‘Are the Powers That Be Really Ordained by God?’ (2015)

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We do want to be careful about concluding that God in any way endorses the actions of tyrants–Ahab and Jezebel, Athaliah, Nero, Stalin, Hitler, Mao: one could use up a whole day just listing the blood-soaked tyrants of this fallen world–but we don’t dare say that anything happens outside the sphere of His sovereignty.

Are the Powers That Be Really Ordained by God?

Remember: God gives us free will. It wouldn’t be free, if we couldn’t abuse it. Sometimes it’s necessary for God to intervene. If He didn’t, we’d wipe ourselves out.

Along with the power of the civil magistrate, the government, come various responsibilities. We are to honor and support any government that fulfills those responsibilities, even if it’s staffed by pagans. The trouble starts when the rulers ignore their responsibilities.

But to insist that God “ordains” every monster who rises to power by climbing over the corpses of his victims–well, that’s simply blaming God.

We can’t see everything that He sees, we can’t know but the most inconsequential sliver of what He knows–and there is a time to trust and obey.

And a time to cast out wicked rulers.


Unforgettable Images… from the Bible

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In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.     St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 11:32-33

In one of my earliest years in Sunday school–I think I might have been seven years old, or possibly six–our teacher used to teach from a printed handout that we could take home with us, a different one each week. Each one was illustrated with a large, color picture of the Bible story described in the lesson. I don’t remember being able to read these: the teacher or a family member (usually my Uncle Bernie) had to read it to me.

But I remember some of those pictures as if I’d only seen them yesterday. Remembered them for all this time. I guess you’d have to say they were an effective teaching tool.

Among the lessons I remember best was Paul’s escape from Damascus, after they were going to arrest him for preaching the Gospel there: how all the gates of the city were watched, so the disciples helped him get over the wall by letting him down in a basket. Probably a laundry basket.

No Greek or Roman historian would have recorded such a thing. It was undignified! What kind of hero has to escape his enemies in a basket? And if it did happen, the sooner it could be forgotten, the better.

But the Bible is true.

Do you honestly think this story of the basket would be in there, if it wasn’t true? Was that any way to pump up the stature of the leaders of the early church? “Wow, I wanna join! When the cops came for the leader, he got away in a laundry basket!” Yeah, right.  You couldn’t tell that story in a presidential campaign, unless you were telling it about your opponent.

Think about that. If you read the Bible and are familiar with its content, you’ll run out of time before you run out of examples.

‘Lest Ye Sorrow’

This is I Thessalonians 4:13-18 set to music, and performed by the kids at Fountainview Academy. “Wherefore comfort one another with these words…” Yes–St. Paul has words of comfort for us. The Holy Spirit gave them to him, to give to us.

‘Christ of Contention’?

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Yesterday a couple of you discussed the suitability of posting a hymn sung by Willie Nelson, who has a reputation as one who does not exactly live according to the Gospel. Of course, if any of us could really do that, we wouldn’t need a Savior.

Anyway, that brief exchange got me thinking that St. Paul had already addressed this issue, somewhere in the Bible. My Strong’s Concordance soon led me to Philippians 1: 15-18.

Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: but the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

Paul seems to be saying that one way or another, Christ is preached and God is glorified. So I think by that standard we’re okay with a hymn by Willie Nelson.

Who knows? If the man needs conversion, he might sing it often enough to get one.

For in HIM we Live, and Move!!

Dear Kristi Ann, I looked this up, because I had always wondered which poet this was. Paul was quoting from an ancient Greek poet named Aratus, who flourished around 300 B.C. The saint really knew his audience.   —LD


One of the Coolest Verses in the Bible

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St. Paul wrote the Epistle to the Philippians from Rome, where he was awaiting trial for assorted thought crimes against the state (some things never change). In closing his letter, he said,\

All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household. (Philippians 4:22)

Caesar’s household! Christians–right there in the very heart of the Roman Empire. Right there in Caesar’s house! And this less than 40 years after Jesus Christ was crucified–by Rome.

The Romans should have known that they were licked right there. Nevertheless, they went on to kill and jail as many Christians as they could lay their hands on. All those early Christians had to do, to save themselves from painful and humiliating deaths, was to deny Jesus Christ.

They didn’t.

And Christ did not and will not deny them.

Christian Soldiers–Check Your Equipment!

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Chuck Swindoll once gave a sermon, on the radio, that I’ve never forgotten.

As an ex-Marine, he explained how important it is for a soldier to check and recheck his equipment before he goes on duty. You have to lay out all the items and make sure everything is there.

With that in mind, he went on to Ephesians 6:10-17–in which St. Paul lists the equipment that the Christian needs. I can’t find that sermon, but I can certainly find the Scripture. It bears repeating here.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand, therefore, 1) having your loins girt about with truth, and having on 2) the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod 3) with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking 4) the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

And take 5) the helmet of salvation, and 6) the sword of the spirit, which is the world of God…

That’s your checklist. Have all of these assets on hand at all times: because we as servants of God, as soldiers of the King of Kings, will need them every day.

And of course the whole set is carried in a web of constant prayer, lest anything be dropped and lost.

Take a look at what we’re up against, and tell me if we dare do without any of these spiritual weapons.

Is It OK for Christians to Watch Pagan Movies?

When this sort of thing starts making sense to you, it’s time to ease up on the movies.

You probably already know I’m going to say yes, of course it is. And pagan TV shows. And to read pagan books, etc. But not all Christians would agree with me.

In Acts 17, Paul delivers a sermon to the pagan know-it-alls of Athens, in which he quotes “your own poets.” Obviously Paul was familiar with pagan Greek literature, and used it to make his Christian message more understandable to his audience. Not that many of them listened, but that was hardly his fault.

How can we effectively carry out our mission, the Great Commission, if we don’t know what we’re up against? If we don’t know how to communicate with this world’s audience? If we have no idea of how they see things, no idea of how they think?

Popular culture can do much to educate us in these areas.

To be sure, you don’t want to be watching so many of those pagan movies and TV shows, if it’s gotten to the point that they’re starting to make sense to you. For instance, it’s useful to know how deeply the Evolutionary Myth has soaked into our culture. It is not useful to start believing in it yourself.

If you can learn how to decode the cultural messages buried in movies and TV programs, you can learn much. At the very least you can learn what to watch out for.

You don’t have to feel guilty for watching a movie.

Just don’t let the movies get to you.

Hymn: ‘Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise’

The opening words of this classic hymn are from Paul’s first Epistle to Timothy, Chapter 1.

The thing about Paul’s epistles is, they’re full of real people. We know a lot about Timothy–his grandmother, Lois, his mother, Eunice, his pagan father (whose name is not given), and his less than robust state of health, for which Paul advises him to take a little wine with his dinner, instead of water.

If we belong to Jesus Christ, we are in fellowship with these saints of old; they are our family. We can love them. Meanwhile, we are in fellowship with saints in Africa and Asia and other faraway places, whom in this life we will never see face-to-face but who are nevertheless knit to us in a holy bond. They, too, are our family in Christ.

It’s good to have a big family, don’t you think?

Paul’s Speech to Wise Fools


If you had been in Athens around the year 52 A.D., you might have arrived in time to hear an odd little Jewish guy give a speech to the most sophisticated, best-educated audience in the Greco-Roman world. The odd little guy was St. Paul, and this is what he said to them:

“Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.’ Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain of your own poets have also said, ‘For we are also his offspring.’

“Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained whereof he hath given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked… [Acts 17:22-32]

Paul made few converts in Athens. They were all too smart to be interested in eternal life.

Some things never change.