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Tuesday, June 24, 2008
The wheat in our area is about ready for harvest.
This farm view is about two miles from our home. The ridge is on the other side of the Susquehanna River in York County. At the very top of the ridge to the left of the farmhouse is a huge mansion owned by the owner of the Baltimore Ravens football team.
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"Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey God rather than men!'" (Acts 5:29).
Whenever we travel out of town we leave our dog, Roxie, with a family in our neighborhood. They have two dogs of their own and are usually training a third one to be a Seeing Eye dog. Roxie always enjoys it when we pull up in their driveway and drop her off prior to our trips. I think she feels it's sort of like visiting extended family; both human and canine. Yesterday Roxie's caregiver stopped by on her bike. It was a beautiful evening so she and Brooksyne sat outside visiting under the shade tree until sunset.
In the course of their conversation our friend shared about a concept in the training of Seeing Eye dogs that is intended for the safety of the owner. Dogs are trained to obey the owner but are also trained to disobey if it’s for the owner's safety. For example the owner may step up to a curb and be prepared to cross a road. Hearing no vehicles the owner instructs the dog to proceed. However if the dog senses danger he or she is trained to step in front of the owner, and prohibit the dangerous crossing. This is known as "intelligent disobedience".
I found this concept very interesting and quickly began to consider a spiritual analogy. The Scripture teaches us that we are to submit to our governing rulers (Romans 13). This is essential for order in society. However this is not intended to be a mindless submission.
Peter and the other disciples demonstrated "intelligent disobedience" in our daily text. They were being instructed to violate a command of God and their critical decision was, "We must obey God rather than men!" I recently read of a pastor in Canada who is undergoing persecution for faithfully proclaiming the truths of God's Word which stands contrary to the secular political climate of that country, and many countries, for that matter.
We are also commanded to obey our spiritual leaders (Hebrews 13:17). As a pastor for 25 years I had the role of pastoral leadership while at the same time I accounted/submitted to a spiritual board (I still am accountable in my present ministry). I believe a church functions well when there is a submission to authority. So much church conflict rises up over relatively minor or petty issues. I consider the two major conflicts in the churches where I was the pastor and feel in retrospect the struggle was really over these minor issues, although at the time the matter seemed overwhelming and unending.
But there are also huge issues that confront the church body; at times there is a departure from "the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3). I bring this point up with caution but I feel that "intelligent disobedience" also has a place in the spiritual realm.
Recently a friend shared with me concerning his church where the pastoral leadership had taken a decidedly unbiblical direction. A powerful, persuasive pastor can misuse his authority and tragically lead a church in the wrong direction. This pastor had feigned faithfulness to the Bible until he had a solid hold on the church and then began teaching false doctrine. It was a very difficult time for the dedicated lay leadership to hold steady as this popular pastor's unbiblical views were revealed. With the Lord's help the godly leadership was able to keep the church on a Biblical track, although it was not without a great deal of painful conflict.
Today I urge you to first and foremost seek to remain faithful to Christ and the Holy Scriptures. Submit to human authority, as this pleases God. But submit first and foremost to Your highest authority, and when there is a clash, always place divine authority over human authority.
May we, like Peter and the apostles, with great conviction declare, "We must obey God rather than men." May we know when to be "intelligently disobedient." And finally may God give us the sufficient grace to deal with the consequence of such an important decision.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily Prayer: Father, You have placed authority figures in our lives from birth to our final days on earth. Some bless us greatly while others challenge us fiercely. In areas where You have given us the privilege of being an authority figure may we be responsible role models, for we know it is not just the talk that people hear, but the walk that people see. As each of us are called to submit to our family, spiritual, employee, and governmental leaders may we do so with cheerfulness so that we are a blessing rather than a grievous burden. But when those to whom we submit conflict with our supreme authority we pray for conviction and courage to stand for righteousness in obedience to Your commands. We pray for this in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior, amen.
Yesterday we shared how we had heard Lloyd John Ogilvie at a service on Sunday in Ocean City, New Jersey. We had intended to include this story we read about him that was retold on a blog:
One Sunday when Lloyd Ogilvie was the Senior Pastor of Hollywood Presbyterian Church, he awoke early because he wanted to go over his sermon a few more times. Before he left his home, he grabbed some bills from the top of his dresser so that he could buy a cup of coffee on the way to his study.
When he arrived at a convenience store near the church, he parked his car and got out. Suddenly, a group of men emerged from the darkness and surrounded him ominously. One of them said in a rough voice, “We want you to buy us some coffee.” Obviously this was not what Lloyd had planned to do with his time or his money. But he sensed the danger of the moment, and wanted to act with kindness even in this situation. So he counted the seven men who stood before him, and then counted the bills in his pocket. Luckily, or perhaps providentially, he had seven one-dollar bills, which he doled out to the men.
As they retreated into the shadows and Lloyd started to get back into his car without a cup of coffee, one of the man said, “Thanks, Dr. Ogilvie.” With a start, Lloyd realized that this man knew who he was.
Later that morning, this same man came to the worship service where Lloyd was preaching. After the service he came forward for prayer. He needed healing in his life in a desperate way, and found elders of the church who were willing to pray for and care for him. Lloyd felt grateful that he had fought off the temptation to deny the men the coffee that they had demanded. Perhaps God had used his kindness to make a real difference in the life of this one troubled individual.
Years later, when Lloyd was Chaplain of the Senate, he flew to Alaska to lead a prayer breakfast there. The morning of the breakfast, he awoke early to go to the venue and be sure everything was ready. As he emerged from the elevator, he faced an impeccably dressed man who was a leader of the prayer breakfast. This impressive man said to Lloyd: “Dr. Ogilvie, you don’t remember me. But many years ago, some men and I asked you for coffee outside of the Seven-Eleven store. Your kindness got me to church that day, where God began to turn my life around. Now I’m a vice president of a radio station up here, and God is doing wonderful things in my life.”
Seeing Eye Dogs
Here's the story concerning the Canadian pastor taking a stand of "intelligent disobedience" and paying the price that we referred to in today's message.
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
(Click on the link to play in your audio player)
"Create In Me" Audio
"I Stand Amazed In The Presence" Audio
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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