Veterans Day – November 11th

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Henry Gunther is a name unfamiliar to most of us. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1895, a grandson of German immigrants. Sergeant Gunther served in the 313th Regiment where he was part of the American Expeditionary Force. In the midst of a battle in the Lorraine region of France, he was killed in action at 10:59 a.m. on November 11, 1918. Significantly, the armistice, bringing an end to hostilities, was signed in Campeiegne, France, one minute later. German soldiers, who were aware that the armistice would take effect at 11:00, tried to wave Henry off, but he kept running toward them, his gun ablaze. The Army posthumously awarded him a Citation for Gallantry in Action and the Distinguished Service Cross. In 1923 his remains were exhumed from a military cemetery in France and placed in the Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Baltimore. Henry Gunther was the last American killed in World War I.

Veterans Day, observed annually on November 11, began as Armistice Day – celebrating the ceasefire, which brought an end to that war’s hostilities. That agreement was signed at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. The formal peace agreement signed later is known as the Treaty of Versailles.

On the same day one year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.” On that day, soldiers who survived the war marched in parades and were honored by ceremonies recognizing their contribution. Years later, in 1954, Congress changed the word “Armistice” to “Veterans.” So, November 11 became a day to honor all American veterans, wherever and whenever they had served.

In 2016 the Census Bureau reported there were 18.6 million American veterans, 5.6 million of them having served since the first Gulf War. All Americans should regularly be thankful and express appreciation to our veterans. But on Veteran’s Day, we should honor them in special ways. So, what can we do to honor those who have served our country? According to the Military.com website, we can:

  • First – Show Up. Attend a Veteran’s Day event in your area.
  • Second – Raise a Flag. Remind others that this is a day to honor all who have served.
  • Third – Donate. There are many organizations dedicated to helping veterans. An average of one in five veterans since the first Gulf War suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and need extra attention.
  • Fourth – Contact. Get to know a veteran in your church or neighborhood. Ask about his or her service. Write a veteran, offering words of appreciation and encouragement. Thank them for their service.
  • Fifth – Pray. Ask God to bless our veterans and active duty military personnel and their families. Freedom is fragile—Handle with prayer.

Because of the sacrifice of our veterans, we enjoy tremendous freedom as citizens of the United States. But our liberty has been bought by blood and sacrifice. Patrick Henry, expressed the sentiments of many brave American heroes, when, on March 23, 1775, he said: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” We must never forget the cost of our freedom, or fail to appreciate those who have paid it.

On Veteran’s Day in America, we celebrate the courage and sacrifice of our military veterans. We thank our living veterans and remember the fallen ones. We thank God for the brave who have fought, and continue to stand, so courageously, for our nation. We are thankful for the freedom their sacrifice has secured for us. We are free to worship; free to pray; free to speak; free to live in peace every day; because of their devotion and continual diligence.

This day also reminds us to thank our Heavenly Father for His great sacrifice by sending His one and only Son, to seek and save those who are lost in sin. The worst bondage is spiritual, not physical—likewise the greatest freedom is spiritual, not physical, as great as that is. Jesus said, “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Jesus died in our place to take away our sins. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). He said: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). We must never take His sacrifice for granted. In the future, we will celebrate this victory Jesus achieved on our behalf, “when this perishable and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). And that life God gives, through Christ, will last forever!

So, raise Old Glory up the flagpole, thank God for salvation and the freedoms we enjoy, and pray for the veterans who have served our nation, and for those who daily put themselves in harm’s way for our sakes.

Voting–our Christian Responsibility

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(Photo by Chris Keane, Reuters)

I saw the most amazing thing on Election Day, 2016. At my polling place I witnessed a 60-something, native Filipina, who had just become an American citizen—vote for the very first time. She was so excited to cast her vote for President of the United States. Having diligently studied every proposition and each candidate’s stand on the issues, she was anxiously waiting for the polls to open, to fill her ballot.

What an honor! To have a say about the direction of your community, state and nation, is a privilege that should not be taken lightly. In 1776, the government of the United States of America was founded on the principle of a representative republic, wherein voters chose their leaders. However, the rights of citizens to vote in elections have come over a rocky path.

