Posts Tagged ‘authority’

Authority – Not of this Realm (part 5)

November 2, 2014

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. — Preamble to the Constitution

It is, Sir, the people’s government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people. The people of the United States have declared that this Constitution shall be the supreme law. – Daniel Webster

Last time, I said that if the officers of our government are godless men, then the course of our nation is determined by an evil wind. This statement is true, yet still falls short of the truth, for they are of us.  As Daniel Webster observed, we the people of these United States are, under God, the ones responsible for the establishment and maintenance of a representative republic.  A republic the like of which the world has never seen before.  But how has it gone wrong?

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers it can bribe the public with the public’s money. – Alexis de Tocqueville

That’s the rub isn’t it? Congress’ approval rating overall is in the neighborhood of 15%.  But, if you ask about an individual’s own congressman the number, though it too is at an all-time low, hangs in there at just above 40%.  Apparently, de Tocqueville was very astute.

My belief is that the government we have, is (still) representative of the spiritual state of the majority of the population. Elected officers pay lip service to serving the needs of the people in the same way that dwindling numbers of people pay lip service to serving God; all the while, both are laboring to serve self.

The scriptures record the exile of the nation of Israel to Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah gives us much insight into the judgment of God in that instance.  But what I want to draw from Jeremiah today is this from chapter 29:

“For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’

The ultimate purpose of judgment is restoration. All of the fortune lost with the demise of the “American dream” is meaningless, if our hearts do not long for the restoration of a relationship with the Almighty.

To my way of thinking, the highest responsibility lies with the remnant who have not yet abandoned their walk with God, made possible by the atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus:

 [If] my people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. [2 Chronicles 7:14]

This passage does not say that we have to get the lost to turn from their ways to bring about healing restoration.  It says the people of God need to swallow their self-righteous pride and turn from their wickedness and seek to enter a renewed relationship with Him.  I will reiterate that for Americans, the government we are commanded to be in subjection  to by Romans 13 is a representative government.  It was designed to be a Constitutional Republic, with the rule of law protecting the rights of minority viewpoints from the might of the majority.  Gradually it has come to ignore inconvenient content of the Constitution and more closely follows the prevailing views in the culture.  That is, it is more representative than it was intended to be.  What we have ruling over us, is representative of us.  If we don’t like it infringing on our “inalienable rights”, primarily it is we who have to change.  I submit that we should individually exercise our freedom to go back to God our Healer.  This change cannot be imposed from without.  God Himself will not violate the free choice He has given us.  He sees more value in freedom than we do.  I long for us to find that freedom together.

Authority – Not of this Realm (part 4)

October 19, 2014

Do not fret because of evildoers; that’s the opening of Psalm 37. Most of us recognize the nature of fretting as being worried about something we have no direct control over.  A trip through the dictionary will reveal that there are physical meanings to the word that give more insight to the insidious nature of being vexed over the uncontrollable.  You will find a sense of cutting a groove through chaffing or wear, corrosion, or even agitation.  Hence, properly understood, don’t fret.  It will corrode your sense of well-being and wear you down.

As the Psalm spoke to me today about evildoers, I found my thoughts going to the masterminds in government and finance. These are men whose sphere of evil influence encompasses us all, in that they are convinced of their right to impose their twisted ideals on the rest of us.  That these men occupy my thoughts at all reveals that I have not yet successfully given these worries to the Almighty.  Look at the passage closely.  His faithfulness to uphold those who are His own is the very core of this passage.

It is the Heart of God to uphold those who love Him. If we draw close in a relationship with Him, the machinations of evildoers pales in the distance.  As I have asked Him about the evildoers, He has reminded me that they are empty and lost.  Having rejected help by His Heavenly power, they are rudderless derelicts driven by an evil wind.  I pray for them, that some glimmer of truth might dawn to turn them from their self-imposed path of destruction.  Especially since they intend to take us with them.  How much better that they should see the light and turn from evil than to continue the drive us toward shipwreck.

