Where Is God Now?

Posted by on November 30, 2008 under Sermons

Congregational Reading
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
1 Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth 2 before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us.

3 Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

4 How long, Lord God Almighty, will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people?
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
6 You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us.

7 Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

17 Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
18 Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name.

19 Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

Historical Background:
A group of Jewish Exiles who had been held captive in Babylon for a generation have finally been set free to return home. They return to the land of their ancestors, the land that God promised their forefather Abraham. They have hopes and visions of returning the land and its’ royal city, Jerusalem, to its glory so that it will be a light among the nations. Their dream is to restore the temple and seek to fulfill Solomon’s prayer.

But it isn’t so simple. Some of their brethren lack the zeal that they have. Also, the elite groups left in Jerusalem have taken over the rule of the city and they have their own designs for the future of Israel and Jerusalem. They have made alliances with other nations and adopted their ways. They aren’t as pure as they should be.

Seeking to express their anguish and understand their disappointment, this community of returned exiles lift their voices in lament and prayer …
Read Isaiah 64:1-9

Where is God?
Israel remembers how God worked powerfully among the nations to deliver Israel from Egypt. And now they want God to do the same for them.
They are tired of waiting. They ask, “Where is God?” (Isaiah 63)

  • Where is the God who parted the Red Sea?
  • Where is the God that led the people across on dry land?
  • Where is the passion and the might you used to show on our behalf?
  • Where are your mercy and compassion now?

They feel abandoned. They are angry. They want God to rip open heaven, come down form his lofty perch and start mashing their enemies into mortar and use it to rebuild their temple. They want some justice, some punishment, and some restoration … … but it seems to them like God is nowhere.

Can you identify with these poor outcasts? The land that they called home seems more and more like a foreign country. The people who ought to know better have lost their way. Those who ought to set an example for other nations have become a global shame.

  • In other parts of the world, people stand in lines to get scarce resources just to live: clean water, rice, bread
  • In this country, people were trampled and killed by a restless mob anxious to get cheap junk at Wal-Mart. Is this what we consider an economic crisis? We push, shove, and trample to get toys?

Can you identify with these poor outcasts? Do you ever wish that God would rip the sky open and start sorting it all out?

Affirmation and Challenge
The words of Isaiah affirm that we are not alone when we call upon God for justice and vengeance – even if we just whisper it. The words of Isaiah affirm that we are not alone when we feel like God is nowhere to be found.

But the words of Isaiah do not leave us without a challenge … Stop and reflect on what this “summons of God” means. Let’s say God does rip open the sky right now and He’s ready to sort it all out. Let’s say that God does show up right now with his hammer and blowtorch. Let’s say He begins the retribution and punishment right now.

Think … does He stop at our borders? Does He spare us? Why should he? Is God our attack dog on our chain?

  1. Israel thought this one out … They were ready for the “shock and awe” of God that would humble her enemies. They were ready for God to go to work and put down the mad dogs that threatened the peace of Jerusalem. They were ready for God to burn out the impure and immoral in their land.

  2. In the midst of their prayer, a thought strikes them. (64:5b) Maybe it seems like God is nowhere because He’s angry with them. They have to admit that they aren’t as godly as they should be. No, they are impure. They are feverish because of the infection of sin. They have the stability of dry leaves blown in the wind. When they attempt to dress up in righteousness, they end up in soiled rags polluted with their own filth. It’s not pretty. And if God shows up to begin the apocalypse, they might just be the first in line.

The Courage to Confess
Do we have the courage to confess our sins? Can we identify with these Israelites now? Do we want to? Since Adam and Eve, we’ve had a difficulty confessing sin. We tend to blame others or blame circumstance, or even blame God – just as the Israelites do in Isaiah’s prophecy.

We’ve discovered convenient ways of managing this …

  1. Justification and denial. Making excuses and rationalization.
  2. Generic confession of sin. We’re all sinners. Of course we are. This is an opposite extreme, for when everyone sins, no one sins.
  3. Overlooking the corporate dimension of sin. We like to think of ourselves as independent individuals. We are free agents, loners, and accountable only for ourselves. We don’t want to be responsible for the sins of others. That wouldn’t be fair. But there is a way in which we all participate in systems and structures larger than ourselves and there are elements of those corporations, governments, relationships and even congregations that can be warped by sin. Who is to blame? That’s the wrong question. The better question is, “Can we confess that sin before God and be redeemed?”

