Under Authority

Authority is “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.” In certain contexts, God gives people the right to act as His representatives, to define moral duty for others. It’s His way of ordering society. Being under authority is spiritually powerful. (Mt 8:9-10)

God gives rulers authority to create and enforce laws to promote our common welfare (1Pe 2:13-14); He gives husbands authority to decide what’s best for their wives and families (Ep 5:22-24), and mothers authority to stand with their husbands in governing their children. (Col 3:20)

Each role derives its authority from God (Jn 19:11) and represents Him, so resisting authority is rebellion against God (Ro 13:1-2), unless the authority is directly contradicting God’s law, in which case we submit to God as the ultimate authority. (Ac 5:29)

Religious leaders may claim a type of spiritual authority, presuming the right to control and manipulate others, but God doesn’t delegate this kind of power; He requires all to be spiritually accountable only to Himself. (1Co 11:3) Brothers in godly community comprise the only valid spiritual authority on Earth today, and may at times convey the will of God (Ac 9:30), yet they have no right to enforce their will. (Mt 23:8) Their ability to influence, especially as older men, comes as we recognize their godly example and holy character (1Pe 5:1-3), which encourages the younger to heed their counsel. (He 13:17)

God tells us to give thanks for and also to pray for all those in authority. (1Ti_2:1-2) Even if we don’t like what they’re doing, we must submit to them and remember they’re His servants (Ro 13:5-6), not speaking evil of them. (Ac 23:5) Being under authority is intrinsic to being aligned with God.

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His Own Burden

I’m the only one who’ll die with my beliefs; no one else is responsible for my faith. I’m accountable to God for what I think, say and do (Mt 12:36); no one else can answer for me. Every man shall bear his own burden. (Ga 6:4)

If I believe, say or do something wrong it’s my own fault; no one else will be standing with me on Judgement Day. I’ll be looking into the eyes of my Creator, and He into mine, and I will be alone, giving Jehovah Himself an answer for everything. (Ro 14:11-12) Where I land and who I am will be on display for eternity, exposed for all to examine. (1Co 3:13)

If I believe whatever I’m taught by church leaders or theologians, and I don’t care enough to search things out for myself, meditating in God’s Word on my own and verifying their claims, I’m saying it’s OK to believe a lie, so long as I fit in. I’m saying who teaches me is more important than what I believe; that relationships are more important to me than truth, that this world is more valuable to me than eternity (1Jn 2:15-17); that being honored and accepted in this world trumps being honored and accepted by God. (Jn 5:44)

When I’m in the fear of God I don’t need anyone else to agree with me; I’m not intimidated standing alone. (2Ti 4:16) I’m free to let others challenge me, to listen thoughtfully and carefully (Ja 1:19), and to look for truth in everything they say. I’m free to let others seek after God along with me, and to lovingly encourage them to do so.

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Despising the Shame

Shame is guilt coupled with a sense of legitimate contempt and rejection; it’s feeling despised and rejected (Is 53:3) due to inexcusable moral failure. Shame claims to be separating us from respect, love and acceptance, making us feel exposed, vulnerable and defenseless. It’s extremely powerful, crushing soul and spirit; many prefer death to enduring their shame. Perhaps it’s why hateful rampages often end in suicide.

Those who accused and mocked Yeshua on the cross understood this force, trying to heap shame upon His agony (Ps 22:7-8), but He endured by despising the shame(He 12:2) He looked beyond the lies and found safety in the eternal faithfulness and justice of His Father.

When we’re walking in the light we enjoy fellowship with God (1Jn 1:7), knowing we’re accepted in the beloved (Ep 1:6), so there’s no need to feel ashamed when we’re judged by men (Ps 119:80); by faith we can receive accusation as a growth opportunity.

But for those who aren’t walking with God, shame and everlasting contempt is their destiny (Da 12:2), an eternal, constant reality, a second death from which there will be no end, no escape.

