Do I Become Friends With God?

“What a friend I have in Jesus,” starts the old song, but did you know that God isn’t friends with everyone? It’s true. God reserves his friendship for a certain group of people and this thought was something I had never considered. I have always thought that God was simply a friend to all.

We know that God was friends with Moses. In Exodus 33, it says that Moses built a tent of meeting outside of the camp in order to spend time with God. Moses and his servant Joshua would go out to this tent and it says in Exodus 33:11 that Moses met with God “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”

One obvious conclusion here is that God is a friend to those who want to meet with Him. He is a friend to those that will remove all distractions and spend time with Him. Moses was that kind of guy. He knew the importance of spending time with God. But I think there is more to friendship with God than just that.

Jesus tells us of those that aren’t his friends in Matthew 7 at the tail end of the Sermon on the Mount, even though they know all of the religious lingo and they do good works.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to the, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Matthew 7:21-23

Jesus says that just because you may say the right things and do some good works, does not mean that He knows you. What a sobering statement. Many who go to church may fall into this category — they know how to walk the way and they know how to talk the talk, but they don’t know Him. What a scary thought!

The key to knowing Him is found in the first sentence, “not everyone…will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father…” Jesus here is saying that if you want to be known by Him, if you want to be a friend of God, then you must do His will. We must seek to accomplish His desires. In one sense friendship is all about what you can do for others, not what they can do for you. And friendship with God is very much like this. Jesus is saying our friendship with God is dependent upon us doing the will of the Father. And doing for Him requires a relationship with Him.

One of the problems we have is that we have watered down that word “relationship” so much, that it’s almost void of any meaning at this point. “It’s not about religion, it’s about relationship,” we hear people saying. But this isn’t just about a self-identifying verbal acknowledgement from us, it’s deeper than that. Paying God some lip service or simply “showing up” on Sunday mornings doesn’t constitute a true relationship.

So how do we become friends with God? The Bible gives us the answer.

“The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.”

Psalm 25:14

The fear of the Lord truly is the beginning of wisdom and it’s also the beginning of friendship with Him. If we truly see Him for who He is and we honor and respect Him, guess what? We are His friends! God reserves His friendship for those who revere Him!

Just as Moses feared the Lord, we too should fear the Lord. Just as Abraham feared and honored the Lord, we should do the same. When we become friends with the Lord, he allows us to enter into a place of special knowledge. He makes known to his friends, his covenant. In other words he enters into a special relationship with His friends. Do you want that today? Then the answer is to fear Him.

Leadership 101: Holding On To The Prophetic Word Given To You

I believe life to be a struggle. And I think its that way because that is the way God designed it. He wants us to struggle so as to encourage us to put our trust in Him. When things go smoothly, its much more difficult to admit your need for Him. But when things are falling apart, you are forced into His arms confessing your need for Him.

In leadership, there are points in your journey that God purposely puts there to reawaken the leader to his need for God. Sometimes a leader can become so reliant on their giftings that they will rely more on themselves than they do on God.

Godly leadership must always come from a heart of knowing that we are utterly dependent on God to accomplish his calling in our lives. When we take the calling that He has given to us and try to accomplish it in our own strength it will always fail.

Think about the story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. Abraham was given a prophetic promise from God – a calling. God had given Abraham and Sarah the promise of a son and truly more than that, a promise of offspring that would be innumerable.

But after years of believing for that promise, they began to doubt. It was not a lot of doubt, but they began to doubt. And when doubt creeps in, one of the tendencies in leadership is to try to “help God out” and in our strength try to bring about the promises of God rather than waiting for God to fulfill what He has promised us.

Continue reading “Leadership 101: Holding On To The Prophetic Word Given To You”

Leadership 101: Leaders are Doers

So you want to be a leader? Sounds like fun, right? Well for many people, leadership is something that they aspire to be a part of, but never quite make it. They spend their lives studying and wishing that one day someone would put them into a position of leadership. They really want to show the world what they’ve got.

The problem is a lot of people never get past that point. They get bogged down in the day to day schedule and never actually get that opportunity. And what they fail to realize is, leadership has very little to do with your title, but it has more to do with your character. You can be a leader without ever actually owning a leadership title.

Leaders are not born, they are grown. I’ve heard people speak of another person and say something like, “That guy is a born leader.” And while they may have some wonderful talents, leadership isn’t something you are born to do. It’s who you are. It’s your inner character. It’s something you work at. Leadership is not something that you are appointed to. Now, don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of people appointed to a position of leadership and later it was discovered that their character wasn’t up to snuff. But, in honesty, they were appointed because they had some giftings, they didn’t earn that title.

