“The Powers That Be”

We had an interesting sermon on Sunday morning; it seemed so appropriate for these troubled times, so I thought I’d share a bit of it with you. The initial thoughts were about our current pandemic and the rules and regulations that have sprung up in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The caution we need to exercise, the masks, the social distancing.

So what position should we take as Christians with regard to these new rules and regulations? Pastor Con B quoted from Romans Chapter 13, which starts out with “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers…” and went on to explain that these new requirements are not violating any principles of our faith, so we should submit to the law without fussing, as we’re instructed in different places in the New Testament.

For interest sake I’m going to do a little paraphrase, trying to catch the spirit of verses 1-10 and our Sunday morning sermon. Please take time to read these verses for yourselves, but here’s my version:

Verse one encourages us to submit to the government of the land, because these “powers that be” are ordained of God. No, He doesn’t elect them or choose every law the government enacts, but God is behind the whole principle of law and order. Yes, even if our Leader’s a Nero. We may not be able to support every law, but nowhere does the New Testament give Christians an okay to get involved in sedition. This is the example Jesus left us. He could have called ten thousand angels to deal with this injustice, but He submitted to the Roman authority, even to accepting a death sentence.

Verse 2-3: Whoever resists the power (government of the land) resists the ordinance of God. And any of those who resist (engage in sedition, verbal or literal) will receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not to be feared if you are doing good works, but those who do evil have good cause to fear the laws of the land. If you do that which is right and good, the rulers will rather respect you and be thankful for you as citizens. “Thou shalt have praise of the same.”

Verse 4: The rulers are God’s means of administering law and order; by and large God does use the laws of the land and a stable government to protect you from criminals. But if you do that which is evil, commit crimes and defy authority, you need to be afraid of the law. It’s there for a reason and God will use the laws of the land to punish you. Every sin will receive a just punishment – in this world or the next.

Verse 5: So you should be subject to the law, not only because you fear the punishment for breaking the law but to keep your conscience free. You want to do God’s will in this life and it’s God’s will that you submit to authority. If you fuss about the laws, you’re ultimately fussing about God’s plan.

Verse 6: Pay your taxes – they exist for a reason, for the good of the country – and follow all the laws as much as possible. God is using the people who carry out these duties to fulfill his plan for your land, and ultimately for your own benefit.

Verse 7-8: So pay what you need to pay to your country and give everyone the respect due to their position. It is God’s will that you treat all people, and every authority, with proper respect. Those you should fear, fear them; those you should show honour to, honour them properly. Don’t be debtors in this regard, but you need to demonstrate love and respect one for another, for all of you who show love toward others is fulfilling the law of God.

Verse 9: Remember his commandments, “Thou shall not commit adultery; thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness; thou shalt not covet.” And if there be any other commandments given, they can be summed up (in the words of our Lord Jesus): “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Verse 10: Love is kind and patient; love doesn’t envy or speak evil of others; love works no ill to his neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilling of the law of God. (See I Corinthians Ch 13)

The teachings of Jesus and the writings of the apostles contain many similar instructions to Christians: Honor the laws of the land and give due respect to your rulers. What they require of you, do it – unless you’re asked to do something that truly violates your Christian beliefs. And don’t try to stretch “violates my beliefs” until it covers “I don’t want to.”

Moreover, with all the elections this fall, it’s vital to realize that “I don’t like the party in power now,” is no excuse, either. Sneering at those in authority grieves our heavenly Father.

“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.”
— II Peter 2: 9-10

A Cascade of Adjectives

Fandango’s One-Word Challenge today is FRUGAL. A much more…well…frugal word than some others he posted this week. When I saw the provocative words Inexorable, Doleful, Deviate, Extraneous, Vehement, and Elucidate pop into my In-box, I really wanted to concoct some suitable responses. However, I seemed to be otherwise occupied all week – and/or my muse has headed down the garden path chasing a tale. Stay tuned…

Reading various articles this week, especially a comment from another blogger about “pastors ranting about..the need to promote the new Cyrus: Trump” – my mind started to form a picture…

Have you ever stood close to a thundering waterfall and tried to hear yourself think? Now, add to the turbulence of the waterfall a bunch of doleful, croaking frogs, several flocks of vehement gabbling geese, throw in the extraneous cry of a distant loon – and then try to listen to someone giving a speech. How much will you get?

Fast-forward to today. An author has written a book about the current presidential candidates and would like some feedback. I won’t mention the title, which would give the game away, but I read his blurb on Amazon elucidating his preference and I messaged him that it sounds like he’s doing some fiery preaching to the choir.