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Let the Dam Go

The promise of longevity accompanies only two of God’s commands: honoring parents (Ep 6:2-3) and freeing a mother bird that’s protecting her young; if we happen to find a bird’s nest we’re not allowed to take the dam, only the babies. (De 22:6-7)

Parents represent God, giving us life, protecting and guiding us, so honoring them is intuitive. But God’s not concerned about animals per se (1Co 9:9), so why’s this second command so important?

Elizabeth
Hoolah

Mothers instinctively endanger themselves to protect their own. My own dear wife Elizabeth, for example, screaming and praying for God’s mercy as a pit bull was killing our dog Hoolah, stuck her hands in its mouth to pry open its jaws, risking life and limb. My wife knows she’s infinitely more important than our dog, but in the moment she completely forgot about herself and saved Hoolah’s life. (Full story in 3rd comment below.)

Taking advantage of an animal as it tries to protect its young is a type of extortion; it’s cruel, sadistic and disrespectful. If it’s wrong to take advantage of birds in this way, how much more so of people? (1Co 6:9-10)

In promising longevity in these two commands, it seems God is telling us that respecting authority and the dignity of life forms the basis of a healthy society. Cultures which follow God’s Law tend to thrive (Ps 19:7,11); those that don’t suffer deeply. (Pr 4:19)

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Purge the Leaven

The feast of unleavened bread teaches us to purge sin from our lives and communities; we are unleavened, designed to live without sin, because Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. (1Co 5:7-8)

Ice Cave in Mutnovsky Volcano, Kamchatka, Russia

Those who sin deliberately, as a manner of life, don’t belong to God (1Jn 3:9), so as believers we’re already obeying God as best we can (Ps 119:22) and asking Him to help us where we’re powerless to do better. (Ps 119:35) So the sins and faults we’re to purge are often hidden from us: secret faults, where we’re deceived about the way. How do we purge those kinds of sins, those we don’t yet know about?

Our spirit is God’s candle, searching all our inward parts. (Pr 20:27) Since God knows us better than we know ourselves, we can ask Him to take us on a tour of our own hearts, pointing out secret faults where we need cleansing and healing. (Ps 19:12) We can do this because we’re safe with Him: He loves us infinitely just as we are, with all our brokenness, so there’s no need to be defensive or elusive with Him, even when He’s indignant with us.

With Him inside helping us, we can search our own hearts for hints of secrets faults, looking for clues both in our failings and in the accusations of others. We may be blind to our own sin, but others can generally see them, at least partially. When someone takes the time to blame us for something, or if we can easily see on our own that we’re at fault, let’s despise the shame (Heb 12:2), looking for the underlying belief or character flaw and asking God to deliver, heal and cleanse us. Let’s not fear finding faults in ourselves, but living on with them corrupting our fellowship with God.

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Christ the Firstfruits

Christ our Passover (1Co 5:7) is also the firstfruits of God’s harvest (1Co 15:23); He’s the firstborn from the dead (Col 1:18), the first of many to rise again eternally. It’s a savor of both life and death. (2Co 2:15-16)

The resurrection of Christ proves everyone shall rise from the dead (Jn 5:28), some to endless splendor and joy, some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Da 12:2) As when we plant crops and expect a harvest, we see the same in spiritual things: we reap what we sow, later than we sow, and more than we sow. (Ga 6:7-8)

Regardless what we sow, our sowing comprises God’s eternal harvest as well as our own. (Re 14:14) He shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and cast them into a fiery furnace (Mt 13:41), and He will also gather a harvest of His saints together to Himself to enjoy forever. (Ps 50:5)

On this day of Firstfruits, let the resurrection of Jesus remind us that we’re destined for eternity. We’re part of an everlasting crop, a harvest in God’s eternal plan, so let’s bring forth fruit befitting of resurrection life. (Mt 3:12) Jesus overcame death in every sense that it could be conquered, and He lives in His elect to do the same. (Col 1:27) There is no temptation or trial too strong for Him. (Jn 16:33)

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God Is Kind

God is good, benevolent and merciful to all (Ps 117:2), so it’s tempting to confuse answered prayer and temporal blessing with divine approval, thinking God’s kindness implies His validation. We may be like that, but not God.

