Respecting Authority

While watching the President's State of the Union address on TV last night, I saw something that helps me understand why our country is in such sad shape these days. All our government leaders were gathered there in one room and I saw in their actions (or lack thereof) a real spiritual problem. This country has lost it's respect for authority! When President Bush would say something, the Republicans would stand and applaud and the Democrats would not. I understand that the two parties have different, sometimes opposite, viewpoints. I understand that the Democrats are not going to applaud something they didn't like. But I noticed that while the President was speaking, many of the Democrats were reading the newspaper or looking around at something else. They were ignoring the President on purpose. I know the Republicans do the same thing when a Democratic President is speaking. And that is the problem; disrespect for authority!
Respect for authority has nothing to do with one's politics. When a person is elected as President of the United States, that person is every American's president. It doesn't matter if you like them or not; it doesn't matter if you agree with their policies or not. If that person was legally elected, then you must respect their authority. If a Democrat can say about a Republican President, "That's not my President!" then how can they not expect Republican citizens to say the same thing about a Democratic President! It divides our country and makes us weak! If you don't want someone to be president, vote against them! But once the voting is over, it is time to come together as a nation and follow (and respect) our leader!
God is the ultimate authority and He is the only one who can delegate authority. All authority comes from God. When we disrespect authority, we disrespect the one who gives that authority. When we call President Bush names (whether it be W or dubya or old Bush or whatever), we are disrespecting God and that is sin! A nation in sin won't enjoy the blessings of God. If our nations leaders act in such disrespect of authority, how can we expect our young people to act any differently?! When you disrespect authority, your authority will be disrespected. If you don't respect police, teachers and presidents, then you're children won't feel they have to respect you!

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Bless His Name

In prisoner's chains with bleeding stripes
Paul and Silas prayed that night
And in their pain began to see
Their chains were loosed and they were free

I bless your name
I bless your name
I give you honor, give you praise
You are the life, the truth, the way
I bless your name
I bless your name

Some midnight hour if you should find
You're in a prison of your mind
Reach out praise, defy those chains
And they will fall in Jesus' name

I bless your name
I bless your name
I give you honor, give you praise
You are the life, the truth, the way
I bless your name
I bless your name

(I Bless Your Name - Selah)

God is worthy of praise in the good times and in the bad. He is worthy of worship because He is God and He is worthy of praise because of His mercy to us all. When we find ourselves in tough situations, we have to make a choice about how we will react. We can grumble, complain and fall to pieces or we can stand tall, push through and praise the Lord. The first way is sure defeat, but the second is sure victory.

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Speaking Peace

I'm not one of the so-called "name it and claim it" crowd. (Don't you just hate it when Christian brothers and sisters come up with derogatory names to call each other just because they believe something differently?) But I do believe that what we say (and don't say) has more effect on our lives than we know. I believe that we can speak peace and favor and even health into our lives. I'm not talking about chants or magic words, I'm talking about speaking the word in faith. I'm talking about saying about ourselves what the word of God says about us. I'm talking about claiming the promises of God for ourselves. I'm talking about deciding what we want our lives to be like and then saying it (out loud!) and then not settling for anything less! I believe through faith (or lack of it) we create our own circumstances. And I know we enlist God's help through faith.What we believe, we should say!
Try it today. Say "I believe in the name of Jesus that today will be a peaceful, prosperous, and happy day filled with good health and favor for me and all my house!". Expect it, look for it and I believe you will see it!

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Owner or Renter?

If you own your own house and the roof begins to leak, guess who has to pay to have it fixed? Right... you do! But if you rent the house you can call the landlord because it is his responsibility to care for the house.
If you choose to live your life and leave Jesus out of it, then you are responsible for fixing anything that goes wrong. Don't expect Jesus to come running to fix a life He's not responsible for. But if you have given ownership of your life over to Him, then call on His name and He'll be there for you every time.
We can't have our cake and eat it too. Either we keep control of our lives and along with it the responsibility, or we give our lives away and know that Jesus will take responsibility for us. I choose to let Jesus be in control of my life. I have proven to myself over the years that I am not nearly as capable of running things as I thought I was. I want someone wiser and more powerful than I to run my life. There are too many things I don't understand and too many things that can go wrong that I don't have the power to fix. I'm not saying that I just sit down and do nothing while Jesus does everything for me. He will lead me, but I must follow! I want Him to make the decisions and guide me through this world. He sees the end from the beginning. He knows what's going to happen tomorrow. He has the power to manipulate circumstances to work out for my good. I would be foolish to choose my own limited abilities over His unlimited knowledge and power!
If you take up your life, you will lose it. If you lay down your life for His sake, you will gain it. It's that simple. You decide.