When we can do this we begin to draw close to the God who can make a difference. Especially when it seems like God is nowhere …

God is Here Now!
Confession of our sinfulness – as individuals and as a people – causes the scales to fall from our eyes.

  • When we look for a God who will rip open the sky and begin busting mountains and boiling the seas, then we stare into nothingness. That God is nowhere because that is the God that looks like us, salutes our flags and protects our fortunes at any cost. When we look for a God who strikes terror in others at a push of a button or a magic word. Then yes, that God is nowhere.
  • Confession is the way to perspective and truth. When we confess our sinfulness before God, we realize that God is the potter and we are the clay. He is our Father and we are his children. God is not nowhere, but he is here now.
  • When we confess our sinfulness we see that we need a rescued from ourselves and not just from enemies.
  • When we confess our sins we see that God has already ripped open the sky and sent his Holy Spirit down to descend on his Son, Jesus Christ. (Gospel)
  • When we confess our sinfulness we see that the God that we thought was Nowhere is Here, Now. He is with us in our suffering. In all their suffering he also suffered, and the angel of his presence rescued them. (63:9)
  • God is Here and Now and he has cast his lot with us. He is building a temple for his name among those who are soft in his hand like clay. God is here and now. May God forgive our sins and help us to live in his presence!

The Faith of Jesus Christ

Posted by on November 23, 2008 under Sermons

Thesis of Romans

  • Romans 1:16-17
  • Antithesis = 2:1 to 3:20
  • Restatement of Thesis = 3:21 – 31

Redemption [3:24]

  • 3:24 – apolytrosis
  • Context of slavery: apolytrosis is the means of liberating a slave
  • Jesus is the means by which God has saved humans from the enslavement of sin
  • Historical: Psalm 110:9 and Exodus 6:6

Expiation [3:25]

  • hilasterion – a difficult term!
  • Reconciliation for a wronged party
  • kipper – Hebrew – “cover over”
    – Atonement
    – Cover of the Ark
  • Sacrifice to a bloodthirsty God?
  • Wrath in Romans 1:18-30

Expiation or Propitiation? Can I have a third option?

In other texts it is clear that this is a sacrifice. Romans is vague about the hilasterion being a sacrifice – other than the mention of blood.

Paul is probably borrowing the word from its Jewish and ritual context. It is very “Exodus.”

There is a paradox here in that God propitiates God. Separating it out so that Christ propitiates God sets up a hero/villain battle.

Beware Vampire Christianity – we need Christ for his blood.

Thesis Statements

  1. God’s righteousness is being revealed – it’s news!
  2. Jesus is the means and agent through whom God is “demonstrating” it.
  3. Faithfulness and Righteousness are connected in a significant way.

What Is Faith?

  • Leap of Faith
  • Keep the Faith
  • Blind Faith
  • Full Faith and Credit


  • pistis and pisteuein
  • Faith and Faithing
    – More than “belief” (cognitive)
    – Response
    – Trust
    – Hope
    – Obedience

    Romans 10:9 – believing in the heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.
    Romans 10:14
    Romans 4:3 – Trust
    Roman 4:18 – Hope

Faith and Jesus Christ

  • “Faith in Jesus Christ” (object)
  • “Faith of Jesus Christ” (subject)
  • Romans 3:22, 25, 26
  • Is Paul referring to our faith in Jesus Christ or the faith/faithfulness of Jesus?

The Faith Of Jesus Christ

  • Thesis – The gospel of Jesus Christ [obedience and faithfulness]
  • Antithesis – Sin involves disobedience and faithlessness

From Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, by Ben Witherington, III:

    Three arguments for Faith OF Jesus Christ

    1. It avoids the redundancy of Paul referring to Christian faith twice in 3:22. Both objective and subjective means are referred to: the righteousness of God is revealed through the faithfulness of Christ (the gospel) and it is revealed to all who believe. This explains from faith to faith in 1:16-17 (ek pisteos eis pistin).
    2. This reading gives proper force to the 2 prepositions through and unto – one referring to means and the other to the ultimate object or recipient of the revelation.
    3. This comports well with the parallel clause (dia) in v 24. The gift of righteousness or being righted comes through liberation or ransom provided by the Christ-event.

So What Does It Mean?

