Fear God, Honor The King

Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God (Matthew 22:21).

The Bible has much to say to God-followers about how to interact with earthly governments:

  • Wise King Solomon told us to “fear the Lord and the king” and not go along with rebels against the government (Proverbs 24:21)
  • Daniel said several times that “the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone He wishes” (Daniel 4 & 5)
  • The Apostle Paul declared he was no rebel to either the civil or religious governors: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar” (Acts 25:8)
  • Later on, Paul reminded the church that government officials are God’s servants, and that we need to give them the respect that is owed to them (see Romans 13:1-7)
  • Peter counseled Christians: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors … Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:13-17)

But a man that exemplifies this balance between fearing God and honoring the king best is Mordecai. Mordecai was a Jew who served the Babylonian king faithfully—

  • He protected the king from would-be assassins
  • But disobeyed the king when the law of the land conflicted with God’s law
  • Then Mordecai helped the king get out of a bad law written by an evil man

A mark of a godly leader is one who knows the difference between fearing God and honoring earthly kings.

How can today’s leaders live out this principle? This is something that should lead us to prayerfully search the Scriptures, and then boldly live out what the Holy Spirit reveals to us.

This is Part 13 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts by clicking here.

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3 Apologetics For Your Christian Hope

There was a story circulating that a physicist once claimed that the bumblebee was defying the laws of physics and aerodynamics in its flight. Apparently, he calculated that the ratio of the bumblebee’s wing size in comparison to his body size just didn’t make the math work.

But entomologists and physicists quickly jumped in to say, “Hey, look, the bumblebee is flying, so clearly it works!” And then they went to work to try to explain it. They figured out that the bumblebee flaps its wings more back-and-forth than up-and-down, creating tiny hurricanes the propel them through the air. But then that created a whole new set of problems, like how does the bumblebee control a hurricane so precisely as it turns, stops, dives, and climbs. So then they had to create a new explanation, which they named dynamic stall.

All the while, the bumblebee is flapping its too-small wings 230 times per second(!), and going about its daily activities without being able to explain tiny hurricanes, the laws of physics or aerodynamics, or even knowing what dynamic stall is. It simply flies!

The ultimate argument for anything is doing something that critics say is impossible.

Peter tells Christians to be prepared to answer anyone for the reason for the hope that they have (1 Peter 3:15-16). The Greek word for “give an answer” is apologia, from which we get our word apologetic. Here are three apologetics for Christians to use for the hope that they have.

It really comes down to this: My hope is based on the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ, which I believe because of the Bible AND because of the change in my life.

  1. The Bible’s authenticity

“No other work in all literature has been so carefully and accurately copied as the Old Testament. The particular discipline and art of the Jewish scribes came out of a class of Jewish scholars between the fifth and third centuries BC. They were called the Sopherim, from a Hebrew word meaning ‘scribes.’ The sopherim, who initiated a stringent standard of meticulous discipline, were subsequently eclipsed by the Talmudic scribes, who guarded, interpreted, and commented on the sacred texts from AD 100 to AD 500. In turn, the Talmudic scribes were followed by the better-known and even more meticulous Masoretic scribes (AD 500-900).” —Josh McDowell, God-Breathed

“No other ancient text is substantiated by such a wealth of ancient textual witnesses as is the New Testament. Roughly 5,500 separate manuscripts are available, variously containing anything from the entire New Testament corpus to a slight fragment of a single verse. … This textual support is far superior to that available for any other ancient documents, such as the classical texts from Greek and Roman writers (e.g., Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero). Only partial manuscripts have survived for many works of antiquity, and it is not unusual to find that the only complete manuscript for some ancient writing is a copy dating from 1,000 years after its composition.” —Archaeological Study Bible, “The New Testaments Texts” (page 1859)

“The biblical Dead Sea Scrolls are up to 1,250 years older than the traditional Hebrew Bible, the Masoretic text. We have been using a one-thousand-year-old manuscript to make our Bibles. We’ve now got scrolls going back to 250 BC. … Our conclusion is simply this—the scrolls confirm the accuracy of the biblical text by 99 percent.” —Dr. Peter Flint

  1. Christ’s resurrection 

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 Paul lists all of the eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection, giving critics ample opportunity to challenge these witnesses in person. If these witnesses would have been perpetrating a hoax, skeptics of their day would have been able to uncover the inconsistencies in their story. If the account of Christ’s resurrection was made-up, it’s doubtful the early Christian martyrs would have “stuck to their story” as they were being tortured, but none recanted.

