honor the Emperor

Back in the fall I settled into 1 Peter. In the midst of suffering and misunderstanding, I wanted to know the Lord more. He spoke to me clearly through His word – the Bible. As I wrote every word of 1 Peter, copying from my worn out Holman Christian Standard Bible, words came out of me in prayer to my Father in Heaven. Then words came out through my laptop to share with my friends.

Then I stopped. I hit a passage that I wasn’t sure that I should comment on. Did I avoid it in my reading? No, but I didn’t think that I had what I needed to share my thoughts or what I was learning in such a volatile time for our country and world.

So I voted – not for Trump or Hillary – if you were wondering, and the election passed by.

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Our citizens continue to divide and categorize one another by political affiliation above all else. The polarized state of our culture becomes more and more apparent each day, instead of calming down since the election ended.

Now I sit on my new – to me – sofa on tax day (although, what day isn’t a tax day, really?) and consider the words that caused my public reflections on 1 Peter to stop back in October.

“Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him who punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good.” 1 Peter 2:13-14

Sigh. So, my initial response when reading this – ugh – is total pushback. The part of me that has lived with government interference and failure wants to rage against the system when I read this. But is raging against the system the correct response for the follower of Christ (seeing as how that’s who Peter is talking to)?

Instead of a full out rage, a few observations from these short verses.

1. We submit to honor the Lord.

Why do we do anything as Christians? Our purpose is to bring glory to our Father. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” There is no neutrality in this – or anything. Either we honor and glory the Lord or we sin.

2. We submit to every human authority.

That means wives to husbands; believers to pastors and elders; employees to employers; students to teachers; children to parents; citizens to government. It’s worth mentioning that right before this verse Peter says, “conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles.” He’s setting up his call to submit to authority as a way to glorify God.

3. The government’s job is to punish what is evil and praise those who do good.

Full authority to do whatever they please with their citizens is not given to the government. They are in place to help people do good. So what about when they don’t do good? What about when they praise evil? What about when they steal from their citizens and don’t honor their own form of government? Those are the questions. Those are the questions that I can’t answer for you, but I implore you to sit with the Scripture to consider. For me, it looks like submitting in the places that do not cause me to sin. Then using what influence or voice – however small – to advocate for what I believe is a government that offers true freedom and honors the Lord. Without breaking the law, I consider options for my life outside of direct government control as I make decisions for my family.

Even now I find myself searching for the right words. The words that articulate what I believe to be true without going too far from the topic at hand. But let me say this, Christian. When you submit to your governing authorities – even when we know that how taxation occurs in America is theft – you honor the Lord.

“For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. As God’s slaves, live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a way to conceal evil. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor.” 1 Peter 2:15-17

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untangling from lies

When was the last time you struggled to do the right thing? Yesterday? Today? Moments ago? Every time that one person speaks to you or looks in your general direction? When you got into your car and saw other cars out there too?

I have those moments. And that person. And all the parking lot sanctification problems. Along with those moments and people and problems I have a boat load of excuses and reasons for why I needed to say what I said or do what I did. “It makes perfect sense if you only you knew what happened. If only you knew this person. If only they understood how to drive through the lot with slanted spaces!”

If only my circumstance or those other people were different then I would be different…

That’s a lie.

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We like to believe that lie, because then we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions. If it’s his fault or her fault or their fault, then we don’t have any reason to repent. We believe that we are generally good and have it pretty much together. So we seek out friends to give us a pat on the back and tell us how wrong the other people are. But if we really looked at ourselves we’d see what Jesus said, “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Words come from what is already inside our hearts, not from what is outside of us. When we sin in times of agitation, it’s not their fault, it’s ours.

Peter knew of our propensity to sin. So he gives this command in his letter:

“Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you.” 1 Peter 2:11

As people who have a righteous standing before God, we are called to live lives that reflect that standing. We are indwelt with the Spirit of God. Peter doesn’t pretend that it’s the other person’s fault that we sin. Instead, he calls us to fight our flesh. When we feel the urge to sin: wage war!

