Posts tagged ‘Fasting’

Praying for our Government

Today begins Concordia’s Thirty Hour Famine for our youth.  During this special period of fasting, Concordia’s youth will devote themselves to prayer, as is the norm in Scripture: “I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with Him in prayer and petition, in fasting” (Daniel 9:3).  Among the items for which we are urging our youth to pray is our government.  In our politically divisive and derisive climate, it is important to remind ourselves what the Scriptures say about how Christians should relate to their government.  Thus, I have prepared a short synopsis of what the Scriptures say concerning governmental authorities which will be used as part of the Thirty Hour Famine.  Though simple, I thought I would publish it on my blog as a reminder of how we should appropriately engage in the political process.  I hope it’s a blessing to you!

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  (Romans 13:1-2)

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.  (1 Peter 2:13-14)

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

These passages from Scripture remind us of the importance of honoring our governmental authorities.   From these passages we learn:

  • God’s authority stands behind government’s authority.  God Himself has established all political authorities.
  • Because God’s authority is behind government’s authority, we ought to submit to our government as long as its policies do not conflict with God’s Word (cf. Acts 5:29).
  • Not only should we passively submit to the government’s authority, we should actively pray for our officials.  They deserve our prayers and honor.

Clearly, many people do not obey the Bible’s guidance when it comes to governmental authority.  Rather than respecting and praying for our governmental officials, many people mock and ridicule them and, in some extreme instances, even threaten them.  Yet, when all of these biblical admonitions to respect the governing authorities were written, the person in power was the Roman emperor Nero.  Nero hated Christians.  Some traditions hold that it was Nero who was at least indirectly responsible for the deaths of Peter and Paul, the authors of the above biblical quotes.  When a fire destroyed Rome in AD 64, Nero blamed the Christians for the city’s destruction and launched a fierce campaign of persecution against them.  The first century Roman historian Tacitus writes of Nero’s persecution:  “Covered with the skins of beasts, the Christians were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired” (Tacitus, Annals 15.44).  In spite of all of this, the biblical authors still urged Christians to respect the governing authorities.

Whether or not we agree with the policies and politics of our elected officials, we should still respect our governing authorities and pray for them.  We should especially pray for them when they do things out of step with God’s Word.  We should pray that they would repent and listen to God’s voice.  We should also pray that God’s will be done, even if it is done through imperfect politicians.

Finally, we must remember that no matter who is in power, government will not and cannot solve all of this world’s problems.  Many people seem to believe that if one or another political party would only gain power in Congress and the White House, then all of our problems would be solved.  Though governmental officials can do many things, they cannot save the world.  Only Jesus can do that.  This is why, while respecting our governmental authorities, we do not put our ultimate trust in them.  We put our ultimate trust in Christ alone.

May 13, 2011 at 8:35 am Leave a comment

The Temptation of Christ – Matthew 4:1-11

Yesterday at Concordia, we kicked off our Lenten season with a two and a half day fast.  If you want more information on fasting, its theological significance, as well as some of the mechanics of fasting, you can download a pdf of our fasting booklet here.

My guess is, if you are participating in our fast from solid foods, even as you are reading this, your stomach is growling.  Mine is.  And yet, as I mentioned in my message last night, we fast so that we can feast.  For as our stomachs are emptied, our souls are filled as we remember, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

As I was thinking further about the temptations Satan leveled at Jesus while he was fasting in the desert, a few things struck me.  First, I found it striking that Satan didn’t stop at one temptation.  He circled back to tempt Jesus a second and a third time.  When it comes to luring people into sin, Satan’s motto seems to be, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”  Thus, this is a temptation truth that we do well to remember:  Fighting temptation is not a battle, it’s a war.  If we resist temptation once, we can be pretty much guaranteed that Satan will come back for another round.  But, then again, lest we throw up our hands in despair, believing it is futile to even try to resist temptation because Satan will simply continue to assault us, I also found Matthew 4:11 to be especially heartening: “Then the devil left Jesus.”  Satan will eventually check out, even if he comes at you for a few rounds.  Jesus’ brother James puts it well:  “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).  If you, like Jesus, are fighting a battle with Satan, I would simply offer you this exhortation:  Resist the devil.  And keep on resisting.  Even if it takes forty days.  For Satan will eventually check out.

The second thing I found striking about Satan’s encounter with Christ is what one scholar terms as the “descending Christology” of these temptations.  In his first temptation, Satan addresses Jesus: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3).  Notice that Satan acknowledges Jesus could be the Son of God, but he does not acknowledge he is the Son of God.  But Satan does not stop here.  He dives deeper into heresy until he crassly declares in his third temptation: “All [the kingdoms of the world] I will give you if you will bow down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9).  Satan begins his temptations by saying, “If you are the Son of God…” He ends his temptations by essentially saying, “If I am god…”  He ends his temptations demanding Jesus worship him as a god.  A subtler error turns into a huge and hoary one.

Satan uses the same tactic with us that he used with Jesus.  He begins by tempting us with smaller errors but then tries to drag us into larger errors until he finally destroys our faith altogether.   This is why, whether it be a temptation to tell a little white lie or a temptation to commit murder, we must resist Satan’s every temptation at every turn and on every front.

The final thing I found striking – and really, touching – about Christ’s battle with Satan is the final line of Matthew’s temptation account:  “And angels came and attended Jesus” (Matthew 4:11).  The Greek word for “attended” is diakaneo, a word which describes someone who waits on tables.  This has led many scholars to believe that following Satan’s temptations, angels came and waited on Jesus with food.  And so Jesus finally breaks his fast.  Oh what a relief that must have been for our Lord.  And oh what a joy it must have been to see all of heaven concerned with his hunger and temptations.  And here is comfort for us too:  When we feel hungry or weak or tempted, all of heaven is concerned with our concerns.  And heaven attends to us.  God’s angels and best of all, God’s Son, offer us strength when we are weak and perseverance when we are tired.  And so, as you fast, rejoice that all of heaven watches.  And rejoice that all of heaven cares.  But most of all, rejoice that the God of heaven loves you.

February 18, 2010 at 4:45 am 1 comment


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