Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Along the way ... February 25, 2014

During the past two weeks I have been thinking about the difference between power and authority: first, as it relates to Jesus' ministry, and second, as it relates to our own.

To put it simply, power is the "ability" to do something.   Power comes in many forms.   Power itself is not evil, but it can be used in evil ways.   For example, Adolf Hitler following Friedrich Nietzsche emphasized the "will to power".  In a sense, it is a "survival of the fittest", or a "might makes right" mentality.   Lord Acton is famously quoted as saying, "power corrupts ... and absolute power corrupts absolutely".  Power has a tendency to go to our heads, as sinful human beings.

However, authority is different.  Authority is the "right" to do something.  Authority requires power (ability) but authority also carries with it a stamp of approval.  Authority is the right to do what we have been empowered to do.

For Jesus, authority was so much more important than power.  We see this demonstrated in the story where Jesus is sleeping, and the disciples are battling a sudden, deadly storm on the Sea of Galilee.  As one commentator says this storm was not just any storm; the powers of evil that were behind it.
So in other words, it was a spiritual attack!

Yet even though Satan had the "power" (ability) to control the wind and the waves, only Jesus had authority over them.   So when Jesus speaks the wind and the waves listen because He has authority to tell them what to do.  (Matthew 8:23-27; especially verse 26)

In the same sense, in Matthew 10:1 Jesus gives His disciples "authority" to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.  Not only did Jesus give them power, but He also gave them authority.   And authority is more important.   When power meets power, the most powerful wins.  But when authority encounters power; authority wins because God gets involved as we speak and act with His authority.

One other thing we must keep in mind is that "authority" also requires appropriate or "right" action.  If we have the "right" to act on God's behalf, then we must also act "rightly".   If we don't, then we lose our authority.   For example, if we were to attempt to use God's authority to crush another human being either physically, emotionally, or spiritually, then we lose our authority because we do not act in line with God's will.

I know this gets to be pretty deep stuff, and I also know that I have only begun to scratch the surface of what is here, so I would be interested to hear your own thoughts on the matter as we journey together along the way ....

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Along the way ... February 11, 2014

Lately I have been thinking a lot about time.  Time spent, time invested, time wasted, time redeemed, etc.  Time is limited.  Each of us gets the same amount, no more and no less.  Yet how do we utilize the time we are given?

Ecclesiastes 3:1-14 challenges us to think differently about our time.   According to the Teacher (Koheleth) there is "a time for every purpose under heaven and a season for every activity under the sun".   There is real wisdom in those words, and I believe it is important for us to consider them further.

Think especially of some of the contrasts covered especially in verses 2-8:

"a time to be born, and a time to die, 
a time to plant, and a time to uproot, 
a time to kill and a time to heal ..." 

I have the unique privilege of serving in diverse sometimes even opposing fields.

I serve as a chaplain (a peacemaker and minister of reconciliation) in the US Air Force.  Some have said the purpose of the US military is to kill people and to break things.  Yet there is so much more.
The US military is also engaged in humanitarian relief following natural disasters and other tragic events.  In the military there is a time to kill, but also a time to heal.  It is important that we give emphasis to both.

I also serve as a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church in North America and a member of the board of Christian Reformed World Missions.  CRWM partners through its Hope Equals initiative with Christian Peacemaker Teams; a pacifist organization calling Christians to serve as peacemakers through non-violence in some of the most war-torn areas in the world.  ("A time to kill and a time to heal")

What I believe the Teacher wants us to realize is that no one occupation (killing or healing) needs to take up all of our time.  

As controversial as it may seem, in a broken world there is a time to kill.  Sometimes evil rears its head in awful ways through another human being, and the only way to stop the killing is to kill the perpetrator.  Police officers especially live with that tension every day.   Moreover, what seem equally controversial to some, there is also a time to put away our weapons, let down our guard, and seek healing.   Knowing which time is which is the role of wisdom.

What do you think?  Do you agree with Koheleth?  Are there other perspectives or contrasts that speak to you?  I invite you to share your thoughts as we journey together along the way ...

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Along the way ... February 4, 2014

            Sunday in my sermon I said because God’s kingdom has come exclusively in Jesus we have a choice to make.   Jesus extends an invitation to all of us who believe to live the new way in His kingdom, but we each have a choice; we can accept Jesus’ invitation or reject it. 

            Now let me be clear, I believe there are two invitations, although one directly follows the other.  First Jesus invites us to believe; to believe God’s promises are being fulfilled in Him.   Salvation (forgiveness of sins and eternal life) come to all who accept Jesus invitation to believe in Him.  Yet once we accept that invitation, Jesus invites us to embrace a new way of living; life in His kingdom where increasingly sad things are coming untrue.

            Yet this second invitation is the one we most often refuse.   Why?   I suppose because it requires sacrifice.  It is the world where we are called to set aside our “rights” and “privileges” for the good of others.  It is the world where we are called to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give more than is required, love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, offer forgiveness freely, set aside judgment, let go of worry, etc.
(see Matthew 5-7).   It is not about earning our salvation or even adding to it.  Jesus took care of that at the cross.   Rather it is about living in the way God always intended for us to live.  And now we can because the Holy Spirit lives in us.

            I was reminded last night of the scene from “The Matrix” when Morpheus offers Neo a choice between the “red pill” and the “blue pill”.  If he chooses “blue” his life will go on as it always had, he will know nothing more, and he will be unchanged.  However, if he chooses “red” then his eyes will open, truth will be revealed, and his life will forever be changed.   I believe Jesus is offering His children the same choice when He invites us into kingdom living.  

            So the question remains for each one of us:  Are we going to accept Jesus’ second invitation?  Will we accept his invitation and begin to live the new way as we journey together along the way….?