Too many people within the church are more concerned about elevating giftings and not character, which is why we see so many leaders falling into sin. They may be extremely gifted speakers, but their character has been completely ignored. God is more concerned with your character.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Matt 7:24-27

Jesus gives us a great comparison on wise and foolish leaders. Wise leaders will build upon the rock, foolish ones will build upon the sand. We know that storms will come. That’s a given. The question is whose house will be standing once the storm hits? Well we all know the answer, the one who built his house upon the rock. If you have been to church for any length of time, you know the rock is Jesus. But here’s what people miss about this story, the very first sentence…”therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man…”

The context of this verse is that it’s located at the very end of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has spent an entire sermon talking about character. He has spoken of being meek, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, loving your enemies, giving, etc. This verse ties all of that together. If you want to be a wise builder, you won’t just hear the words that Jesus has spoken, but you will do them.

James, the brother of Jesus, encourages us to not just be hearers of the word, but to be doers (James 1:22). If we only hear the words of Jesus and never put them into practice, then we are being a foolish leader. Too many leaders are busy doing stuff, but they aren’t busy working on character. Get rid of your pride and spend time before the Lord asking Him to transform you into a merciful leader. Ask Him to make you into a peacemaker. Stop spending some much time working on your gifting and spend more time working on your character. That’s what true leadership is all about.

What Does It Mean to Work Out Your Salvation With Fear and Trembling?

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13

The Bible is filled with tough verses to interpret. Many verses are tough even for seasoned Biblical scholars. If you have been a Christian for any length of time you know that we believe that salvation is not works based. Meaning that no matter how hard you try, you cannot work your way into right standing before God. Your good works are as dung before God. He accounts them as nothing. We need the perfect work of Jesus Christ to be counted as holy, so as Christians we put all of our faith in Him and his finished work on the cross of Calvary.

In light of that, this verse in Philippians can be a tough one to figure out. At first it seems to imply that our salvation is based upon what we do. But this is not what Paul is saying at all. If you have read Paul’s letters, he clearly states that salvation is not based on works, but on faith alone in Christ alone.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

So Paul is not saying that we need to work for our salvation. What he is saying is that our salvation is working in us and it is our responsibility to let that process work through us. It’s not a completed process. So Paul is encouraging us to work out our salvation.

In one sense our salvation is complete. Jesus finished the work of salvation on the cross. He died for our sins. That is complete. But in the sense Paul is speaking of here, our salvation has not worked out completely in us. Salvation is a process. Once the process is started in our lives, salvation links up with sanctification. The reason these two link up is to work in us and to make us more like Jesus. The goal of salvation is not simply to save us, but with the process of sanctification, it is to conform us into the image of Jesus.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” – Romans 8:29

Now the question is how are we to work out our salvation? Paul says “with fear and trembling.” Now why do you suppose he uses these two words to describe this process? I believe it is because that is how we enter into the kingdom in the first place. Remember, God does not give grace to the proud. The fear of the Lord produces humility in us and that holy fear is what Paul is referring to in this passage.

Once we are saved, we can become so comfortable with God, that we forget to have reverence toward Him. While the Bible encourages us to approach his throne with confidence, that doesn’t mean that we throw out any reverence for His name and who He is. We must always remember that we are drawing near to a holy and perfect God. He has grace and love towards us, but we show our love toward Him by showing Him respect. So Paul encourages us to work out our salvation with this fear in mind.

The Fear of God Produces Change

Some people fear change. They love the normalcy of life. They look at life and hope that everything will always stay the same. They do not embrace the many changes in life. After all, if things are good, why would you want things to change?

I heard a wise person say once that the only certain thing in life is uncertainty. Or another way of looking at that is that the only thing in life that stays the same is change. Change always happens around us. We grow older, we get married, we have children, our children grow up, we retire — things change.

Change is a healthy part of life. We enjoy the benefits of new seasons in our life because of change. For example, when my wife and I first got married, I wasn’t sure it could get any better than those first few years! We lived in a condo on the water and we spent our evenings taking walks down by the water with our little dog. It was very picturesque. And even though we both worked a lot, when I was home, it felt like we were on vacation together.

But change is inevitable. We knew we couldn’t stay in the place forever. We wanted to own a house and have children. So we moved and had four wonderful children and they brought us even more joy than we could have imagined. So things changed around us, but God was good to us in the change.

Now external change is one thing, but internal change is another. Internal change, or change in the heart, is much harder to come by. I’ve known people will a lot of self-inflicted problems get fed up and decide to move to a different city. What they soon find is that their problems have followed them to their new destination! They never addressed the internal issues, so the change in external situations didn’t result in the happiness they were seeking.

Now in church, we are no different. Many people hop from church to church and are full of complaints. They leave one church because of some minor issue that they have blown out of proportion when in reality, the real problem is not in the church, it’s inside themselves.

Continue reading “The Fear of God Produces Change”