  • The 14th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1868, granted full citizenship rights, including voting rights, to all men born or naturalized in the United States.
  • Two years later, the 15th Amendment was adopted to eliminate racial barriers to voting.
  • In 1920, the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote nationwide.
  • In 1924 the Indian Citizenship Act granted Native Americans citizenship and voting rights.
  • In 1964, the Civil Rights Act ensured that all men and women age 21 and older, regardless of race, religion, or education, have the right to vote.
  • Also that year, the 24th Amendment was ratified, eliminating poll taxes nationwide.

Next Tuesday, November 6, is Election Day! Please get out and vote…even if you think it is hopeless…even if you think your vote is insignificant…even if you are not thrilled about the candidates…you should vote! It is not only your privilege, but I believe, is your duty, as a Christian.

Paul made it clear that Christians are to “be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1). The Bible teaches that God uses human government for the good of mankind, His people included. This human government “is a minister of God to you for good” (verse 4) because it rewards good behavior while it punishes and seeks to prevent evil.

We should thank God for guidelines, laws and enforcement agencies that prevent anarchy, crime, lawlessness and wrongdoing. Based on the principles of God’s authority in human government, Paul writes, “Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing” (verses 5-6).

Paul summarized this New Testament teaching with this command: “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” (verse 7). The word “render” means to give what is due, to pay what is demanded or owed. Christians are to be obedient and active in our government—that’s a debt we owe.

Peter also wrote that the Christian’s duty is to, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles” and to “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Peter 2:12-14). Your conduct, as a Christian, is under constant surveillance by unbelievers. So, set the example of good citizenship.

God’s people owe the highest allegiance to their Lord and His commands. So, if government regulations violate the conscience of God’s people, they must say with Peter, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., phrased it well: “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.” In this sermon, Dr. King also said, the church “must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority” (Martin Luther King, Jr., Sermon, “Strength in Love”).

Dr. King rightly stated that churches do not execute justice, but serve as the conscience of society. God’s people must be defenders of truth upon which our civilization is built, and we must continually present the Christian worldview on government, the function of the family and the role of the church. So, what should we, as Christian Americans, do?

  • Consistently pray for our leaders. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
  • Study the issues and be informed, especially in light of Bible principles.
  • Raise criticisms against unjust laws.
  • Work toward justice for all.
  • Seek to be the conscience of society, presenting and defending God’s truth.
  • And VOTE!

I am glad God is not a registered Republican or Democrat. He is totally independent. His cause and kingdom are much larger than any political party, nation or country. But as long as we have a voice in our community, let us speak transparently, live faithfully and vote biblically.

Trick or Treat?

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In a few days, beautiful children dressed in wild and zany costumes, will invade your neighborhood, ring your doorbell and cry out, “Trick or Treat!” That cute little cowboy, adorable princess or strong super hero will expect a sweet treat when they come to your door.

In the United States today, Halloween is the second highest grossing commercial holiday after Christmas. Americans will probably spend over $8 billion dollars on Halloween this year. A full 25% of annual candy sales occurs during the Halloween season.

So, how did we get here?

The Ancient Origin of Halloween

In Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, centuries before Jesus was born, there lived a group of people known as the Celts. As harvest season ended and winter, with shorter daylight hours began, they celebrated a holiday called the festival of Samhain. This pagan festival, originally known as the Day of the Dead, was from sunset October 31 to sunset November 1. They believed the souls of dead people returned to earth only on this day. Ghosts or spirits of those who had died would supposedly visit their homes and mingle with the living.

The Celtic people would often light bonfires to ward off evil spirits who were supposed to be present that night. Some people would wear masks, costumes and other disguises to avoid being recognized by the witches and ghosts they thought were near.

In the 7th century the Catholic Church began celebrating All Saints’ Day on November 1, in an effort to replace the pagan holiday of the Druids with a Christian observance. So, the evening before All Saints’ Day, October 31st, became a holy, hallowed, evening—and thus the name Hallow’s Eve – or Hallow-Een, and thus Halloween was born.

The Modern Tradition of Halloween

The observance of Halloween was mostly forbidden among the early American colonists. But during the 19th century, as large numbers of immigrants from Ireland and the United Kingdom came to America, many Halloween customs came with them. As the Christianized version of Halloween became more accepted, the number who observed the holiday increased.

By the mid-20th century, Halloween, largely separated from religious overtones, began to be accepted almost entirely as a secular holiday. Today, most celebrants wear masks and costumes for parties and trick-or-treating, without a hint of religious connections.