I had an epiphany regarding this situation during my morning prayer-time earlier this week. John 15:5 recounts Jesus’ statement that apart from Him, we can do nothing. He was talking to those who were already followers, so this should be understood to mean “Unless you abide in Me, you can do nothing effective for the purposes of God” (good).  I see that all the effort to drive God from the public arena, under the banner of “separation of church and state”, guarantees that government can do nothing good as long as that mistaken belief holds sway.  Don’t misunderstand what I am saying here.  I am a strong believer in the constitutional tenet that government must not do anything to establish a religion or interfere with the free practice thereof.  However, if the officers of government are godless men (whatever their assertions), then the course of the nation is determined by an evil wind.

Authority, Not of this Realm – Part 3

October 11, 2014

My wife and I regularly make a practice of praying through the Lord’s Prayer together every morning.  We use a technique that she learned, years ago, of recognizing many of the “names of God” that reveal some of His mighty characteristics.  When we started doing this together, I worried that it would become rote and shallow after a while.  I need not have concerned myself.  One cannot touch on the limitless nature of God and have it come back as anything other than “deep calling to deep”.  We pray through the process of putting on the full armor of God to face the challenges of the day ahead too.  I have come to feel like I don’t have my shirt on, if we miss.

One life-changing transformation that has ensued from this spiritual practice manifests in the rest of my prayer life.  I have had a growing sense of volunteering to give my voice to the Word of God as He intends it to be transforming brokenness and oppression in our fallen world.  This does not stop with my private prayers, but proceeds to make its mark on most conversations with others.  Today, I read an article posted on Facebook by Pastor Francis Frangipane that speaks mightily of the Authority vested in the followers of Christ.  It does not shy away from our directive to call for the Power of Heaven to be manifested in our world.  I’m taking the liberty of pasting it here, along with a link to Pastor Frangipane’s Facebook page.  From there, you could sign up to get more good insights.

ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN!
We recite it in private and pray it in unison; we have even sung it in reverence on select Sunday mornings. It’s been a familiar prayer at somber cultural events. Yet I wonder if we really grasp what was in Jesus’ heart when He taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer.
The disciples asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). In response, the Lord gave them a prayer, not just to help them cope but something that was militant in nature. This was more than a prayer — it was a proclamation.
For centuries the holy realities of the Lord’s Prayer have been obscured by traditions of religious unbelief, as though ritualistic repetition of this prayer would exact a special blessing in the afterlife. It was as though this prayer was disbarred from affecting conditions on earth now. In recent years, however, truth is again filling the words of this heavenly anthem with meaning.
The thoughts in this prayer are best understood as emphatic statements. They ought to be punctuated with exclamation marks. This is Heaven’s “Pledge of Allegiance.” At its core, the Lord’s Prayer is a faith-decree that God’s will, through our living union with Christ, should be accomplished today on earth. Where is the room for compromise in those words? Jesus is saying that, with miraculous power, abounding joy and unwavering mercy, God’s will can be fulfilled on earth with the same degree it is fulfilled in Heaven!”
We have been too polite with God. I do not mean we should be disrespectful or irreverent; I am saying the Lord’s Prayer is not a weak, pleading prayer. Yes, there is a time for pleading with God, but this is a prophetic prayer. There is not a please anywhere in it. Indeed, we know it is the “Father’s good pleasure” to give us His kingdom (Luke 12:32 NKJV). Jesus is not instructing us to beg for a blessing or two; He is commanding us to call for God’s kingdom to rule on earth: in war zones, in places of poverty or plagues or famine, and especially in our very lives and circumstances.
This is a prayer of authority. The Son of God wants us to pray like we were created to bring Heaven to earth. Our prayer simply aligns us with what is already God’s great pleasure to give us.
Of course, it is vital we embrace repentance for our sins and the sins of our forefathers. But this is the prayer of those fully committed to the vision of God! It embodies the expanse of what Jesus came to establish. These are fighting words.
Remember, this form of prayer is not my idea; it’s Christ’s. He told faltering, fumbling disciples to pray like they were mature, victorious warriors. He didn’t say this prayer should be prayed only when they had become perfect. No. This is how we should pray right now, even while we are imperfect. Yes, we humble ourselves; yet we must learn to pray with unsheathed spiritual authority, with heroic faith, and with the fire of divine possibilities burning in our souls.
Even now, the armies of God in Heaven are beginning to unite with the armies of God on earth. Lightening-like power is beginning to fill the backbone of the redeemed. Can you feel it? From every nation, a holy remnant is beginning to stand before the Most High. In their mouths will be the words taught them by the Son of God Himself: “Thy kingdom come! Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven!”