God loves His enemies; He’s kind to the unthankful and to the evil (Lk 6:35), and often showers the wicked with earthly blessings and health. (Ps 73:3-7) In fact, God may often answer prayer that’s abominable to Himself. There’s no strict correlation between God’s provision for us and His approval of us.

God knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust until the day of judgment to be punished. (2Pe 2:9) By afflicting the righteous He teaches us His ways (Psa_119:67 71), so it would seem that one way He reserves the wicked for judgement is by blessing them and giving them what they want in this life.

If God is answering the prayers of the wicked we shouldn’t be envious (Ps 37:1-2), nor find satisfaction in Him paving their way to destruction. (Pr 24:17-18) God takes no pleasure in the ruin of the lost (Ez 33:11); we should be weeping for them (Php 3:18-19), esteeming others better than ourselves.

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Save a Soul

Two friends strolled down a beach littered with starfish that had washed ashore. One began picking the creatures up as he walked along, tossing them one by one back into the sea. The other remarked, “Look at how many there are! You can’t save ’em all. What difference does it make?” His friend replied as he tossed another life back into the water, “It made a difference to that one.”

Being overwhelmed with the suffering of the world can paralyze us into thinking the little we can do doesn’t matter.

But impacting a single soul does matter; we’ll all live forever somewhere, somehow, someway. Every little difference we can make in another human life is infinitely worthwhile. (Ja 5:20) As we have opportunity, let’s do good to everyone. (Gal 6:10)

Let’s be on the lookout for ways to serve. Every single human life is supremely valuable … every man, woman and child. For those who are suffering greatly, orphans, widows, the poor and destitute, do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. Human worth is ascribed by God; He values every single soul enough to die in their place. (Jn 3:16) As we serve the least of humanity, we serve Him. (Mt 25:40)

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Well Done

The secret of fulfillment lies in being loved, received and recognized. If no one will ever notice you, who you are and what you do, never acknowledge your service or work, what’s left? What does your life mean if it never impacts anyone?

What’s left is the animal life, nothing truly human: it’s a life devoid of worth, significance, meaning and purpose.

Yet what would it mean in the end to be appreciated, acknowledged and received by all but God? If God loves you, acknowledges you, accepts and receives you, is He enough(Ps 16:5-6)

The secret to happiness lies not in what we do, but in why we’re doing it, who we’re looking to please. Purpose lies in relationship, in shadows and reflections of one paramount relationship: our walk with God. Whether we’re washing dishes or curing cancer, in the end only one thing matters: hearing God say, “Well done!” (Mt 25:23)

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Your Lamb

In preparation for the Lord’s Passover (Ex 12:11), we’re to choose a spotless lamb to represent our house and keep it for four days, a lamb for each household. (Ex 12:3) At this stage it’s any blemish free lamb, a generic lamb.

Once a lamb is selected, a determination is made as to which household(s) it represents. Then a lamb becomes the lamb (Ex 12:4), the one lamb to represent the household(s) for which it is chosen.

Once the lamb-to-household relationship is established, the lamb becomes your lamb. The family spends time getting to know their lamb, verifying that it has no blemish. (Ex 12:5) They inspect it, and become deeply familiar with it. Then, in place of their own firstborn, they kill their lamb on the 14th day. (Ex 12:6)

As in all God’s feasts, He’s giving us a window, a picture, a hint of how to walk with Him.

Jesus Christ is not just a passover lamb; He is not just the passover lamb. It’s not enough to know that Jesus is a savior, one among many. Neither is it enough to know that Christ is the savior, the one and only. Yeshua, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Jewish Messiah, must become our passover (1Co 5:7); until He is our savior, whom we have chosen for ourselves, to represent our souls in the day of judgment, getting to know Him, and He us, we have nothing. (Mt 7:21-23)

Let’s choose Christ deliberately and deeply, giving diligence to make our calling and election sure (2Pe 1:10), getting to know everything about Him we can (Php 3:10), personalizing His work and connecting with His nature and character. Let’s behold the beautyfeed in the majesty, and enjoy the unfathomable riches of Christ! (Eph 3:8)

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