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Conquering the Flesh

It's obvious that most Christians don't understand the flesh problem. I'm talking about the battle to be spiritual-minded, not carnal-minded. I'm not talking about the meat under your skin; I'm talking about the way the bodies desires tempt your soul to sin. Most people seem to equate carnality with sexual sin and they think that because they're not failing in that area then they're alright. Well, think again.
Did you ever see that game in the arcades called "whack-a-mole"? A little mole pops it's head out of a hole and the object of the game is to whack it on the head with a little mallet. When you whack it at one hole, it pops up from another hole somewhere else and you get points depending on how many times you hit it on the head. That's the way most Christians fight the flesh. They fight their flesh and deny it in one area and think they're OK. But then it pops up in another area and they fight it there. And then it pops up in another area and they have to fight it there too. The cycle is endless and very tiresome. No one can keep it up for long!
We must understand that the flesh is a many-headed beast. If you only kill one head, another one will pop up somewhere and it will feed through that one. Many Christians will deny their flesh when it comes to sexual sin, or drugs and alcohol, or maybe stealing. But then they will gorge themselves at the dinner table and they don't realize that gluttony is a work of the flesh and therefore their over-eating is keeping their flesh alive! It's like trying to kill a bee in a mason jar. If you don't plug every air hole, the bee will not die. He may get a little weaker, but if there is any hole left through which it can get air, it will continue to live!
The answer is to deny the flesh in every area. We must cut off all it's heads at one time. We mustn't give in to any temptation (even if we feel it is a "small" thing) or the flesh will live on. If you know that something is a temptation to you, stay away from it! If it's something you have failed at in the past, avoid it! Don't give place to the devil by allowing him to use your desires against you. The devil will use even legitimate desires (like food and sex) by tempting you to excess in those areas. Be wise and be careful. Think and pray.

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Cultivate the Relationship

I've had people tell me that they believe in God and they want to live right, but they just can't seem to get started. These are good, generous, kind people who just can't seem to make the life commitment. They want to go to church and serve God, but for varied reasons, they just can't seem to do it. If you are in this position, let me offer some advice.
Cultivate the relationship; that is the first order of business. Going to church is not what saves you. Living right is not what saves you. Jesus saves you. Get alone with Him and cultivate a relationship. Spend a few minutes each morning (or each night) talking with Him. Tell Him how you feel, what you're afraid of, what you want from life. Get to know Him and all the other things will come along naturally. Everything will blossom from the relationship. People tend to get things backward; they want to change and then go to God. But without God, people can't change. Once you get to know Him you will be drawn to that feeling of love and forgiveness and peace that you feel in His presence. Going to church, reading the Bible, and living right will all emerge from that personal relationship.

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Be Myself

The only place I can really be myself is when I'm alone with God; everywhere else I have to be what I'm supposed to be. When I'm husband, I have to be strong, decisive, and manly. When I'm father, I have to wise, nurturing and supportive. When I'm employee, I have to be faithful, hardworking and productive. When I'm minister, I have to be thoughtful, spiritual and caring.
But when I'm with God, He knows that sometimes I'm all those things and sometimes I'm none of those things and usually I'm a good mixture of those things. He lets me be me and it feels so good to just be real and not have to put on a face. I'm no hypocrite; I don't do things just to impress people, but I do feel pressure to play the role. All I have to be with God is His son. He knows the real me anyway, so it would be foolish and futile to be anything but myself! I can feel His love when I'm in His presence and I know that He accepts me as I am. He does let me know when I've done something wrong and I know He expects me to learn from my mistakes and mature, but He corrects me in such a gentle and kind way that I don't feel "judged", just loved.
Go to God and be yourself; it feels great!

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He Believes in You

We Christians are always asking people, "Do you believe in Jesus?", but how often do we tell them that Jesus believes in them? I remember how I felt before I accepted Jesus as my savior. I knew there was a God and I'd heard of Jesus all my life, but I figured that if all the things I'd heard about Him were true, then He certainly wouldn't want me. If He was really perfect and holy and righteous and selfless then He was everything I wasn't and I was convinced that I wasn't good enough to go to Him and ask for anything (or expect anything from Him).
I believed in Him, but I didn't know that He believed in me. I didn't know that He was pulling for me, working behind the scenes to get me where He wanted me to be. I can see now that throughout my life He was leading me to Himself, but I couldn't see it at the time. I thought He would judge me and wanted to punish me for all that I had done. I didn't know that He was waiting anxiously to forgive me and was pulling for me to make it. I didn't know that He believed in me; that He saw the goodness that He had created in me and knew that some day it would come out and I would pull through. I wish someone had told me.
If you don't already know it, I'm telling you now; Jesus believes in you. Even if you don't believe in Him yet, He believes in you. He created you and put a little of Himself into you and He is standing on the sidelines cheering you on. He is your biggest supporter. He wants you to win. It's not that He's some power-hungry monarch who only wants you to bow down and serve Him; He wants what's best for you and He knows that He is what's best for you. He wants to be able to forgive you and take care of you and provide for you and bless you. He believes you can make it even if you don't. Yes Jesus loves you, but He also believes in you!

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