Francis Frangipane

 

Authority – Not of this Realm (part 2)

July 27, 2014

Did the limitless Creator of the universe’s uncountable stars also institute flawed government bureaucracies and command us to obey them? That is the inescapable crux of Romans 13, and I’m trying to decide how to reconcile myself to it. This is the second installment on the authority of God, and what He appears to do when delegating it.  At the moment, we are dealing with His conferring of authority on earthly governments.

One of the things that the passage in Romans 13 does, is illuminate the proper function of government. It says God intends that government act as His minister to reward good behavior and rebuke evil behavior. The choice of the word translated minister is instructive. It is the Greek word διάκονος, (pronounced dee-ak’-on-os) the same word from which we get deacon – one who serves. This passage makes it clear enough that God grants authority to government to serve His purposes. Most developed nations have foreign ministers to many other nations. Bestowing authority on a minister isn’t a foreign concept. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) A reliable foreign minister doesn’t act on his own, he acts on behalf of his government. He makes it his business to know what is expected and is faithful to carry out his duties.

R2078

Do you ever hear the word “gridlock” used to lament the notion that there is not enough agreement between parties for Congress to be able to “get the peoples work done”? My assessment is that gridlock on Capitol Hill would be a wonderful thing. I do not believe we have it. Here’s why I say so: In 1925, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) comprised a single volume (pictured above).  By 1998, according to the Office of the Federal Register, the official listing of all regulations in effect contained a total of 134,723 pages in 201 volumes that claimed 19 feet of shelf space. (This is the most recent estimate that I have been able to locate that included page count.) In the succeeding years, it hasn’t gotten smaller. By 2007, the shelf space had increased to twenty-five feet.  The current version of Title 49 (transportation) takes up nine volumes, while Title 26 (Internal Revenue) occupies twenty volumes. The purpose of the CFR is to define the law, and thereby regulate the behavior of every conceivable entity. One cannot, even with a determined effort, READ the law. (At 10 minutes per page, I estimate it would take 20 years of a normal full-time work schedule to read it through once). Not that reading it would do much good. The court system and all of the legal professions is based on the understanding that to be useful, the law has to be interpreted by trained experts. It is impossible to know it.  It is therefore impossible to follow so many laws in an intentional way.  I laugh when I hear complaints about selective enforcement.  How could it be otherwise? Odds are, there are statutes on the books that you are violating. You could be prosecuted, if those charged with enforcement decided to invest the effort. Does the illegality of your particular doing rise to the level of evil behavior that the government is charged in Romans 13 to bring the wrath of God down on?  I hope not.

I admit I don’t really understand the desire to cling to this massive body of legislation and bureaucratic regulation over the principle that Paul talked about in Romans 7:6. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. And in Romans 8:2 — For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.   Jesus talked about love for God and others as the basis for all the law (Matt 22:36-40). That kind of minimalist approach to the law (law in the sense of describing how God wants us to act) seems to me to accurately reflect the intention of God for the believer – freedom!