The Christian’s Attitude toward Halloween

Everyone agrees on the pagan origins of Halloween, but many believing Christians are divided over their participation in this media-driven holiday. If Halloween is celebrated as it is in the religion of witchcraft, of course, believers in Christ should have nothing to do with it. But if it is celebrated as a secular, American, non-religious, event, like a birthday party or the County Fair, there doesn’t seem to be any harm. For the Bible-believing Christian, the practice of Halloween celebrated today has nothing to do with the pagan roots of the holiday. They think of Halloween as a night filled with candy, parties, pumpkins and weird costumes.

So, is there anything evil about a Christian dressing up as a princess or cowboy and going around the block asking for candy? No. Are there things about Halloween that are anti-Christian and should be avoided? Absolutely. The proper attitudes and actions call for wisdom, humility and understanding.

So, what should Christians, do about Halloween?

First – Do not treat Halloween like superstitious pagans. Evil spirits are no more active or sinister on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Remember that, “greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Thanks be to God, He has forever “disarmed the rulers and authorities” and has “made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him” [Christ] (Col 2:15). This promise belongs to every believer in Christ: “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).

Second – Christians should respond to Halloween with wisdom and caution. Some people use Halloween as an excuse for sinful behavior, drunkenness and vandalism. But believers should exercise caution as stewards of their possessions and protectors of their families. Christian people should avoid secular Halloween parties where there may be alcohol, drugs, or other sinful behavior. Evil themes do not have to be a part of Halloween festivities and should be left out of celebrations of this holiday.

Third – Believers in Christ should respond to Halloween with gospel compassion. The subject of death, dying, and what happens when a person dies, may allow an opportunity to share the saving gospel with an unbeliever. Halloween can be an opportunity to witness for Christ. After all, Jesus holds the keys to death and hell, and He has overcome death and defeated it forever.

Fourth – Churches can offer creative alternatives to traditional Halloween activities. Some churches have a “Trunk-or-Treat” night – where sweet treats are provided from the trunks of cars in the church parking lot. Other churches use this time of year for a “Fall Festival” and invite children and parents to their facilities to enjoy fun games and activities, as well as special treats. Participants can dress up in costumes, or just come as they are.

It would be best for each family to develop their own approach to Halloween based on their own convictions and the options for celebration available to them. Providing a safe, fun, Christian environment must be a priority.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Measure of a Life

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There are different ways to measure things. Pastor George Raley told about a little boy who excitedly announced to his mother that he had grown to 7 feet tall. She asked the 4 foot tall boy why he thought his height was 7 feet. He said, “I measured my foot. Then I figured how many of my feet tall I am – and I am one inch short of 7 feet!” The little guy’s foot was 7 inches long, and measuring a 48-inch tall boy, by a 7-inch foot, he was exactly right! Results in measurements always depend on your measuring device.

“How far do you live from Little Rock?” a man asked me. I told him, “About 90 miles.” But I could answer the question in a different way. The distance is 90 miles, but measured by time, the distance is relative—that is, relative to who is driving the car! See, Little Rock is closer to Monticello when my wife drives. I mean, Little Rock doesn’t move, but Pat does!

See: Measurements are directly related to the measuring device you use. It is the same in the measure of a life. Every person’s life can be measured in several different ways.

Consider these life-measuring tools:

  • The Measure of Possessions

Many people make the mistake of figuring the value of life based on the amount of their possessions. But life is much more than personal assets. Life is not measured by ownership of houses, land, CD’s and automobiles. Some would consider the materially prosperous as, really living, or of possessing the good life. But, even to the casual observer it is obvious that sickness, suicide, drug dependencies and broken homes happen to the rich and poor alike. Life is not found in a bottle or in a bank.

Jesus said, “not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). The satisfaction that can be found in things is often short-lived. Solomon, one of the world’s wealthiest men, knew from experience that “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). The possession of things just does not satisfy. It is said that someone asked the wealthy, John D. Rockefeller, “How much is enough?” to which he replied, “Just a little more.” Life is not measured by possessions.