  1. Jesus’ sacrifice is more than an offering of him.
  2. Jesus “faithfully” offers himself.
  3. Jesus reveals God’s way of making humans righteous with God.
  4. We share Christ’s faith (see 4:16)
  5. No contradiction with Galatians 2:16, Philippians 1:29, Colossians 2:5

If we translate faith as “belief” then we are concerned that we cannot know everything that Christ believed. But if we use the fuller meaning of faith as the complete human response then it makes more sense.
The is no contradiction of a confessional faith in Jesus Christ (as with the other texts). But the context of Romans shapes the interpretation.

Paul’s Diatribe (3:27-31)

  1. Where’s our confidence?
  2. Is righteousness obtained through the law? No, faith.
  3. God is God of Jew and gentile.
  4. All accepted on faith.
  5. Faith does not destroy the law but strengthens it!
    (We don’t follow the law through understanding or legal inquiry, but through faith – obedience of heart.)

The Power of Generosity, part 2

Posted by on under Sermons

[This lesson was presented by 2 people.]

Notes of Jeff Lovelace

    There are several reasons that Christians don’t give like they should. One of the reasons is an unexpected life event. Statistics show that on average, every 10 years we will go through a major financial need. We may be taking care of an elderly parent or medical condition that has happened to a loved one. Single moms or dads trying to meet the needs of taking care of children can cause extreme burden on the family. Putting food on the table may be the most important thing at the moment. Also we know that 7 out of 10 families depend on every paycheck and would need to get a loan if one check was missing. Living this close to the edge puts a financial strain on the married couple and today it is the number one cause of marriage problems. It can ultimately lead to divorce if not taken care of. Of course, all we hear on the TV is gloom and doom with the economy and what does the government tell us? Spend, spend, spend. It will fix the economy! Then on the next commercial we hear what products we should buy and how easy it is to get credit for it. Extreme Marketing is used to lure us to spend. No matter which way we turn, the temptation is there. When was the last time you heard a commercial to give back to your church?

    But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are several steps we can take to overcome living like this. God gave us many scriptures dealing with possessions and finances. One new ministry that has started at West-Ark is the Financial Ministry and a portion of that is teaching Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. The Bible-based study teaches you how to get out of debt and build up an emergency fund. But the class goes further by teaching basic life principles of insurance, mortgages, college funds, and how to plan for retirement. The class causes you and your spouse to interact on everyday purchases and gets you on the same page. It will stop the money fights. The end result is that you can give like never before without worry, guilt and truly be what the bible says, “a cheerful giver.” We also have a Financial counseling service that is offered by my wife Michelle and I. We can setup a budget and help you get on the right track. This ties well with the Marriage and Family Counseling that David Chadwell has setup as well.

    But back to the Financial Peace University class (FPU). We just completed our first class with 16 families attending. All families beat debt, started saving and put themselves in a situation to give more freely and easily. A fun part of the program is to collect credit offers in the mail and tally up how much debt is being offered to the students. Over 13 weeks, these 16 families were offered 5 Million dollars in debt. The key though is to get rid of debt. Our class debt reduction was over $29,000 dollars. Once the savings kicked in after beating the debt, our class saved over $34,000. That’s a differential of $63,000 in only 13 weeks by 16 families. As you can see by having a plan, which is what this class teaches, can really get the ball rolling to put yourself in a much better financial state.

    Imagine Yourself Debt Free

    Our next class is coming up on January 11th and will run for 13 weeks. The class is very interactive and is fit for any age group or marital status. We will show a preview of what can be expected from the class today after services. Also, I will mention that we are doing a teen version of this class called Generation Change. It will finish up the week before Christmas.

    Several of the FPU students were so thrilled with the results of their class, they gave a brief testimonial. Before we show the video, let me leave you with a scripture that says it all. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think? Romans 12:2 (NLT).


Notes of Chris Benjamin

    On the video you’ve seen and heard the stories and encouragement of your brothers and sisters. They’ve told you how they’ve been blessed and given hope by following God’s ways and be leaning on the support of others.

    We set this time for responses aside in worship so that we can share with one another. Maybe you have a word of thanks or encouragement. This time for responses in worship is always an appropriate time to share that.

    Maybe you need encouragement. Maybe you have a burden with debt or financial stress. We offer the FPU but that’s not all. We will pray with you. The elders will pray with you. We will encourage you along the way.