Those that love God have a powerful motivation to please him and do right. In fact, that Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is setting us free, and it is glorious!  The Psalms are replete with praise for the rightness of God’s law.  The trouble comes in when some use their freedom to not follow God, which God in His sovereignty, allows. They have no real expectation of something better later. The only rational path for such an individual is as much anarchy as he can get away with. Which, brings us back to Romans 13:4, which states that the government, acting as the minister of God, “does not bear the sword for nothing”. Proper government has the duty to restrain the unrestrained evildoer, by force if necessary. And so, we get to twenty-five feet of printed regulations: man’s laws.

Is this government carrying out its proper function as described in Romans chapter 13? Is it a faithful minister of the authority bestowed on it from above? We’ve established pretty clearly that there are laws on the books that can be brought to bear against any possible wrongdoing.  Still, Jesus had some choice words for the lawyers of His day; “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” – Luke 11:46.  Somehow, I think God takes a dim view of excessive rulemaking.

Does an assessment that the system is out of control negate the validity of the claim that it derives its authority from God?  Before we go too far down that road, it would behoove us to remember that Paul was writing within the Roman Empire, though before Nero began torturing and executing Christians.

More to come on the subject of God’s authority…

A Different Perspective

September 5, 2010

Toward the end of Matthew 28, we find the passage known as the Great Commission.  The commanding nature of Jesus’ words here usually draw my attention immediately. Somehow, “Do this!” resonates with me, even if my attitude is not necessarily perfectly compliant.  Today, however, the disciple’s doubt and Jesus answer to it impresses me:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

Doubt is not surprising; rising from the dead is unusual.   Did some doubt and others worship?  The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Jesus’ response appears, on the surface, to skirt the disciple’s doubt.  Neither does it jump right to “Do this!”.  Does this interjection about His authority touch their questions and their doubt? I think it does.  As I thought about this passage, I realized the doubt centered around Jesus’ death.  Then I asked the question, “Are life and death in the domain of heaven or earth?”  Both!   An unnatural division typically exists in our thinking between the spiritual (in heaven) and physical (on earth).  We speak of spiritual vs. secular, separation of church and state, and so on.  The truth is that the Creator formed the universe according to His own nature. He is holy. He exhibits perfect and complete integrity – no division.  “The Lord our God is One.”  God is omnipresent.  His creation is more unified than we give it credit for.  Many of these conceptual divisions are useful to help us focus our thoughts, but we probably shouldn’t take it too far.  [Neither should we go as far in this direction as the pantheists and fail to recognize that God is distinct from His creation, even though it reflects his nature.  The Bible teaches that man’s sin allowed corruption into creation, but God is still holy.]

One sense in which we use the word authority is knowing truth or possessing knowledge.   We commonly say a particular person is an authority on a subject.  This sense applies here.  Jesus knows the disciples doubts.  God is omniscient.  Another sense in which we use the word authority relates to ruling.  God is sovereign.  Note that Jesus says all authority has been given to Him.  Daniel 7:13-14 and Revelation 5:13 place Him on the throne to rule “for ever and ever”.   If all authority belongs to Jesus for ever and ever, then there is none (legitimately) left for any of the rest of us.   This idea convicts me of deeply ingrained personal beliefs that are just wrong!  When I perceive some violation of “my” authority as an individual, or manager, or parent; I take offense.  I get angry.  Knowing that all authority actually belongs to God for ever and ever tells me that I must root out this wrong belief.  Jesus instructs his followers: be stewards or servants.  I have long given at least mental assent to this concept.  The master assigns responsibilities to the steward, who then operates under the master’s  authority.  The master’s authority does not actually transfer to the steward.  Now, I need to get beyond mental assent of this fact and let God’s grace change this belief (that any authority was rightfully mine) with the truth that all authority belongs to Him.

In this vein, let me skip to the end of the Great Commission:

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This is good news for the steward.  The Master will be forever present to exercise His authority in support of the steward’s charge.