Josh McDowell notes, “By AD 100, the apostles had died, but the Christian Church was still in its infancy, with fewer than twenty-five thousand proclaimed followers of Christ. But within the next two hundred years, the fledgling church experienced explosive multiplication of growth, to include as many as twenty million people. This means the church of Jesus Christ quadrupled every generation for five consecutive generations!

  1. My personal experience

“I am a changed person. I am not who I was before I met Jesus” and “My life tends to go better when I live by biblical principles” are both excellent apologetics!

Let others argue that God doesn’t exist, or that you shouldn’t have hope, and then you—like the bumblebee—just keep flying with Jesus! (see 2 Timothy 3:14)

Evidence That Demands A Verdict (book review)

The Apostle Peter wrote a letter to Christians in which he called them “aliens and strangers” because of their belief in a personal Creator and Lord. In this letter, he tells Christians to “always be prepared to give an answer” to those skeptics who want to know about their faith in God. In Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Josh and Sean McDowell have given Christians a key component to help them be prepared to give sound answers.

This book is massive (at just under 900 pages)! But it is an encyclopedia of evidence that will prepare Christians to respond to any argument that an atheist or skeptic may bring up. To be honest with you, the Table of Contents is usually one of the first places I study in books I’m reading, but I usually end up skimming through it pretty quickly. But in Evidence, I was pleasantly surprised at the layout. Not only will you find a listing of the chapters, but a brief description of the contents. At the opposite end of the book, the Subject Index is also quite extensive. I know these are not things usually bragged on in a book review, but for a book this size—and for the numerous times you undoubtedly will be returning to prepare to answer a skeptic—these two reference points are extremely handy!

The first edition of Evidence (written by just Josh) came out nearly 20 years ago. If anything, the evidence for the beliefs that Christians hold has been further validated through research, archeological discoveries, and the like. So it was time for this classic book to be updated. The additional apologetic insights from Sean in this edition is a very nice addition.

Whether you read Evidence when it was first released or not, every Christian that wants to answer Peter’s directive for preparedness needs to get this new edition.

I am Thomas Nelson book reviewer.

What Does The Bible Say About Church Leaders?

God’s plan has always been for His leaders to organize and oversee His ministry.

The important thing for us to distinguish is “His.” It’s not a man or woman saying, “I will be a leader,” or even a God-appointed leader saying, “I am going to build up my ministry.”

The New Testament gives us a fourfold purpose for the Body of Christ:

  1. Mobilizing for evangelism
  2. Organizing for more meaningful ministry
  3. Making disciple-makers
  4. Caring for one another

We see God’s leaders involved in all of these aspects—

Mobilizing for evangelism—Peter pointed out the need for an apostle to be appointed to replace Judas, thus returning their ranks to the 12 apostles just as Jesus had originally said (Acts 1:15-22).

Organizing for more meaningful ministry—Everywhere Paul founded a church, he also appointed leaders to oversee and shepherd that church.

Making disciple-makers—Paul tells us that God appointed five offices of leaders in the church who had the specific task of preparing church members to do the ministry of building maturity in the church (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Caring for one another—The First Church set the pace for providing care for all who were in need, including organizing leaders to oversee specific care ministries (Acts 6:1-5).

What about a church congregation’s responsibility to their leaders? I see five areas:

  1. Hold them accountable to the Word (Acts 17:11). The Bible has to be THE standard to which leaders are held.
  2. Give them your confidence and submission after they have shown accountability to their biblical mandate (Hebrews 13:17).
  3. Pray for them (Ephesians 6:19).
  4. Pay them (1 Timothy 5:17).
  5. Be very careful about accusing them (1 Timothy 5:19).

A church and its leaders following this biblical pattern is a church that can effectively fulfill the Great Commission which Jesus gave us.

The Christian’s Secret Weapon

Over the past couple of weeks, people have been rattled by both real and imagined catastrophic events. We experienced a fabulous astronomical sight in a full solar eclipse, wept for our fellow citizens in Texas and Florida as hurricanes battered their businesses and homes, and then dealt with doomsayers who predicted the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Peter spent a lot of time right next to Jesus, soaking up His teaching and observing how Jesus lived. One thing Peter never saw in Jesus was panic.

So it’s not unexpected that Peter would write to followers of Jesus: Don’t fear what the world fears (1 Peter 3:14). Instead, Peter counsels his friends to keep their focus on Jesus.

Don’t run around in fear, but instead in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Some other translations say things like…

    • …revere Christ as Lord
    • …acknowledge Him as Lord
    • …worship Christ as Lord of your life
    • …keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ (see 1 Peter 3:15)

In other words: let Jesus Christ be your focal point.