    Maybe your burden isn’t financial. Maybe it is an addiction of some sort. There are people here who are ready to support you as you seek God’s healing and hope. We have no interest in judging you. We know what it is like to live in God’s grace and I assure that there will be people here who will receive you with such grace.

    Maybe your burden is grief or anxiety. Maybe you are overwhelmed by worry. Maybe you’ve been carrying the burden of a hurt or gossip from others. Maybe it is something that has burdened you for years. We’ve set aside this time to pledge our commitment to giving you an opportunity to experience God’s healing and hope.

    It can seem threatening to name these matters. Perhaps it seems too shameful. But the gospel casts out the burden of shame. Naming the burden is the beginning of healing. Naming the burden means that we have hope and Christ takes it away.

    The power of the gospel is what gives us real healing and hope. There are so many offers in this world trying to sell us something that will fix our problems. You can try all of them, but there is no real healing and no real hope apart from the Spirit of Christ. He has given us the resources to really live free.

    We’ve set aside this time in worship to give you the opportunity to respond to the source of true hope and real healing. For those of you who’ve been baptized it is a time to renew your commitment …

    When you were baptized into Christ, you renounced all other powers including the power of sin. You are dead to those powers and illegitimate gods. You are alive in Christ. May God bless you to live out your life in Christ and not submit to the burdens, worries, fears, and anxieties that distract you from that life.

    If you haven’t yet been baptized into Christ then what are you waiting for? I mean that in all seriousness – there may be a very legitimate answer to that question and I want you to think about it. I can believe that you might have a concern that keeps you from coming to Christ in baptism.

    • Maybe you’ve seen too many so-called Christians behaving in an un-Christian way. I understand that. It’s not right and Christians who behave in an un-Christian way need to repent. But please don’t let that keep you from Christ.
    • Maybe you’re worried that being baptized into Christ means that you have to be flawlessly perfect. Baptism is the first step of a walk with Christ. We continue to encourage and welcome response for prayer and thanksgiving because we are all on this journey.

    So when I ask, “What are you waiting for?” That’s not just a rhetorical question. Let’s talk about. But if you want to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins, then we are ready to rejoice with you.

The Circle

Posted by on November 20, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

There is much we cannot picture. God cannot be pictured! The Bible says He is a definite being, but not like us. He is not physical. He is without physical limitations-cannot die (is eternal), does not age, is not subject to time, is sexless, is more intelligent than the most intelligent human, is more powerful than anything humans will ever invent using His resources, and knows and understands more than humans can know or understand. We were made in His image, not He in ours.

Yet, we usually think of God in terms of a glorified human. After all, the physical is what we know. Though Genesis 1 in brief terms introduces us to Him as the Creator, we are more likely to think of God in terms of what He made instead of what He is.

He examined all He created, and was pleased. His conclusion: it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). If it was “very good” to God, it would be beyond comprehension to us. There are several things I truly doubt any of us can imagine-“very good,” free from sin, ideal in the sense God would consider ideal, without flaw, cannot be improved, etc.

That is beyond my imagination! I cannot picture anything God would call good. I cannot think in terms of what God would consider ideal. I cannot even think in terms of a state of sinlessness. Can you imagine no evil anywhere in anything?

What do you think of when you think of restoration? A building? Think bigger! A name? Think bigger! Forms? Think bigger! Methods? Think bigger! Rules and regulations? Think bigger! Relationships? Think bigger!

The ultimate restoration is not about us! It is about God! God’s objective in our salvation is about more than forgiveness or human affairs. It is about restoring God to His rightful place over creation that existed when creation occurred. Christ came. Christ reigns right now. Christ will continue to reign until he defeats all that opposes God. The last thing Christ will defeat will be death. Then Christ will subject himself to God, and the ultimate restoration will occur. Just as in the creation event, God again will be the “all in all.” All rebellion will be defeated as God rules all He made.

The only question: are you to be defeated as God’s opponent, or do you exist and use your life to help restore God to His rightful place?

Knocked Off Our Box

Posted by on November 16, 2008 under Sermons

Thesis: Generous Christians bring glory to God
Antithesis: Selfish Christians dishonor God

Thesis of Romans

  • Romans 1:16-17
    Antithesis of Romans
  • Romans 2:1 – 3:20

    Thesis – Antithesis Pairs

  • Righteousness – Wrath
  • Jews – Gentiles
  • Righteousness – Law
  • Four possibilities …

    Knocked Off Our Box

  • Romans 2:1 …
          “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.”