But how? Well, the simple answer today comes in the form of another lyric from All Sons and Daughters.

‘Cause I am a sinner, if it’s not one thing it’s another. Caught up in words. Tangled in lies. But You are a Savior and You take brokenness aside and make it beautiful.

Jesus. He is how. That’s the answer. He saves and then not only gives us positional standing, but enables us to do what He’s called us to. He makes us beautiful. We need only to keep our eyes fixed on Him.

When our eyes are not set on that person or circumstance but on Christ, we will see that we have all we need to wage war against sin in our lives.

What are some tangible ways that you keep your eyes on Christ so that you’re able to wage war on sin?

why I must tell it to the masses

If you asked my husband how I like to listen to music, he’d tell you that I like to over saturate the air around me with one song. I find a song that I enjoy then play it until it becomes a part of who I am. Music has helped me trust the Lord by reminding me of truth.

True lyrics help me cry out to the Lord in times of suffering and celebration.

A recent conversation led me to begin listening to the band All Sons & Daughters. As the smooth harmonies filled my ears, the third song on their Spotify caught my attention.

And all will sing out Hallelujah. And we will cry out Hallelujah.

I’d heard the song before, but I’d never stopped and listened. So I stopped. I listened. And then I realized that it was not only a song about everyone, but a song about me.

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All the hearts who are content. And all who feel unworthy. And all who hurt with nothing left. Will know that You are holy.

Am I content? Is that me? Sometimes. The lesson of contentment that Paul learned – in little or much – is one that I relearn regularly. My sin stands in the way and I get caught in the comparison trap. But I’m thankful for the verse that I’ve heard so many times in the last few days that helps me remember.

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of who I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15

I am the worst one. It’s my discontent heart that makes me feel unworthy. It’s the pain of my unholiness that stands so starkly against the holiness of my Heavenly Father that makes me cry out. It’s the undeserved and amazing grace of Jesus that makes me cry out.

And all will sing out Hallelujah. And we will cry out Hallelujah.

It’s His grace – when I’m so aware of my sin and unholiness – that overwhelms my weary soul.

Shout it. Go on and scream it from the mountains. Go on and tell it to the masses. 

That He is God.

His goodness is why I can’t stop. It’s why I won’t stop. God’s sacrifice on my behalf is the life-giving reason why I love this song. He’s the God who turns discontent and unholy and unworthy hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. He’s the reason we will all eventually cry out…

Hallelujah. He is good.

All the Poor and Powerless, by All Sons & Daughters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieOL4X3nk2c

shame

Silence loomed over me like a cloud while everyone else spoke about their wedding nights. They shared with one another how special it was to have their “first time” on their wedding nights. I sat silently smiling knowing that I was the one in the room – or at least believing that I was the only one – who had nothing to contribute to this conversation. Not because I wasn’t married – although I wasn’t – but because I had given myself away in the wrong ways so much sooner than these new friends of mine. They were all so sweet and kind and clean. There I sat feeling like the dirty girl, so aware of my sin before me that I could barely hold it together.

I left that party in silent tears. Tears of shame.

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Feeling the weight of my sin that night revealed what I believed about God. I believed, for some reason, that if I knew better and I did wrong that I was not His. I believed that He would not hold tightly to me if I didn’t wait until I was married. I believed that He wouldn’t give me a husband to love me because I had – in the name of independence – already given any love I had to someone who didn’t earn or deserve it.

So I cried. I cried and I asked for forgiveness again and again.

“For it is contained in Scripture: Look! I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and honored cornerstone, and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame!” (1 Peter 2:6).

Not only was I forgiven, but the shame was taken from me! God didn’t have a plan to condemn me of my sins. He revealed Himself to me so that I might be saved and live in that freedom!