When you live this way—focused on the eternal Jesus and not the temporary shakings on earth—Earthlings are bound to notice that there is something different about you. So Peter tells us to always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you the reason for the hope that you have.

Hope—not wishful thinking, but a rock-solid, joyful, confident expectation!

This hope is the Christian’s secret weapon!

This hope is unshakable during difficult times. This hope is unshakable on death’s doorstep. This hope is unshakable when the end of the world is predicted.

The Christian who has a personal experience of the hope that Jesus brings is never at the mercy of the happenings in the world nor the arguments from non-Christians.

But Peter cautions us to never use this hope as a club. He tells us to make sure we never use hope as a means of feeling superior to others. Instead we are to speak to others about our hope gently, respectfully, and with a clear conscience.

So here’s my question to you, fellow Christian: Can those around you see your hope? When they’re fearful and running for cover, do they see you right alongside them, or do they see you standing firm in hope as you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Your hope is a powerful persuader for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ!

How “Alien” Is Your Christianity?

Peter pulls no punches as he calls Christians for what they are (or perhaps what they really should be): aliens … strangers … peculiar people.

But how can that be, especially in the United States of America? Survey after survey says that upwards of 95% of Americans claim to believe in God, and fully 8-out-of-10 of every American call themselves a Christian.

You only need to take a look at our schools, our government, or our entertainment to see how “alien” biblical values are with current cultural trends. I think all of us have experienced that when we try to live by a biblical standard, people roll their eyes at us (at best) or maybe outright mock us. Perhaps the term “aliens” is not so much for what we say we believe, but how we live what we believe.

That’s why Peter calls us peculiar (1 Peter 2:9). This word means a people so focused on what God wants, that they don’t have time to worry about what the world wants. Peculiar people are so focused on “Your kingdom come and Your will be done” that they don’t pay attention to “keeping up with the times.”

Peter says that the inevitable outcomes of this peculiar lifestyle are accusations of wrong doing, unjust treatment, insults, and slander, just to name a few (see 1 Peter 2:12, 19, 21-23; 3:16).

When we are treated this way, Peter tells Christians about their alien response:

  • Love one another deeply
  • Live good lives doing good deeds
  • Do not retaliate with insults or threats
  • Live in such a hope-filled way that others can’t help to ask you about it (see 1:22; 2:12, 23; 3:15)

So… how “alien” is your Christianity? Are you doing so many good things that it catches the attention of others? Are you responding to mistreatment in a Christ-honoring manner? Do you speak with others gently and respectfully? Is your life so full of hope in your eternal home in Heaven that people can’t help but ask you for the reason for the hope you have?

Don’t worry about being popular; be peculiar. Be so alien to this world’s values that you compel others to encounter Jesus Christ as you have! 

Join me next Sunday as we continue our look at how citizens of Heaven are supposed to live while visiting Earth.

The Q Series—The Bible

Our annual Q Series is where folks send their questions to me on a variety of subjects and we do our best to answer them. This week many of the questions were about the Bible. Questions like:

  • What books should be included in the Bible?
  • What about Bible translations?
  • Is it okay for the Bible to have pictures in it?

Here’s what we discussed, along with the time this discussion appears on the video:

  • How was it decided what books would be included in the New Testament? [5:38] **Be sure to check out this post: How We Got The Bible on Biblegateway.
  • J. Warner Wallace’s list of criteria for New Testament books [9:45]
  • Did contemporary sources support or refute the New Testament authors? [11:45]
  • How did the final 27 books of the New Testament make the list? [15:02]
  • How was it decided what books would be included in the Old Testament? [18:22]
  • Evidence presented by the Apostle Paul [20:31]
  • How do we know the Scriptures were accurately transcribed? [22:50] **Be sure to check out this post: Why Trust The Bible? on Biblegateway.
  • The history surrounding the complete Latin Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls [23:45]
  • What are Bible translations and paraphrases (with references to the Wycliffe Bible and the discovery of the Rosetta Stone)? [25:45]
  • Some cautions about Bible paraphrases [33:23]
  • Is it okay for a Bible to have pictures in it? [35:16]
  • Are icons of the Cross acceptable or a blasphemy? [37:42]
  • How can someone better understand the Bible when they read it for themselves? [41:32]
  • Why ask questions? [48:39]

We’ll be discussing more questions this upcoming Sunday, so be sure to send them my way. For all of the ways you can send questions, please click here.

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