    No Excuses

  • Romans 1:18-31
          THEY have no excuses for their sinful behavior
  • Romans 2:1 – 3:20
          YOU really do not have an excuse because you have God’s word

    Paul the Philosopher

    1. Paul is using philosophical rhetoric to make his argument
    2. Hypothetical questions
    3. The Nature of God
    4. Use of voices (the braggart, the question from the audience, straw man)

    Paul the Prophet

    1. Paul is not rejecting the covenant with Israel
    2. Paul is following the tradition of OT prophets (See Amos)
    3. Paul is following Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount
    4. Judgment on Empty Spirituality

    The Power of the Gospel

    1. A “sermon on the mount” kind of righteousness
    2. Spiritual vs. Literal
    3. Salvation for Jew and Gentile
    4. Salvation for Christians
    5. Gospel and Grace
  • The Power of Generosity, part 1

    Posted by on under Sermons

    [Communion comments]

    • Read 2 Corinthians 8:9 – For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
    • We come to a table generously spread. For served to us today is the generous gift of God.
    • This bread is the body of Christ. This cup is the blood of Christ.
    • As you consider it, consider more than the suffering of Christ. Consider the generosity of Christ. Consider his continuing presence among us.
    • We are blessed to receive a renewal of heart, a restoration of riches, a continuance of hope. What do you find here? What does the generosity of God mean to you?

    [Sermon starts here]

    • Read from 2 Corinthians
    • Paul is concerned about the Corinthian church
      1. They had started out eager to serve others through a contribution for the poor in Jerusalem.
      2. Paul encouraged this. It would be historical. If the Gentile churches came through generously to help the poor in Jerusalem when they needed it, then it would embody the unity of Jewish and Gentile believers that Paul believed was God’s will. It would show that God is work among the gentiles.
      3. The Macedonians had come through even when it seemed like they couldn’t. No one expected them to give very much since they were in the midst of economic crisis. But they did give!
      4. Paul wanted the Corinthians to know about it … He wanted them to know that it was God’s grace. They had not just given money, but they had given themselves to God – and when you give yourself to God, giving your funds is not that hard.
      5. Paul is concerned that the Corinthians will miss out on having that sort of generosity.
      6. He reminds them that Generosity is rooted in God’s generosity
      7. He reminds them that Generosity is not so much about giving to needs or good practice for the giver – it brings glory to God
      8. And if the Corinthians miss out on this, then they may lose the very spirit of Christ. If they cease to be generous, then it won’t be long before they cease to be nothing more than a hollow worship club.
    • Paul wants the Christians in Corinth and in Macedonia to excel in God’s generosity so that they can participate in his grace and bring glory to God. God is glorified and the church has thrived when it has been generous.

    The Power of Generosity – Julian the Apostate

    • When Constantine the Great legalized Christianity in the 4th century, it was a welcome relief to Christians who simply wanted to live in peace.
    • But after Constantine, the new emperor Julian, tried to bring back the pagan religions. He did not want Christians to be favored and made it more difficult for the Christians to practice their faith.
    • Julian’s attempts to dismantle and discourage Christianity – in their own hearts and in the public’s opinion – failed. Why?

    “Atheism (Christianity) has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to the stranger, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.” – Julian

    The Christians were simply more generous and caring than anyone else. They reflected the generosity of God. They didn’t just care for their own; they cared for all of those in need. This sort of generosity could not be ignored or maligned.

    Our Encouragement

    When we read 2 Corinthians 8-9, understanding what that church could do in poverty is inspiring. I believe that West-Ark is capable of so much – even in our economic trials. Do you?

    Some may say that these aren’t the times to be bold and generous. Some might say that we need to conserve and be careful. I agree that we need to be wise and responsible, but let’s not limit God. Let’s not limit generosity. Look at the Macedonians. Think about those risky, daring Christians who changed the world.

    What we need is a bold adventurous faith. Let’s excel and be bold in generosity. When you think about the way that God has been generous with us, how can we do any less?

    The invitation is an invitation for us to participate in the generosity of God. It’s an invitation to see grace in action. There is power in generosity, the sort of power that can overcome empires and unite strangers.

