Worthy – a reblog from Join the Movement blog

CCF%2520Logo%2520%25282%2529During Tim’s talk last Thursday, one of his main points was that Jesus doesn’t give up on anyone, and he used Paul as a great example of this truth.  As he made this very important point, he talked about how Satan tries to make us think less of ourselves, how Satan tries to convince us that we have been given up on – by people, Jesus, ourselves, whoever.  Tim summed this idea up by saying, “Satan plants seeds of unworthiness”    This is so, so true.  Satan absolutely loves making us think that we are unworthy of so many things and in so many ways.

I think a man named Aeneas who we meet near the end of Acts 9 understood what it was like to feel unworthy.  We are told that Aeneas had been “bedridden for eight years” because he was paralyzed.  This is a man who had to question his worth.  He had not been paralyzed his entire life, so I would think knowing what his life was like before the paralysis made it that much more difficult for him to handle being bedridden.  Add to that the common belief in his day that physical ailments were a punishment from God, and we have a powerful combination of factors that contributed to this man questioning his worth.

Then he meets Peter.  We read about their brief encounter in Acts 9:34, “And Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.’ And immediately he rose.”  For the first time in 8 years (for perspective, think about where you were 8 years ago), Aeneas stood up and walked.

This is a big deal.  Obviously, the man is physically healed and that’s important.  But there is so much more going on.  First of all, Peter called Aeneas by name.  Don’t miss that.  He called him by name.  Chances are that Aeneas didn’t hear his name called very often, and that is dehumanizing.  He no doubt questioned his worth as a person.  Peter gives that back to him simply by calling him by name.  (This is a huge point.  Advocates for people who are journeying through homelessness frequently talk about the importance of asking someone’s name when you give them some money or food.  That way they’re not a cause; they’re a person.  Remember Joe?)

Satan had been planting seeds of unworthiness in Aeneas’ life for at least 8 years, but in one moment Jesus through Peter weeded out anything that had grown from those seeds.  He helped Aeneas see his worth.

So often our worth is tied up in our identity.  This is so dangerous.  If your identity is being a good student and you have a rough semester, then you begin to question your worth.  If your identity is being wealthy and you lose your money, then you question your worth.  So to keep this from happening to keep from questioning our worth, you have to find your identity in something that won’t leave you.

That’s Jesus, and Jesus alone.  He’s not going anywhere.  He loves you no matter who you are and what you’ve done.  Find your identity in being someone that Jesus loves and you will never have to question your worth.

It Happened Again – a reblog from Join the Movement

CCF%2520Logo%2520%25282%2529  It’s amazing to me how God works things – how He puts multiple things that seem unrelated together to make a powerful point.

Part 1: Last Thursday during his message about Paul’s conversion, Tim told us that we are all called to demonstrate the love of Jesus to everyone we encounter because since Jesus no longer has a body on Earth, God uses our bodies – our hands, feet, etc.

Part 2: I read the story at the end of Acts 9 about Tabitha being raised from the dead.  Tabitha was a woman “full of good works and acts of charity,” (Acts 9:36) who made tunics and other pieces of clothing for the widows in her hometown.

Part 3: My friend, Fred, writes a post on Facebook that included the following quote from Teresa of Avilla (1515 – 1582):

“Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

Part 4: As I type this I am reminded of Casey Kane’s homework assignment for the kids he teaches. It’s always the same thing: LOVE PEOPLE. 

That’s our responsibility.  That’s what we’re supposed to do.  We are supposed to show people the love of God by loving them.  In doing so, we show them Jesus.and acts of charity.  Let’s be Jesus’ hands and feet.  Let’s love people.

source: UGACCF Join the Movement blog

Respect My Authority, part 2

In my last post I laid out my understanding of Paul’s precept of the Christian’s relationship to civil authority: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” (Romans 13:1a) Today I want to explore the reasons behind that precept.
      “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God”. (Romans 13:1b)
Paul’s precept that Christians are to be subject to civil authority is based upon a fundamental premise: God is sovereign. As sovereign He possesses ultimate authority and all human authority is delegated by God.
There is no authority independent of God.
How do we know that a given government is ordained of God and that He has given it authority? By its existence: Paul says, those which exist are established by God.” A government’s existence is proof that it is ordained of God and that it possesses divinely delegated authority. God is sovereign. He is in control of all things. He causes all things to “work together for good” (8:28). 

Paul writes while under the government of Rome. As a Jew he is well aware that God raised up a disobedient Pharaoh in Egypt and the empires of Assyria and Babylon as His servants to discipline His people. So, like it or not, according to Paul – every government, whether democratic or autocratic, heathen or God-fearing – every government that has the power to rule over its people has been granted that power and authority by God. 

Submission to government then is an expression of our submission to God. God has instituted human government to exercise divinely delegated authority over menkind. Christians should be subject to human governments for this theological reason alone. But Paul adds two practical reasons for our submission and obedience in verses 2-7.
These provide additional motivation for our obedience to this command which goes against the grain of human nature.

“Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.” (13:2-4)

In Rom 13:1b, Paul asserts that human government is divinely commissioned. Based on that assertion he next emphasizes that our response to civil authority has divine consequence. His logic is that resistance to governmental authority is also resistance to God Himself. Therefore such resistance eventually brings divine judgment.
Next Paul moves on in verses 3 and 4
to warn that disregard for government’s authority also has present ramifications. In verse 4 he refers to civil authority as a minister of God.” Government, then is a servant of God tasked with dealing appropriately with those who do good and those who do evil. In short, God’s purpose for human government is to reward those who do good and to punish those who do evil.

Since as Christians we are to abstain from evil and pursue what is good (“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” Rom. 13:9) the role of civil authority is both consistent with and complimentary to the Christian lifestyle. Government should praise those who do good and punish those who do evil. Therefore God’s purposes for us and for government are in harmony. Government is here to help us do what God has called us to do and what we should desire to do. Ordinarily, anyone seeking to do good need not fear government. Anyone who is serving God need not worry about government opposition. Christians should be the best citizens, for our calling is consistent with government’s commission. But we should fear government if we choose to do evil. Only the law-breaker looks over his shoulder, wondering where the police are. In order to live our lives without fear of punishment, we need only to do what God has required of us, and what government requires as well.
One of the major benefits of civil government’s God-given role is that it frees us from returning evil for evilby retaliating against those who persecute or mistreat us. God has taken the task of administering justice or of avenging wrong-doings off our backs and placed it on the back of governmental authorities. It is the role of government to deal with the evil deeds of men against us. Government bears the swordfor such purposes. And if government fails in this task, we trust in God to make things right in that day when He judges with perfect judgment.

The failure of government does not give us the right to take the law into our own hands.

Next post: on to Rom. 13:5-7 for part 3 of this series.


“Respect my authority”

Whether a college, a corporation, or a community they all have their own “culture”. That is the written and unwritten “laws” that govern behavior within the group. There is always an authority to respond to. In every group that I have been part of there are those who respect authority and those that don’t. There are those that comply and those that defy. There are those that cooperate and those that comply without cooperating. Do we as Christians have any Biblical mandate about our response to authority?

Before I answer that question let me share an observation as an old man with lots of experience with Christians in different settings. Over the years I have found Christians are little different than non-Christians in their attitudes and responses toward authority. Compliance is given, but cooperation is not. For example I am just as likely to find a radar detector in the car of a Christian, as in the car of an unbeliever. Christians comply with the law. We slow down as we pass the police car with its radar speed detection equipment. We drive carefully and lawfully when the patrol car is following us. But as soon as we are sure it is safe, we drive normally—and illegally. (I am guilty as charged!)

Now back to my question about a Biblical mandate about Christians and civil authority. The Apostle Paul lived and died as a Roman citizen. In his letter to the church in the most powerful city in the world Paul, in Romans 13:1-7, deals directly with the Christian’s obligation to civil government.
There are a number of reasons Christians and civil government often are at odds with one another, and it is relatively easy for Christians to twist these into excuses for disrespect and disobedience to authorities. Let’s look at this dynamic in the time of Paul’s writing.

The first factor is simple but far reaching, civil government is secular and the church is spiritual. According to the Apostle Peter Christians are aliens and strangers, just passing through this world. Paul writes in Phil. 3:20  that Christian citizenship is in heaven. This difference misunderstood led the state to view the church as hostile to its authority. The church acknowledged that Jesus is Lord because their highest authority is God. The Roman government of Paul’s day acknowledged that “Caesar is Lord”. The church refused to acknowledge this and so the Romans considered Christians as atheists. It was a small leap for the government to see this atheistic institution as treasonous. The practical application of “Jesus is Lord” is that Christians are required to obey God, rather than men“. With each conflict the government’s suspicions of the church were confirmed. The result of the secular/spiritual conflict was that government officials, either unconsciously or willingly, used their authority to actively oppose the church and to persecute Christians.

In this political climate with civil government viewing the church with suspicion, and even fear, Christians were tempted to see government as their opponent, and as an enemy of God and the gospel of Jesus. Therefore civil disobedience might easily become common practice rather than a necessary exception. Submission to governmental authority was a vital topic in a day and time when the church and civil government were on a collision course. So what? What does that matter today?

I believe the church is on a very similar course today. In the earlier days of our nation, our government was founded on certain Christian assumptions and convictions. If our early government founders and officials were not Christians, at least their beliefs and values were compatible with Christian doctrines and practices. Our culture and our government today are post-Christian.

I am amazed when I hear Christians talking as if their views and values are still held by a majority of Americans. These are those that still mistakenly believe that if we could just mobilize the moral majority and encourage them to speak out—especially by voting – it would turn things around. I believe this view is, for the most part, unrealistic and untrue. I believe that Christian moral values are largely an unpopular minority view. Consequently, I expect that government will increasingly regulate, hinder, and even oppose Christian objectives whenever they conflict with the government’s objectives. Not surprisingly in this political climate some Christians are becoming increasingly disdainful of the laws of our land. Some even teach that if we disagree with a particular law, we are both obliged to disobey it, and justified to disobey other laws in protest.

