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Give to God what is God’s

January 14, 2011

Many people are familiar with the passage in Matthew 22 where the Pharisees ask Jesus about paying taxes to Caesar.  The were trying to trick Jesus into condoning civil disobedience just because Caesar wasn’t a nice guy.  Yet Jesus so eloquently quipped, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Mt 22:21).

The teaching most commonly taken from this is that Christians should obey government rulers whenever possible.  As Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rm 12:18).  But if the government were to make a law against, say, going to church…should that law be obeyed?  Of course not!  When Peter was imprisoned for preaching the Name of Jesus, he replied, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29).  So if the government ever makes a law that says I can’t go to church, bet your bottom dollar that I will go to church every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

That was a nice teaching from Matthew 22:21, but in my opinion, it isn’t the most important one.  Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s – absolutely.  But what about the rest of the verse?  And to God what is God’s – ah!  It’s kind of like the old Texas Revolution cheer – “Remember the Alamo!  Remember Goliad!”  Everyone remembers the Alamo…we just forget to remember the rest of the saying.  (The Goliad Campain was fought before the Alamo btw…)

So let’s pay some hommage to the second half of Matthew 22:21.  While the first half emphasizes our obligations to our human authorities, the second half emphasizes our obligations to our Supreme Authority – God.  In other words, Jesus is saying, “It is true that you have responsibilities that you need to take care of.  I know that.  BUT, don’t forget about God.  No excuse is good enough to justify ignoring God’s place in your life.”

The big question now becomes, what in your life is God’s?  Or perhaps more appropriately, what in your life should be God’s?  Regardless of how busy you become, does God deserve part of your day?  How about just 20 minutes for Bible reading and prayer?  Does God deserve that from you?

1 Samuel 2:30 – Those who honor Me I will honor, but those who despise Me will be disdained.

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Moving Forward

January 1, 2011

I have a challenge for you: hop on your bike and try to keep your balance…without pedaling.  Just stay stationary, pick up your feet, and see how long you can keep your balance.  Not too easy, is it?  Yet when you start pedaling and moving forward, keeping your balance becomes as easy as, well, you know…

Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance you must keep moving.”  How true. Although conventional wisdom would seem to say that staying put and focusing on the task at hand is the best way to achieve success, sometimes the opposite is true.  Sometimes you just have to get going, keep your eyes on the prize, and watch the pieces fall into place.

I’m sure you’ve heard phrases like “the Christian walk”, “walking with God”, etc.  There’s a reason that the Christian life is compared to “walking with God” and not “chilling on the couch with God.”  God loves you too much to leave you the way you are.  He has big things in store for you, but in order for you to achieve them, you have to get going.

How would you currently categorize your Christian life?  Were you recently saved, or have you been a Christian for a long time?  Is your Bible a little dusty, or do you have a daily devotional time?  Do you hide your beliefs, or do you wear the Cross proudly on your sleeve?  Regardless of where you currently are, I challenge you to make 2011 a year of moving forward in your walk with God.  Set some goals to achieve in your relationship with God and others this year. Here are some of mine:

1. Read the Bible in 2 years

This can be done by reading about 11.5 chapters per week.  Great spiritual discipline.

2. Verse memorization

Committing verses to memory can be extremely rewarding and helpful in times of sorrow, stress, depression, anger, temptation, etc.  I have a list of 124 verses that I would like to memorize in 2 years time, about 1 per week.  (Remember Charlie’s List?)

3. Regular fasting as God directs

Taking a break from the preparation, consumption, and eating of food, from tv, from shopping, etc. and instead using that time to draw closer to God in His Word and in prayer is extremely beneficial.  Remember, Jesus gave us instructions for when we fast, not if we fast (Matthew 6:16).

4. Share the Gospel with at least 3 friends from school before graduation

“How many times have we watched it slip by?  The opportunity passes and we wonder why…”  I can recall all too many opportunities that I watched slip by.  Before I graduate West Virginia University, I vow to let God direct me to share the gift of eternal life with at least 3 friends that I have made during my time there.

Wherever you are with God, make a short list of spiritual challenges that can draw you closer to Him.  And then get going.

There your heart will be also

March 7, 2010

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If the picture has you enticed, then you absolutely HAVE to watch this rap from New Hope Church in Hawaii about tithing.  Come on, you know you want to…

Everybody watch?  Good.  Now first thinks first, that was quite possibly the best thing ever! Kudos to those guys for not only remembering the classics like “Hammer Time” and “Running Man” but also being up to date with a little “Walk it Out.”  Very impressive.

Now that you’re all done giggling, let me share my take on the basic message that was being shared.

A line towards the end of the rap said, “Where’s your heart?  Just follow the cash.  I’m storing up mine in a Heavenly stash.”  This of course is based off of one of Jesus’ teachings during the sermon on the mount: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matthew 6:21,24 NIV).

Many people think that this teaching applies only to the Donald Trump’s of the world: greedy traders on Wall Street and selfish CEO’s who put their wallet before God.  However, what Jesus said applies to regular people like you and me, too.

No one can serve two masters.  There are many things besides money that we can put before God.  Sometimes I get too busy with homework and tv that my evening just gets away from me, and before I know it I don’t have time for my daily prayer time and Bible study.  What are the effects of this?

There your heart will be also.  I sometimes end up caring more about getting perfect grades and about Jim and Pam’s wedding than about what God might be trying to do with my life.

Who has been your master this week?  Who have you been serving with your time, talents, and love?  Have you been too busy with friends, school, or a significant other to spend any time with God?  We cannot serve both God and ourselves.  The Lord has given us all gifts, and He intends for us to use our gifts to serve Him, to serve others, and to build up His Kingdom (Romans 12:6-8).

How can you serve God today?  Who do you know that is in need of a few moments of your time?

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15 NIV).

In Christ,

Nick B

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