  • The Measure of Longevity

God created life, formed it, and allows it to end. Though length of life is a great concern to men, it is of small consequence to God. Even at the longest, human life is brief. Job said days of life fly by, “swifter than a weaver’s shuttle” (Job 7:6) and are, “swifter than a runner” (Job 9:25). The Psalmist said, “My days are like a lengthened shadow, and I wither away like grass” (Psalm 102:11). Isaiah compared the length of a person’s life “as a shepherd’s tent” that is here today and gone tomorrow (Isaiah 38:12). Our lives are also like, “a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

That may seem depressing, but it should be motivating. When David lamented, that his days were “as handbreadths” and that “every man at his best is a mere breath” (Psalm 39:5), he realized the brevity of life in a new way. A handbreadth was the spread of the hand, a palm breadth, not the finger span. Even a lengthy life is not very long. We need to make our days count for God.

Howard Hendricks, a long-time professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, used to say that life is not measured by duration, but by donation. Some of the most influential people in my life did not live long, but affected my life and others in powerful ways.

If the measure of life is not possessions or longevity, then what is the true measure of life?

  • The Measure of God’s Purpose

The important question is, are you seeking God’s will in your life? The man or woman, who accomplishes God’s purpose, reaches a full measure of life and living, no matter what they possess, nor how long they live. That is what Moses meant when he wrote, “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years…for soon it is gone and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10), “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (verse 12). Numbering your days means to make them count—to be wise—to live with purpose.

Paul shared how Christians are to “be careful how you walk. . . redeeming the time. . . understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17). He said two things will make your life count:

First – You must be careful how you live. The KJV says to walk “circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.” Reaching God’s purpose in your life means living a resolute, determined Christian life. It is the kind Paul said was to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1).

Second – You must seek to know and do God’s will. Paul wrote, “do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is.” If progress toward God’s purpose is an accurate measure of life, then to understand and obey God’s will for your life is the best step toward the good life.

Living according to God’s purpose in life is what Jesus meant when He said, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

You can enjoy a wonderful life if you will live it according to God’s will and purpose.

Unmuzzled Oxen

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October is Pastor Appreciation Month.

Pastoral work is difficult and often calls for great sacrifice. An average week for a pastor may include meetings, counseling, hospital calls, emergencies, weddings and funerals. That list does not include hours and hours of study preparing to preach one, two, or three sermons. He may also be called to minister to others out of town, or attend association, convention, or other clerical meetings. Additionally, your pastor may have a spouse, children or grandchildren who require his attention and attendance at family events. And, everywhere he goes, he is a man of God, responsible to have a godly disposition and a Christ-like temperament, 24 hours a day—even when he drives his car.

Most pastors are hard working, conscientious servants of God. Thom Rainer, CEO of Lifeway, shared some revealing statistics of a poll taken in 2013. Only 3% of pastors worked less than 40 hours per week. While 47% worked 40-49 hours per week, 40% worked between 50 and 59 hours per week. That means 87%, almost 9 out of 10 pastors, work more than the average 40-hour week. Altogether, the median workweek for pastors was 50 hours. Furthermore, because of the nature of a pastor’s job, he is also on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.

So, what does the Bible say about honoring pastors?

Paul wrote Timothy: “The elders (Pastors) who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages’” (1 Timothy 5:17-18).

In Bible times oxen were used to pull plows and carts, as well as threshing sledges, over freshly harvested grain. As the ox walked in a circle over the grain, his feet and the pressure of the sledge would cause the larger grain to separate from the sheath or hull. Then the grain would be winnowed or tossed into the air, allowing the grain to fall on the threshing floor and the chaff to be blown aside.

Paul quoted Deuteronomy 25:4, saying: “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” The ox was to eat of the grain while it worked. This command showed kindness and fairness to the animal that helped a person earn his daily bread. Paul reached back to this passage and applied the principle to serving ministers, showing that the laborer is worthy of his wages. God-called pastors, who love Him and serve churches, are worthy of honor and support. They are like the oxen threshing the grain, which earns the right to eat while they worked. The pastor is not to be muzzled. He is to be fed from his work.

The same verse in Deuteronomy was used in Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth, regarding the wages of pastors. “For it is written in the Law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.’ God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops” (1 Corinthians 9:9, 10). If God cares about the welfare of oxen, how much more does He care about human servants—especially those laboring for His kingdom? Paul is commanding: “Pay your pastor!” A few verses later he writes, “So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel” (verse 14).

Your pastor feeds you spiritual food. You, in turn, should care for his material needs. “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” It is always right for the minister, who blesses his people, to be blessed by his people. That is a natural right and a scriptural principle.

Pastors are also to be appreciated and esteemed by their churches. Paul wrote, “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13).