    Illustration – Putting our hand in the plate
    I hope that we will give ourselves to God and then give generously. Not because I want you to give to West-Ark, but because I want you to give as West-Ark. We are not generous TO the church, we are generous AS the church. [The church is not an institution outside of ourselves].

    I would be very disappointed if we withered into an isolated worship club only concerned with our own issues. God is not pleased by a church family that withdraws so far into itself that they become spiritual hermits afraid of their own shadows. Rather, he wants us to show an extraordinary kindness – even in a hostile world. That brings glory to him! God didn’t hold back when he was generous to us.

    On a Mission From God

    Posted by on November 9, 2008 under Sermons

    Let Me Introduce Myself …

    • Paul, A Slave of Christ Jesus
    • Called to be an Apostle
        – What’s an Apostle? (v. 1 and v. 5)
    • Set Apart for God’s Good News
        – A Purpose and Mission
        – What is good news?

    The Reputation of Romans

    • Their faith is well known throughout the world
    • “I am praying that we will have a chance to meet”
        – Mutual Encouragement
    • A diverse group (Greek, barbarian, educated, non-educated) – v. 14-15

    Paul’s Thesis

    I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed-a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”Romans 1:16-17

    The Rejection of God

    • Romans 1:18-23
    • Despite what they ought to know, the truth is pushed aside
    • Their hearts are darkened
    • They claim to be wise but they are foolish
    • They worship the created, not creator

    The Wrath of God

    • Romans 1:24-32
    • God gives them everything they desire
      • They dishonor themselves
      • They reject what is natural
      • This results in various vices
    • They not only do this, but think well of those who do the same
    Everything that’s wrong with the Gentiles …
    … is also what’s wrong with you.

    The turning point in Romans 2:1 –
    “Them” language changes to “You” language

    Go Back to the Thesis

    1. Paul is commissioned to be God’s agent
    2. Paul has a good message – news!
    3. It has the power to save – everyone!

    A Change for the Better?

    Posted by on November 2, 2008 under Sermons

    Structure of Romans

    1. Chapters 1 – 11 – What God has done in Christ
    2. Chapters 12 – 16 – What Christ is doing in the church

    Romans 13

    • Be subject to the authorities
    • Pay tribute and honor
    • Love your neighbor
    • Wait for the Day of Salvation

    Paul’s Worldview

    Paul – Ancients

    • Social Order is natural
    • It does not change
    • It is divinely instituted
    • Can be good or bad
    Moderns – Us

    • Social Order is reasonable
    • It is changeable
    • It answers to the governed
    • Should be good


    • Rome in the mid-50’s
      • A young and ambitious leader
      • Oct. 13, 54
      • Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus
      • Nero

    Why So Hopeful?

    1. Caligula claimed he was a god and put his statue in the Jerusalem Temple
    2. Claudius had expelled Jews from Rome (Acts 18)
    3. Only 16, Nero was tutored and advised by sensible men

    Jew and Gentile in Rome

    • Jewish Christians returning from exile
    • Possible tensions
    • Jew and Gentile heritage linked (Rom 9-11)
    • Christ is the story that matters most (Romans 8)

    Citizens of the Kingdom

    Posted by on under Sermons

    Read Romans 13

    Every election year it seems that the tension and intensity increases. These are anxious, worried times. We are living through a gruesome trifecta: a bitter election season, a shaky economy, and hysterical media. That’s why I thought it was right that we heard Isaish’s sermon last week: “Do not fear what they fear. Don’t call conspiracy what they call conspiracy.”

    Christians need to take this sermon to heart. Even if this truly is the most divisive and most critical campaign in American history we need to be faithful, not fearful. Come November 5, the election could go either way on any number of issues or candidates and we might just be alarmed at the consequences or reactions to those outcome. Once again, Christian should be faithful, not fearful.

    What will happen on November 4 or what should happen on November 4? I am not going to predict that. I cannot say. The message today is not to endorse a candidate or a party. My charge is not to preach a “party political message.” And that’s not because of concern about losing our tax-exempt status. Rather, because our purpose in coming together at this time is to give our attention to the living word of God and let it shape us.

    I know this about November 4th. I know that good and decent Christians will vote for the Republican candidates. I know that good and decent Christians will vote for the Democratic candidates. I know that good and decent Christians will even vote for some of the other parties. And I know that before and after the vote, they will remain Christians and children of God because of the blood of Christ – not because of their voting record.

