July 4

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‘So the commander went over and asked Paul, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I certainly am,” Paul replied. “I am, too,” the commander muttered, “and it cost me plenty!” Paul answered, “But I am a citizen by birth!”’ (Acts 22:27-28 NLT).

From: July 4, 2019

REMEMBERING OUR DUAL CITIZENSHIP

Paul’s Roman citizenship was often a help to him as he traveled throughout the empire spreading the gospel. Being a Roman citizen gave him certain rights. One of those rights was the right to a trial before any punishment might be administered. It was this right that Paul brought to the attention of the Roman soldiers who were preparing to lash him with whips after finding him at the center of a riot in Jerusalem. The soldiers had already tied him down and were preparing to beat him when he asked, “Is it legal for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been tried?” At this the soldiers withdrew and were afraid because they had violated his rights.
 
Another right of Roman citizenship was the right to appeal to Caesar, a privilege that Paul claimed when later the Roman governor of Judea continued to hold him without a trial. In this way, he was finally able to carry the gospel to Rome as the Lord had put in his heart to do.
 
Paul’s Roman citizenship was often a help to him as he carried the gospel to the Gentiles, but his greater joy was in his heavenly citizenship. For as he wrote to the church at Philippi, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).
 
PRAYER: Lord, on this day when we celebrate our nation’s independence, we thank You that we live in a country where we have the freedom to worship and witness without hindrance. We also give thanks to You for all the men and women who paid the ultimate price for our national freedom. We do not take it for granted. Yet even more, we give thanks for Jesus who paid an even greater price for our citizenship in heaven. Help us to remember that our freedom isn’t free. It was paid for in blood. May we always exercise the benefits You have given us in order to carry Your gospel to the nations of the world. In Jesus’ name, amen.

“After I returned to Jerusalem, I was praying in the Temple and fell into a trance” (Acts 22:17 NLT).

From: July 4, 2018

PAUL’S UNIQUE CONVERSION AND CALL FROM JESUS
In Paul’s testimony to the angry crowd in Jerusalem, he told of an earlier time when he saw a vision of Jesus while praying in the Temple. The time may have been his first return to Jerusalem “three years” (Gal. 1:18) after his conversion in Damascus and time spent in Arabia. This is the only mention in Scripture of Paul’s “trance” and vision in the Temple. Although it may be the same vision he spoke of in his letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 12:1-4), the specific instruction from Jesus telling him to leave Jerusalem and go to the Gentiles, was not mentioned elsewhere.
 
At any rate, Paul described a state of “ecstasy” (Greek: ἐκστάσει, ekstasei – “trance”) while praying in the Temple of Jerusalem, where Jesus appeared to him with instructions to take the gospel to the Gentiles. The crowd had listened quietly to Paul’s testimony up until this point, but when he spoke of going to the Gentiles, they erupted in anger.
 
Of all the apostles, Paul’s call from Jesus was unique. Unique, not so much in content, as occasion. The other apostles had seen the resurrected Jesus in the flesh and were sent out to tell others. But the occasion(s) of Paul’s conversion and commissioning was from Jesus making special appearances after His ascension. As Paul once wrote, “Then last of all He [Jesus] was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor. 15:8-9).

“Now it came to pass in the thirty-seventh year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, that Evil-Merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison” (2 Kings 25:27 NKJV).

From: July 4, 2017

After a long and depressing description of Judah’s decline and ultimate fall, the author of 2 Kings offered a glimmer of hope. After thirty-seven years in prison, the deposed king of Judah, Jehoiachin, was released and given a royal pension to live on the rest of his days by Evil-Merodach, son of Nebuchadnezzar. Thus, by God’s grace the seed of David was preserved.

“Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:10-12 ESV)

From: July 4, 2016

This is a Messianic prophecy of Christ’s triumphal kingdom. It is a sober reminder, as we celebrate America’s Independence Day, that all the world’s nations exist at the Lord’s pleasure. Do our nation’s leaders and judges “serve the Lord with fear?” Do they bow and “kiss” the Son’s hand in obeisance? Or have they become wise in their own eyes, calling evil, good and good, evil? Let us recognize our dual citizenship. As Americans, we are thankful for God’s blessing on America. We continue to pray for our leaders and judges that they will return to God. But as Christians, we are citizens of an eternal kingdom, one that was inaugurated at the cross and will be consummated at Christ’s return. We ultimately put our trust in Christ alone. He is the source of all blessing.
Yet, in the meantime we pray, “God bless America.”

“Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him” (Psalm 2:10-12 NKJV)

From: July 4, 2015

This is a Messianic prophecy of Christ’s triumphal kingdom. It is a sober reminder on this day when we celebrate Independence Day in America that all the world’s nations exist at the Lord’s pleasure. Do our nation’s leaders and judges “serve the Lord with fear?” Do they bow and “kiss” the Son’s hand in obeisance? Or have they become wise in their own eyes, calling evil, good and good, evil?
Let us recognize our dual citizenship. As Americans, we are thankful for God’s blessing on America. We continue to pray for our leaders and judges that they will return to God. But as Christians, we are citizens of an eternal kingdom, one that was inaugurated at the cross and will be consummated at Christ’s return. We ultimately put our trust in Christ alone. He is the source of all blessing.
Yet, in the meantime we pray, “God bless America.”

“Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans?” (Psalm 2:1 NLT)

From: July 4, 2014

On this date when Americans celebrate Independence Day, we are appropriately thankful for God’s blessing on the USA. Yet, many of us are troubled by the news of nations and terrorists threatening war and violence in the world. This same verse from Psalms 2 was quoted in prayer by the first century Christians (Acts 4:25-26) when they were being persecuted by their political leaders for preaching the gospel. They prayed that God would handle the threats and “futile plans” of leaders like Pilate and Herod, while giving them boldness to keep preaching the Word. So, on this July 4th, I’m praying like they did. Kings and rulers may plot against the Lord’s anointed, against Christ and His Church, but the Lord God who rules in heaven “laughs” (Psa. 2:4) at them.

“Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one” (Psalm 2:1)

From: July 4, 2012

On this July 4th I’m reminded that our nation was founded on the premise that earthly kings must submit to God’s order. To go against the Lord and His Anointed (Messiah/Christ) is ultimately futile. We are “endowed” by our “Creator with certain unalienable rights” our founders rightly observed. Kings and nations who forget this do so at their own peril. We do well to ask God to bless America. We do even better to ask Americans to bless God.