Now if a good time for us to read Paul’s words in Romans 13:1 “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities”.
What? No, God’s Apostle by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit would not tell persecuted Christians to be in subjection to the pagan, Christian hating Roman government would he? Yes he would and he did. This principle was not only vital for the first century church, but it is just as vital for the 21st century church. Let’s unpack what Paul says God requires of the church in our relationship to civil government: “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities”.

First notice that this is a clear, categorical commandment addressed to all mankind, without exception. Every person  includes both believers and unbelievers. Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. Subjection includes obedience, but implies much more. Subjection means recognizing an authority over us to which we are obliged to not only obey but to respect.

The governing authorities  are quite simply those authorities which govern us politically. This is pretty straight forward and under normal conditions in any country, it is the government which is in place.

Are there exceptions to the rule or precept Paul has laid down here? Certainly there are Biblical examples of those who chose to “obey God, rather than men” (Daniel 3, 6; Acts 4:19-20; 5:27-32).
I believe that while the Christian may not, in good conscience before God, be able to obey the government in every instance, the Christian is never free to set aside true submission to the government. In other words, even when we cannot obey civil authority, we can always demonstrate a submissive spirit. According to Paul’s precept a submissive spirit should never be set aside when it comes to those in authority over us.

For example, in Acts 5 the Sanhedrin demand that the apostles (Peter and John) stop preaching in the name of Jesus. This they cannot do without disobeying God. Though they could not and would not stop preaching in the name of Jesus, they did not challenge the authority of this body. Their answer was evidence of their submissive spirit and intent: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).  Submission usually is demonstrated by obedience, but even when we must disobey, it is to be done with a submissive spirit.

To summarize: Submission to the authority of legitimate civil government is required by God, at all times and in all cases. Submission usually, but not always, results in obedience. But even when disobedient because of a conflict between God’s command and government’s laws, we are still to have a submissive spirit toward civil authorities. Submission means giving honor to who honor is due.

In my next post we’ll look at Paul’s reasons for our submission to human government. For now ask yourself if you have a respectful, submissive spirit to our government. Do you want to obey God or men? Man’s way is rebellion and disrespect of authority. God’s way is “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities”.

THE BUILDING WITHOUT WALLS

University of Georgia researchers gave both current and former students cameras. Their instructions: Take photos that best describe their school.

The two groups obviously viewed the university quite differently. Current students snapped pictures of buildings, while former students brought back photographs of people. It’s all a matter of perspective.

If someone gave you a camera and told you to snap pictures of the Church, what would you bring back? Pictures of church buildings? Or pictures of people?

Biblically, according to Ephesians 2, the people ARE the building. The Church that Jesus built is not an architectural masterpiece of brick and mortar. Church buildings are just a convenience that make it easier for Christians to gather.

Jesus’ church is a masterpiece of human relations–believers from different backgrounds, social classes, and races being built together into a single, unified entity. It is truly a building without walls.

How did He do it? He laid a strong foundation of the apostles and prophets (v.20). And Jesus Himself provides the sturdy cornerstone that enables such a magnificent “building” needs. Because we are attached to Him, we hang together. Through Him, we come together to form a beautiful temple, fit for God to dwell in.

We probably won’t fully appreciate God’s workmanship until we get to heaven. But there, as we worship in His presence, next to a herder from Kenya or a factory worker from France, or maybe even standing next to the apostle Paul himself, we will see what God has built.

When God calls His church to heaven, He is not going to take a bunch of buildings with Him. Why bother? They would not compare to the mansions that await His church–His people.

So when people ask you if you’re “going to church” on Sunday, be kind and tell them what you know they want to know. But, as I was taught as a boy, the truth is that members of Jesus’ Church don’t “go to church” because we are always “in church” because we are part of the universal Church Jesus built.

Maybe that is why the idea of “going to church” has always galled me a bit. Now that is a strange thing to say for one in vocational ministry for his entire adult life! Let me hasten to say that I do go to church and what I enjoy most about going to church and especially CCF is seeing that I am not the only Shadowlander on this journey. What about you? What do enjoy most about going to your church? Why?

I see myself as part of the worldwide body of believers. This is one of the reasons I value having the Lord’s Supper (communion, eucharist) each Sunday. It is a time when I commune not only with God but with believers of all ages and races all around the world. Do you see yourself as more that a member of a local church? I hope so, because if you are a member of The Church you are part of a worldwide network of believers of all ages and races.

The church local has one major purpose: to help the church universal grow! Forget that and the church local becomes just another nice social club. What is your church doing to further the growth of the church universal? Is it involved in Church-building?

Church-building does not require a church building.