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

God has made me new through the sacrifice of His Son. This is what He called me into. I wasn’t in this holy nation or one of His people, but He chose me and called me out of darkness. He let me feel the conviction of my sin and graciously granted me repentance.

The girl I was before this party would not have felt shame, but instead she would have been proud. She would have made excuses in her mind and thought unkind things about the women who were walking in the counsel of the wise and following the path of the Lord. This conversation would have been “a stone to stumble over, and a rock to trip over” (1 Peter 2:8a). Why? Because she was disobedient to the message.

Here’s the thing, the Lord is faithful to save those who turn to Him. He doesn’t have to be the stone you stumble over. He can be a merciful and gracious Savior. Truthfully, He is both. And whether you turn to Him away from your sins or hold tightly to the sin you’ve learned to love, He will be perfect in every way.

Lord, I pray that our sin and shame would lead us to repentance. I pray that we would not hold tightly to our disobedience, but long for You.

for it is contained in Scripture…

I ask questions. A whole buncha lotta questions. If I’m getting to know you, I’ll ask questions about your family, your work, your free time, whatever! The interest is genuine. My question asking is not limited to personal questions. I want to know information. I want to learn about God and the world He created. I want to understand more than the basics. So, I ask questions.

Growing up I struggled with what to do with my questions. I remember asking, “can you be gay and Christian?” more than once without getting an answer. I was told to stop trying to stir up trouble. The problem with that answer is that my question was genuine. I didn’t understand the divide between God and man. I didn’t understand – although I didn’t know that at the time – that all humans inherit a sinful nature.

Surrounded by unbelieving friends who I loved and no one to answer my difficult questions, I believed lies. Over time I began to believe the lie that people are basically good. Those basically good people would be made better by becoming Christians. All the “don’t judge” and “you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength” out-of-context teaching became my kind of Christianity. It was a faith that didn’t require any follow through and belonged to anyone who happened to agree with any part of it at any time in their lives.

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My foundation was not biblical. It was not strong. It was non-existent.

Looking back I know that one thing would have made a huge difference when I asked a difficult question: being led to the Bible.

“For it is contained in Scripture…” (1 Peter 2:6a).

Why did Peter go there?

Because “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

When the questions are difficult – or seemingly easy – we should go to the holy scriptures. As the only infallible, inerrant Word of God, where else would we go to find the essential truths of life? If a question about sin and salvation is asked, the first place to look for the answer is the Word of God.

Peter knew this. He knew that the Scriptures held the inspired Word of our Lord. In his letter, he assumed the sufficiency of Scripture as authoritative. There is no long explanation of how the Old Testament is important. He just says, in the middle of his thought, “For it is contained in Scripture…”

Oh, that we would have the same stance on Scripture. We are so blessed to have many Bibles in our language. Let’s not remain ill-equipped by not giving Scripture its proper place in our lives.

I pray that we would stand firmly on the authority that is given within the pages of Scripture. I pray that we would stand firmly on the foundation of the Word of God. I pray that we may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

coming to Him

As I sit here typing, I’m holding my son. The Lord created my little boy and grew him in my womb for approximately 40 weeks and 5 days before I met him and his sister face-to-face. This little black boy is crying in my arms and holding tightly to me because he is in need of comfort. I have been his mama since I found out that he was growing inside of me. I’ve been his mama since before I knew he was a boy or that he was a twin. He knows that I am here for him and that I will be here when he needs anything. I’m sure that when his sister is having a difficulty, he tells her in their special toddler twin talk, “go to mama.”

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Fear is currently consuming our nation. Fear and hurt and anger. People don’t know what to do, so they do what they think is best – whether that’s silence, sharing on facebook, or marching the streets.

It seems that each time a black person is killed…

I’m going to pause here for a moment.

