Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What I Believe About Evil

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. -- Romans 8:28

I believe God is in control,
And that He created us in His image and likeness,
With creative imaginations,
Free will and agency,
Able to choose to misuse our gifts and grace,
With limited knowledge and understanding,
So that we have tragedies of ignorance as well as tragedies of wickedness;

Therefore much happens in the world that is not God’s will.

And yet

God does not lament but continues to take the elements of our events,
The broken pieces and spoiled vessels,
Remake and remold them
Into masterpieces of balance, hope, and beauty.

I believe God is in control, and what will be,
I do not know,
But I trust and I hope, and I know
It will be beautiful.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Power and Authority

And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. -- Matthew 28:18
Our citizenship is in the kingdom of heaven.  I am, however, subject to the government that has been established for the land where I was born here on earth.  The relationship between my natural citizenship and my spiritual citizenship can get complicated.  

First, let's do a refresher on the difference between power and authority.  There are two distinct Greek words in the New Testament for these two concepts.  The first is tranliterated as dunamis -- i.e., power.  The second is exousia, which can almost always be translated as authority.  

If you are driving a Suburban and a cop on a bicycle wants you to pull over, you do not obey that policeman because his bicycle can overtake and force your vehicle off the road.  You have the power,  but he has the authority.  It is his legitimacy as an officer of the law that causes you to respond and submit to his demand.  

God has indeed established earthly governments -- just as Paul says in Romans 13.  Otherwise there would be chaos, lawlessness and utter anarchy.  While I am for a certain amount of anarchy, too much makes it nearly impossible to function effectively in carrying out God's will upon the planet.  Therefore, God has established, in general, the principle of government authority.

Back to our example of the policeman, we stopped because we respect the principle of a law enforcement officer in general.  We recognize, however, that an individual policeman or a local police department can become corrupt.  So, too, a government can become corrupted and deviant.  Governments can cause lawless to increase rather than decrease.  They can become tyrannical and use their power in place of their authority.

When a government is corrupt, it loses its authority, but it retains its power.  Governments have the means of enforcing laws through compulsion, i.e., power, whether or not they make legitimate use of that power.  

Too many Christians have been beaten with the words of Romans 13 to the point that we often think we must submit to any abuse by any earthly government, no matter how corrupt, no matter how it has deviated from the law of God.  A government can lose God's mandate.  

A government that blatantly and officially rejects the law of God, that has no concern for the rule of law upon itself, that legislates evil and calls it 'good' has no authority.  We are not obligated to obey such a government, and we may, in fact, be obligated to disobey unrighteous laws that run counter to the law of God.  I can hardly imagine that it would be sinful to overthrow a tyrant any more that it would be to prosecute a police officer who abused his power.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. -- Revelation 3:21

Most Christians don’t seem interested in conquest these days.  To conquer has become equivalent in our minds to oppression, to a subduing of the natural nobility.  Armies of the West no longer go forth to vanquish the enemy but to win his heart and his mind, to build his nation, to honor and conserve his culture, which is judged superior to our own.  Not to be political or secular, but there are only two options in war.  One is to conquer; the other is to be conquered. 

The modern Christian thinks he lives in a peaceful, tolerant world.  He doesn’t so much as see the blood that was shed to give him his breakfast, let alone the blood shed to forgive his sins.  His worldview is shattered by every act of senseless violence.  He asks God why there must be evil in the world.  He has forgotten or refuses to believe that it is a fallen world we inhabit, that it was created good, and that we are the party that introduced sin and suffering into it.  The miracle is that good remains in it despite the efforts of the vast majority of the world’s population to eradicate it. 

Do we think we can retreat to our church buildings and be left alone?  I tell you, darkness is threatened by a single candle burning in the night and will not be at ease until it is extinguished. 

We are at war.  Light wins in the end, but we will not overcome unless we fight.  We have retreated.  We have appeased.  We have tolerated.  We have been inoffensive – not even defensive lest we should make some heathen uncomfortable.

It’s going to be uncomfortable.  Conflict is unpleasant.  It is also inevitable.  We might as well get ready.  I don’t want to be a conquistador or a crusader.  Combat, though, calls us out:  For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).