    I know that I am confused about the tension, worry, and fear building up to November 4. It is such that some Christians are alienated from their brothers and sisters in opposite parties.

    Perhaps it’s the media. Perhaps it’s the historical value of this election. Maybe it’s the issue of race. Maybe it’s just the momentum of the last few years of increasingly anxious politics. But let’s keep perspective: there have always been divisive passions among people and people have ways of grouping into tribes. At some level people always seem to find some way to distinguish themselves and identify themselves in opposition to others. We need to be careful about that as Christians, however, as we have a unifying identity greater than anything that divides us. Can I give some perspective here

    Granny and Pearl – [Family Story]

    The lesson I want to offer is this: There are no distinctions in Christ. For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28) – If that can be said of Jews and Gentiles, then it can be said of Democrats and Republicans.

    But what is the proper relationship of all Christians in any party, in America, in all nations to the governments and the powers that come and go in this world. What is our response and our responsibility on November 3rd and on November 5th? What must be the same?

    I humbly offer the word of God, written by Paul in the 13th chapter of Romans. Romans 13

    1. Christians are Good Citizens …
      • Paul had a political worldview that understood how the emperor was accountable to God. And that emperor (who is an absolute, unelected leader – there was no concept of change or revolution) could be benevolent or malevolent. God is in charge.
      • So, you ought to pray for those rulers even as you pay them respect. (1 Timothy 2)
      • We are going to do this on November 3rd at 7 PM – it will not be a partisan prayer service. We are going to put this into practice. We will pray for our nation, for peace, for our leaders, for our world. If you have a role as an elected leader at any level of government, we will pray for you.
      • Christians might be involved in politics. When the government and the culture reflect God’s justice and holiness then Christians are a part of it.
      • But Christians are still citizens who demonstrate justice and holiness (and love) even if the status quo politics do not reflect God’s ways. Whether we go with the grain or cut against it, our lives are never rancorous, rebellious, or rude. We are simply good citizens who are concerned to do what God requires – To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. (Micah 6)

      “Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign. And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. – Letter to Diognetus, procurator of Alexandria, from an unknown disciple between 2nd and 3rd cent. AD

      • Christians who saved exposed children in the Roman Empire.
      • Christians (black and white) who exposed unjust laws of segregation. (Civil Rights, 1960’s Justice Story)

      • We can have that same sort of uncanny, exceptional faith and Christian standard of citizenship.On the ballot in Arkansas is Act 1. Whether Act 1 should pass or not, let Christians be the first in line to offer to adopt children and serve as foster parents. Christians who open their homes to children will be good citizens in Arkansas because we’re citizens of the kingdom.

        Let’s say that Act 3 passes and Arkansas has a lottery. Let this awaken us to the dark and devious ways that greed and consumerism have corrupted our world. Let it awaken us to the fact that people without hope are looking for a fix, a chance at making it. Let’s offer real hope. That’s good citizenship in America and the kingdom.

    2. Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven

      • Starbuck’s has an ad. They will give you a free cup of coffee if you vote. But the line that caught my attention was this: What if we all cared as much on November 5th and we do on November 4th. Would it change our community?
      • We need to have a vision beyond November 4. Christians have a kingdom vision. Our motivation for being good citizens is 1) That we are living like citizens of a society yet to come. 2) We live by a higher law
      • We are citizens of the kingdom. God will judge every political system as to how godly or ungodly it may be. He will judge every politics that has been and ever will be.
      • We live by a higher better law – the law of love. That’s the kingdom way.

    Love – The sort of rancor and personal destruction that has been present in politics in the past and especially now is not good citizenship, it’s not heavenly, and it is not love. Love is at the core of being good citizens. Love is at the core of being good neighbors. And that’s hard to accept in the negatively charged environment we live in.

    But that’s the problem. We seem to have forgotten that we are subject to this higher law of love. Love does no harm to its neighbor. Let’s wake up and quit sleepwalking through the world and coasting along with its politics. Let’s look ahead to a kingdom that is breaking in even now.
    The hour has come for us to wake up from our slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

    What our neighborhoods, our nation, and our world need most is the peace of God. As citizens of the kingdom of heaven, we are good citizens because we are instruments of his peace.