When Paul encouraged churches to “appreciate” those who labored among them, he meant that pastors should be recognized for the work they do. Showing appreciation for someone is inexpensive to give, but invaluable to receive. It is like a priceless treasure when someone appreciates you for who you are and for what you do. Nothing is as encouraging as appreciation.

Then Paul exhorted churches to “esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” To esteem someone is to hold them high and to value what they do. When pastors are esteemed “very highly” it means exceeding abundantly. We should go over the top in appreciating our pastors, because of all they do.

So, how can you honor your pastor during Pastor Appreciation Month?

  • You can send a hand-written note or card expressing your appreciation.
  • You could give a special love offering.
  • You may want to cook a meal and deliver it to his house—or bake his favorite pie—or take the pastor and his family out to eat—or give them a restaurant gift card.
  • You can pray for him every day.
  • You can be faithful in your church attendance.
  • You can be regular in your giving.
  • And you can speak encouraging words about him to others.

Let’s honor our pastors this month. Let’s give “honor to whom honor is due.”

The Lion and the Lamb

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What does your mind see when you picture Jesus?

Most of us probably think of the modern depiction of Jesus we see in books and children’s literature as a handsome longhaired, light-skinned man with a beautiful beard and piercing brown eyes. But it’s doubtful he was fair-skinned., and despite supposed evidence in the shroud of Turin, nobody knows how Jesus looked.

When I served as editor-in-chief at Bogard Press, we always depicted Jesus as wearing a white robe with a blue sash. Other people think they see His image on a pancake, tortilla or piece of toast. But truthfully, most of our impressions of the Lord’s appearance are rooted in the concepts of 16thcentury European artists.

The apostle John had seen Jesus face-to-face. He traveled, ate and drank with Him as he accompanied the Lord around Israel during His ministry. Although John was familiar with the Lord’s appearance, he saw Him in an entirely symbolic way in Revelation chapter 5.

One of the elders around the throne of God said to John, “Behold the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals. And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain” (Revelation 5:5-6).

John saw Jesus as a Lion and as a Lamb. As the elder directed John to look at the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, he may have expected a kingly, strong and ferocious beast, but instead, when he looked, he saw a lamb. John saw, not just any lamb, but a sacrificed lamb.

So, what does that mean? The lion was majestic, picturing royalty, as the king of the beasts. The lamb was meek and mild, picturing the most innocent of the beasts. The sacrificed lamb reminded every Jew of Passover, when the perfectly guiltless, was slain, shedding its blood for the completely guilty.

What John saw in Revelation were the dual characteristics of Jesus Christ as Lion—royal, majestic, king-like and judging in His second coming; and as Lamb—innocent, yielding, and servant-like in His first coming.

At His first coming, John the Baptist described Him as, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecy that read, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). When the Ethiopian eunuch read this passage in Isaiah and asked, “of whom does the prophet say this?” Philip began from that verse and “preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:34-35). Many years afterward, Peter wrote that we were “not redeemed with perishable things…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). Jesus came as an innocent lamb, to be slain as a sacrifice for our sins.

Then, at His second coming, Jesus will be “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). His origin and right to reign are traced to King David, of which Jesus is “the Root.” Isaiah described the “branch” and root from the stem of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1-2) who with righteousness “will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked” (verse 4). The foundation of Jesus as the Lion of Judah was established centuries earlier, in Jacob’s words, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10). The scepter was the symbol of kingly authority, and “Shiloh” was one who would bring peace. By inspiration, Jacob revealed the King of Israel who would bring real peace, would descend from the tribe of Judah.

Though their temperaments are the most contrasting of any two creatures in God’s animal kingdom, Jesus is both the Lion and the Lamb. However, in Scripture, the Lion is victorious because of the sacrifice of the Lamb. Salvation and victory over sin are through faith in “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). There will come a day when “the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ” (Revelation 12:10) will actually come to this world. Then, victory will be “because of the blood of the Lamb” (verse 11).

Three years ago Big Daddy Weave sang a powerful song that sums up the message of the Lion and the Lamb:

He’s coming on the clouds, kings and kingdoms will bow down
And every chain will break, as broken hearts declare His praise
Who can stop the Lord Almighty?
Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before You
Our God is the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain
For the sin of the world, His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Oh every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
So open up the gates, make way before the King of kings
Our God who calls the saved is here to set the captives free
Who can stop the Lord Almighty?
Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before You
Our God is the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain
For the sin of the world, His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Oh every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb

(Big Daddy Weave, Word Music, 2015).