Fear. The racial tension sparks fear. But this post is not about who did what or who is to blame or the justice system. This is not about the facts of one particular situation, but the problem as a whole. This is not the time to debate whether or not this one person did this or that or the other. This is not the time to debate whether or not justice is being served. This is about the hurt and uncertainty and fear that comes as we hear the narrative play out again and again and again.

Now I’ll continue…

It seems that each time a black person is killed by police and the media takes hold of it, the citizens turn on each other. A dialogue is necessary, but what is the topic of that dialogue? Too often the conversation is one that either defends – without any real consideration for the hurt – the actions of the officer without any details of the situation. Or it’s about how racism – even though we can’t read the hearts of individuals because we are not God – is the driving force in every situation before having the details. I’m going to say that both of those responses goes too far.

We as believers have hope – even in the midst of hatred, racial tension, and death – that is greater than anything the world can offer. When these situations arise – and they will again – we have an opportunity to share that hope with hurting and confused and afraid and angry people. Our response should not look exactly like those who have not been bought with the precious blood of Jesus, but instead we should be like my son, telling others, “go to Papa.”

Peter lays out the truth of the gospel. Then he says, “Coming to Him…” (1 Peter 2:4a). He goes on to talk about what is being done in the lives of believers who have come to Jesus. But I just stopped on those three words. Why? Because that is what we should be doing and bringing others to do when they are hurting.

A governmental system overhaul will not fix the problem of racism, the feeling of being misunderstood, or the tension that continues to rise, cause more incidents, and incite riots. Sitting idly by won’t make it better. Other humans can’t turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. Only the God who created each of us in His image can heal people. Only God who is with us – even in this – can bring hope to the hurting. Let’s not dismiss the pain of other human beings because we don’t understand it. May we not defend the actions of those who are in sin on either “side” of the conversation. Instead, brothers and sisters, let’s bring those hurting to Jesus so that they may be saved and find everlasting hope.

Lord, I confess that I don’t always respond rightly. I become afraid and it feels consuming. But Lord I pray that you would use me and this situation for your glory. I pray that your church would know how to call people to repentance and not fear the responses they may receive. Thank you for your great grace and eternal hope. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

pure spiritual milk.

I breastfed twins. Let’s just put that out there in the open so that we know what we’re dealing with right now. I was responsible for keeping two babies alive with milk that came from my breasts. It was an exciting and exhausting experience. Because I didn’t stay home with them, I was often pumping so that they were well fed when I wasn’t around. When at work I would stand in the bathroom and use the baby changing station as a table to pump and watch Netflix (that was my favorite part about pumping at work). I’m not sure if you know what an electric breast pump sounds like, but let’s just say you do for the sake of the rest of this story.

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One day when I’m in the restroom pumping, a little boy walks in with his grandmother. They’re talking and she’s trying to encourage him to hurry, but he keeps asking, “what’s that sound? Grandma, what’s that sound?” She tells him over and over that she doesn’t know and to just hurry up. Then he exclaims – because he’s totally figured it out, “it sounds like a cow!” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud in the restroom that day. His grandma said, “Ah! I just figured out what it is.” And I made a comment about how that was a really close guess. They flushed, washed hands, and left the restroom. I still crack up thinking about this day.

Peter, after telling us who we are now that we have been made new in Christ is telling us to live like it. He says to rid ourselves of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander then makes reference to my very situation: breastfeeding. “Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation, since you tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2). What?! He just said that just like little babies who live off and long for and desire the milk from their mama’s breasts, we should desire pure spiritual milk. We should live off of and long for and desire the Lord’s Word and His leading in our lives. We don’t stay in this infant stage always. Instead, the pure spiritual milk grows us in our salvation. We aren’t left as babies. We mature. Why? We tasted the pure spiritual milk and saw that the Lord is good. He is good. He is the one who holds onto us. He fills us. He matures us in Himself. It’s not something that we do, but something that happens because we are in Him and trusting in Him for our salvation.

Christ sacrifices for us. We live as people who depend fully on His sacrifice and long for what He provides.