There’s a lot of that going on.

Often with politics there’s a whole lot of noise and few people who are actually listening in an open-minded way. Especially when I read the current US political scene, I envision two roaring streams of opinion coming from opposite directions, ending in two cascades of adjectives hurling themselves at each other and splashing onto the rocks below.

Cement-headed, fanatical, xenophobic, fascists and rednecks versus closed-minded, anti-American, neo-Nazi, self-serving opposers of law and order. One comment: “If said party chose a maggoty dead skunk as their candidate, I’d vote for the skunk.” With all these acrid opinions frothing about, the ultimate winner is clear: the English language, Adjectives branch.

The frogs could be a bunch of journalists analyzing the chaos; the geese may be various extremists on either side trying to make themselves heard. And the loon, dare I say, yet another prophet trying to fit current people and affairs into the grand scheme of end-times prophecy?

There’s always been speculation about people and events. J.N. Darby believed in the 1880s that the end of the world was very near. At the start of WWII, I’m told, evangelical Christians were thinking Mussolini was the anti-christ. My husband remembers speculation that David Ben Gurion would turn out to be the messiah. He also recalls a general alarm among evangelicals about the US electing JFK, a Catholic president! Then Henry Kissinger being pegged as the anti-christ.

Dear Christian friends, please don’t go there. The noise is already so loud; the chances of reading the signs wrong is so great. Isn’t it time to abandon all the adjectives and rather seek the “prayer closet”? “Be still and know that I am God.” There will be elections in several Canadian provinces this fall, too. I honestly believe we’ll accomplish more for the good of our nations by spending our time in prayer.

Of Prophecies and Theories

Sharing my thoughts on the Kingdom of God and how it now appears.
Here are the first parts, if you’d like to read them:
Part One: The Kingdom of Jesus Christ
Part Two: The Kingdom Foretold by Daniel
Part Three: Three Things God Needed
Part Four: Kingdoms and Dominions to Come
Part Five: We Have Seen His Star
Part Six: The Roles Jesus Refused

Today we read much about the climate, the environment, what’s ahead for Planet Earth. Data is collected, theories are presented, predictions made. At the current rate, how long will this Earth support human life? How long will there be potable water? How long before the seas are dead, polluted beyond redemption?

While scientists occupy themselves with these concerns, Christians are also engaged in much speculation about what will come to pass in the political realm. Examining Daniel’s prophecies, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the Apostle John’s visions, and doing some creative cut-and-paste, evangelicals have put together some very interesting theories about when Jesus will return and in what way. No one really knows for sure, but it’s intriguing to speculate.

Prophecy is an intense subject and scholars, historically and currently, have spent many years trying to decipher it. But when we think of all the scriptural knowledge the Scribes and Pharisees had at the time Jesus was born, we marvel at how they totally missed recognizing him. His arrival was no big secret, what with angels singing in the skies over Bethlehem and the shepherds going around telling everybody about the infant Savior-king.

Also, a caravan of oriental magi arriving in Jerusalem and going right to the palace to ask, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East.” This made a big splash.
“When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes…together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written, And thou Bethlehem… art not the least among the princes of Juda; for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” Matthew 2: 1-8

This verse, Micah 5:2, is one of many Old Testament verses that foretold the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, the Governor, Shiloh. But the details didn’t all jive. Isaiah wrote:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”
– Chapter 9: 6-7

But he also wrote:
“Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Chapter 53: 1-5

One lesson we can learn from the scholars of Jesus’ day: while they believed the Messiah would come, and though they had all the verses memorized about his coming, the prophecies varied enough that they didn’t recognize him. Even his own disciples were confused until Jesus came to them and talked with them after his resurrection.
“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” See Luke 24:13-35

Regarding the understanding of prophecy, I’ve lived long enough to see various changes of interpretation in what scholars said were “scriptures that show clearly such and such will happen.” I’ve also read enough to know that Christians of other ages have been just as convinced of a completely different interpretation.

Prophecies and Interpretations: A Quick Recap

AMILLENNIALISM

Amillennial teaching says that Jesus did come planning to suffer and die. When He rose again, he defeated Satan, the ruler of this world. He did set up his kingdom, but it’s not – and never will be – a visible nation or country on this present earth. The entrance into his kingdom is the New Birth. Jesus came to be the Door, to open the Way into the Kingdom of God. Ever since his resurrection, he has been reigning in the hearts of all people who choose him as their king. Someday he will come again to gather his own to be with him in heaven.