No Prejudice

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If you stop to think about it, there are thousands of things for which we should be thankful every single day! I rejoice in God’s salvation, redemption, forgiveness and daily guidance. I am grateful to have eternal life that does not end—no matter what. I appreciate my pastor, our worship leader, church staff and the scores of volunteers who serve the Lord in our congregation every Sunday. I love my Pacer senior adult group, Cornerstone Sunday School class and the good brothers and sisters in Christ at my church. I am so happy with my wife, Pat, our 50 years of marriage, and the way she has supported and strengthened me through the years. She has helped me become a better Christian. I am overjoyed at God’s blessings on our five children, their spouses and our twelve grandchildren. I love living in Arkansas, am thankful for my hometown of Malvern, and my adopted hometown of Monticello. I just cannot express all the joy I feel.

However, today I am most thankful that God is not prejudice. You see, I am pretty old, a little overweight, have gray hair, must wear glasses to see correctly, and sometimes I am really dull spiritually, and dumb intellectually. I drive a Japanese car, read a Bible printed in England, wear a watch made in Taiwan and shoes made in China. I have three sons who have served as missionaries on the Navajo reservation, in the Philippines, and in China. And besides all that, I’m not sure of my own lineage, genetically speaking. One of my father’s grandmothers was a full-blooded native American Indian, but most of my forefathers were a hodge-podge mix of nationalities. So, I am very thankful God is not prejudice against old, overweight, bespectacled, dull, racially mixed people, along with those who drive foreign cars. Aren’t you?

Acts chapter 10 records how Peter learned what God thought of prejudice through a vision, while at the home of Simon the Tanner, in Joppa. The purpose of the vision was so difficult for Peter to accept, that God had to give it to him three times. Until then Christianity was considered an off-shoot of Judaism. And in the prevailing view of that day, you had to be a Jew to be a Christian. But God chose Peter to open the door of the gospel to the Gentiles.

But before Peter would go to people he considered unclean and untouchable, he had to be convinced. Following the third showing of the vision, Peter came to see unsaved people the way God saw them—lost in sin, without God and without hope. He also learned that the only chance of salvation for the Gentiles, was the same as for the Jews—Jesus Christ. When it dawned on Peter what God wanted, the Scripture says: “Opening his mouth, Peter said: I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35). Nowadays we would probably say, “Duh! You think?” Peter got the clear message that God was not prejudice, either nationally, racially or ethnically.

What God thinks of prejudice is clearly revealed in His Word. Prejudice in Scripture is referred to as having “respect of persons,” or showing “partiality.” So, what does God say about it?

First, in the context of the fact of sin and need of salvation, Romans 2:11 reads, “… there is no partiality with God.” Paul writes, “For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law” (verse 12). Without exception—all are sinners; and all need the Savior.

Second, regarding human social order, slaves and masters, Ephesians 6:9 reminds us that “there is no partiality with him” (God). During the first century up to 40% of the population were slaves under Roman control. So, Paul commanded slaves to be obedient, remembering that they actually served the Lord, no matter who their master was (verse 5). He also commanded masters to be gentle and not threatening, knowing that they also had a Master “in heaven” (verse 9). Because God was not partial, He expected both the slave and the master to do His will from the heart.

Third, God is not prejudice regarding punishment for wrongdoing, “For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality” (Colossians 3:25). God is impartial regarding punishment for crime.

Fourth, in 1 Peter 1:17-19, we are reminded that answered prayer, judgment, and redemption, are all at the hands of God. He is the One who “impartially judges according to each one’s work,” so you should “conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth” (verse 17). Regardless of race, nationality or culture, believers are redeemed, “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (verse 19). He only has one way of salvation for all people (John 14:6).

Fifth, not only is God not prejudice, He expects His children and His churches to be impartial in their treatment of all people. In James 2:1-9, he urges believers to love everyone without distinction. He wrote, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism” (verse 1). He commands Christians to fulfill the “royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (verse 8). James then sums up the subject of prejudice among God’s people by writing: “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (verse 9). To treat people prejudicially because of their social standing, wealth, position, nationality, culture or race is to sin against them and God!

Aren’t you thankful God is not prejudice? Lets try every day to be more like Him!