The citizens of God’s kingdom may live anywhere on earth, but are not “of the world” — which is why they pay taxes (render unto Caesar) and obey all laws, but may decline to vote or bear arms in defense of the country they live in. (The words of Jesus, such as “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, etc.” are taken literally.) Rather, as Paul explains, Christians act as official ambassadors of their King, entreating on Christ’s behalf, “Be ye reconciled to God.”

As I understand it, this has been the traditional belief of the Mennonites, Amish, and some groups of Brethren. Few, if any, Protestant Evangelical churches teach this.

POST-MILLENNIALISM

Back when we were learning about prophecies, the pre-millennial theory was so prevalent, that I was quite shocked when I read Douglas Frank’s book, Less Than Conquerors (c 1986, Wm B Eerdmans), and learned that in up until the US Civil War almost all evangelical Christians believed the POST-MILLENNIAL theory. Which is:
The world will get better and better and finally it will be so good that Jesus will come back to earth and set up his kingdom. American Christians who believed this theory threw their support behind abolition and the Civil War because they thought they could help things along by getting rid of “the blot of slavery.” With Christians improving society, making it more hospitable to Christ’s return, the world (or at least the USA) would get so good that Jesus would come and set up a kingdom on earth.

Alas for their dreams! The Civil War brought so much death and destruction, and generated so much animosity that the world — or at least America — was even farther from being ready for the kingdom of Jesus Christ. In the next twenty years evangelicals abandoned the theory en masse. In my lifetime I’ve never met anyone who advances, or has even mentioned, post-millennialism. I wonder how many Christians today have even heard of it?

In a different vein, it must have been one of the most bitter disappointments any group of people has experienced, when southern blacks, set free from the shackles of slavery, found that FREE didn’t mean EQUAL in the eyes of most whites. Not in the South for sure, but sadly, not in the North, either.

PRE-MILLENNIALISM

According to Frank’s book, evangelicals gave up on the post-millennial theory and switched to pre-millennialism. Because it’s such a complexity and so entwined with dispensationalism, I’m going to save it for another post. A bare-bones explanation would be:
Jesus is coming back to claim his children, and at some point establish his kingdom in Jerusalem. From there he and his followers will rule over the whole the earth for 1000 years, at the end of which humans who don’t accept his rule will stage a major revolt. Then he’ll call an end to time and the great Judgment Day will begin.

“And (Jesus) said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.” — Luke 24: 46-48

“We Have Seen His Star”

“Where is he that is born King of the Jews?”

When Jesus was born, wise men in the East, star-gazers, saw an amazing sight. They were aware of an old prophecy among the Jews that a star would appear (Numbers 24:17), and that this heavenly sign would indicate the birth of a special king. So they headed off to Jerusalem. Where else would you find a King of the Jews? They went right to the top, asking King Herod himself, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?”

Bad move. Herod wanted to know when the star appeared, then checked into the location — and proceeded to exterminate all babies under two years old in that area. He wasn’t giving his kingdom to any newcomer.

When he was on earth, Jesus talked different times about “The Kingdom of God” but people didn’t understand him. They so much wanted a David or a Charlemagne to conquer their enemies. But Jesus never campaigned for a throne, or even for a place in the government or the Sanhedrin. One day when an enthusiastic crowd tried to force him to be king, he slipped away from them. (John 6:15)

The Jewish leaders just didn’t get it.
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the Messiah would come to establish the kingdom of God, he answered them and said: The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17: 20-21

Still, they worried about Jesus one day making his play for the kingdom of Israel. They didn’t know he’d already refused having the whole world as his kingdom. Satan had come to him right at the beginning of his work and made this spectacular offer:
“And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, sheweth him all the kingdom of the world in a moment of time.
And the devil said unto him, “All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.”
Luke 4: 5-7

Standing on that mountain, Jesus would have seen the great Chinese Dynasty of the time, the Japanese Emperor’s palace, the Inca kingdom and how many others, in addition to the Roman Empire. Could he see only what existed then, or could he even look into the future and see King Charlemagne, the Ottoman empire, the power of Spain, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Sun King’s splendor in his palace at Versailles, King Aurhur’s court or Great Britain when she ruled the waves, the Russian Tzars, the United States in its ‘Camelot’ era? Did he see these, too?

But Jesus totally refused. “Get thee behind me Satan; for it is written; thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve.” Verse 8.

Could Jesus look ahead and see the rejection, the cross, the shame, when he refused Satan’s offer?

When Jesus entered Jerusalem that last time, for the Feast of the Passover, the Scribes and Pharisees watched with a jealous eye as the crowds thronged Jesus, welcoming him as a king, laying palm branches in his path. They realized that one word from him would do it. The raising of his arm and a shout to the crowds, “The time has come. Let’s deal with Rome,” and all those people would rally behind him.

They recalled the miracles he did; they saw the dead raised. If Jesus would turn his miraculous gift to military ends, even the mighty power of Rome would be toast. They may have muttered to each other that “If he sets himself up as king, the Romans will send in the troops and wipe us out,” but did they honestly believe that? Or did that rationale spring from fear?

They knew where they stood with Jesus. He’d called them “blind leaders of the blind.” They in turn had made it clear to one and all that they thought Jesus was a fake – a son of the devil, even. Still, there must have been a niggling doubt, unspoken questions about all those miracles. And raising the dead? Suppose he does seize the throne? What will happen to us?

Hadn’t Jesus told the parable of the vineyard, how the land was let to men who weren’t faithful (Matt 21:33-41.) “He will miserably destroy those wicked men…” And the parable of the talents, where someone in the past had been set up as king, but his citizens didn’t want him to rule over them. The new king went off to his superiors and got back-up and when he returned, what did he do? One of his first commands was: “As to those men who wouldn’t have me rule over them, bring them and slay them before me.” (Luke 19:12-27)

When Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate and accused of being the ringleader of a rebellion against Rome, Pilate asked him bluntly, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Luke 23:3)

Jesus replied: “My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight to save me from the Jews (who want to see me dead.) But now my kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36)
Note: This is my paraphrase. Take a moment to read verses 28 -36 to get the whole exchange between Jesus and Pilate.

At that point Pilate knew Jesus was no threat to Rome and wanted to release him, but the Jewish leaders weren’t having it and Pilate, to avoid an uprising, gave in to their demands. In defiance of the Jewish leaders, Pilate even had a sign tacked on Jesus’ cross saying, “The King of the Jews.”

Centuries later, ideas about his Kingdom — where it’s at and/or going to be – continue to bounce around. A ton of books have been written, quoting this or that scholar — and these teachers mean well but they tend to just build on each other’s thinking. Then time proves the scholars wrong and the waters get murky again. Another Bible teacher steps up with another book, another clear explanation of what’s ahead for this world and a new wave ripples through evangelical circles.

It has a certain magnetic appeal, this idea of Jesus someday coming like another Charlemagne, the conquering hero who’ll set up his kingdom and make people follow the rules. Trouble is, this picture is so anti- all his examples and teachings.

Block-Ed + Poetry–A Trial Run

I won't let Block-Ed frustrate me
I'll practice 'til I'm proficient
So here's a bit of poetry
to see if I've learned sufficient...

I see that Sheryl at Your Daily Word Prompt 
is having her trials switching to the new Block editor,
too. Her word for today is FRUSTRATE.
A CHOICE
by Edgar Guest

Sure, they get stubborn at times;
they worry and fret us a lot,
but I'd rather be crossed by a glad little boy
and frequently worried than not.
There are hours when they get on my nerves
and set my poor brain all a-whirl, 
but I'd rather be troubled that way than to be
the man who has no little girl.

There are time's they're a nuisance, that's true
with all of their racket and noise,
but I'd rather my personal pleasures be lost
than to give up my girls and my boys.
Not always they're perfectly good;
there are times when they're wilfully bad
but I'd rather be worried by youngsters of mine
than lonely and childless and sad.

So I try to be patient and calm
whenever they're having their fling,
for the sum of their laughter and love
is more than the worry they bring.
And each night when sweet peace settles down
and I see them asleep in their cot,
I chuckle and say: "They upset me today,
but I'd rather be that way than not."

From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A Guest
© 1934 by The Reilly & Lee Company

Conclusions:
Selecting the Verse block and writing poetry works better with this editor, since single line spacing is automatic; I don’t have to hit Shift + Enter to get that, like I would otherwise. On the other hand, I now have to count Categories & Tags to be sure I don’t exceed the WordPress limit of fifteen. And poetry is automatically italicized.

PS: Now that this is posted I see I’m not so proficient after all! 😦
Now, how to fix it!

Money’s Important, But…

Money

by Edgar Guest

Money.CharlesThompsonDoes money bring men gladness?
Yes, at times!
It also brings men sadness
and to crimes.

Earned well, it is a pleasure,
none denies;
but in the love of treasure
danger lies.

Who grasps for it in blindness,
foul or fair,
sells out to bleak unkindness
and despair.

By money friends are parted;
hatred sown;
for money, marble-hearted
men have grown.

Money’s important. All require it
til life is o’er
but it destroys men who desire it
and nothing more.

From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A Guest
© 1934 by The Reilly & Lee Company