Tag Archives: Religion

Romans 13: A more accurate interpretation.

Freedom loving Christians are always called out by evangelicals to be in contempt of scripture, Romans 13: 1-7 being the passage referenced. Classically the evangelical community has interpreted this passage to mean that the structure of government and the leader have been hand picked by God and need to be obeyed and respected as such. Looking at history or even at our recent and current presidents this can not be an accurate interpretation of this collection of verses. If you take extreme examples such as Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, or even the milder examples like the US government, and apply this classic interpretation, Romans 13 would be contradictory of the rest of scripture as these governments committed heinous crimes. So if this interpretation is wrong, then how should we read this?

I will present my interpretation using the ESV translation.

Romans 13:1a – Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.

Right of the bat we need to ask one basic question. Who are the governing authorities? As I am located in the US the governing authorities are those that are operating within the constraints of the constitution. Any power the government claims beyond what is allowed to them by the constitution is unlawful and therefore not recognized by God.

Romans 13:1b – For there is no authority except from God.

God is the ultimate and perfect authority. No earthly authority can claim to have power that defies God’s law nor claim unlawful power. We already covered what unlawful power is.

Romans 13:1c – Those that exist have been instituted by God.

It is true that God instituted a way for humans to manage themselves and deal with transgressions, this has taken the form of government in most places. God has handed down the authority to punish wrong doing to us. He made us the governing authorities. He left the choice of how with institute this power up to us. He did not set up modern day governments nor did he put specific people in power, we have done that. Personally I believe this authority was meant to take the form of the Non-Aggression Principle. I believe this is the case because of the context of Romans 13. The passage under scrutiny is sandwiched by passages about love. The Non-Aggression Principle allows for the most love, while formal government allows for the least.

Romans 13:2a – Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed.

Remember, God gave the governing authorities, us, limited power. The power to punish transgressions. Resisting that is resisting what God has appointed.

Romans 13:2b – Those who resist will incur judgement.

If the authority is legitimate it is punishing a trespass against another person, sin. You will be held to account for your sins one way or another.

Romans 13:3-5 – For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no dear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of the conscience.

Here is what I mentioned earlier, the purpose of government. To punish the wrongdoer. Or to manage transgressions. I think this is where a lot of the confusion comes in as to the power government is allowed. Wrong doing has been misinterpreted to include personal, or as I would say, moral sins. I do not believe this is the case. Wrong doing here references a grievance committed against another person. Moral sins are between you and God. To support this theory let us look at the authority we in the US are subject to, the form we set up with the power given to us. We established earlier that this authority is the constitution. The constitution does not permit the federal government to enforce moral behavior.

Romans 13:6-7 – For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom they are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Money is required for a government to function. Taxes are how governments get money. If we are going to exercise the authority given to us to punish wrong doing through a form of government then taxes come along with that.

I believe this to be a more accurate interpretation as when history is taken into account Romans 13 remains inline with the rest of scripture. From this interpretation we are also given an understanding as to the limits God has placed on governments. This is something Dietrich Bonhoeffer realized when he said, and I am paraphrasing, that the Church’s job is to keep government in check.


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Religion v Relationship

This entry is in response to events that transpired on Tumblr. See this post as well as this one and my comment on it. From that I received this message:

I think all the Abrahamic religions do, though.

What do you mean a “relationship”? I think you can believe in a Creator as a Buddhist or Hindu. You can also be an atheist, and I’m not sure how that would play out, though.

Here is my response:

I should clarify why I say religion is stupid. Religion has become a set of rules to follow. That is not what salvation depends on, salvation depends on believing that Jesus is the son of God and having a relationship with the Christ. Having a relationship with God is all over scripture, for example:

Romans 5:11 “So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”

What does relationship look like? Let’s say you love someone, not in the ‘let’s get married’ sort of way but rather in the parent/child setting or even in friendships. When you love someone you don’t just want them to do what you say, you want to have a relationship with them. A relationship requires talking with each other and spending time together. This is exactly what God wants with us.

How do you talk with God? Prayer. Prayer is simply conversing with God. And yes, I do mean both talking and listening. What about spending time with God? Worship is all over the Bible. All worship is, is spending time communing with God. God desires this, he desires a relationship with us.

As for other ideology’s, I am not qualified to speak on specific ones but they generally do not lead to a relationship with Jesus Christ, which is what salvation hinges on. If a certain ideology does not lead to this, then it does not lead to heaven. This is not to say that they can not act as a philosophical foundation for understanding religion, because this most certainly happens. With that foundation, understanding the concept of salvation that the Bible lays out for us is much easier. See what John 14: 5-7 has to say about this:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”



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The Church Needs to Step it up – Ministry

There is something wrong with the priorities of the Church. We have become more focused on the issues than on God. The Church has been focusing more on homesexuality, abortion, women pastors, making sure that everyone votes republican…the list goes on, than on spreading the love of Christ. That to me is disgusting. What do these other things matter in the grand scheme of things? Should our sole focus be to spread the good news? To carry out the responsibility that God has laid on us? If we focus on God and loving others, the rest will come (except voting republican, that is just ridiculous).

This is a call to get back to what really matters, spreading the Kingdom of Heaven. Let’s put our focus where it should be.

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The Church Needs to Step it up Series – About

I have decided to turn this into a series. I could pack it all into one big blog but I am a fan of shorter single topic reads so that is what I am going to provide for you.  The reason I am writing these pieces is because as I look at my country and the Church in my country and then look at the Bible, it just does not line up perfectly. I am writing these wanting to see change in the Church knowing that I have to change as well. I am just as guilty in all these topics I will ask you to consider. I am not going to sugar coat what I say, I am going to say it how it is hoping to offend some of you, for I believe that is the only way change can come about.

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You go. I’ll show.

This past weekend I went to a conference named “Power Evangelism” with Robbie Dawkins. The main idea presented was to take risks for Jesus and hoping He shows up. Specifically going out and praying for people (healings, outpouring of Jesus’ love, etc.) The conference was very Holy Spirit oriented. Which I thoroughly enjoyed. Coming from a background of the Holy Spirit being put to the side in my church growing up but prevalent in discussions in my home, it was good the see the Holy Spirit acknowledged in a corporate setting. There were times set aside at the end of each day for prophesying/healing. A lot a people were having intense moments with the Holy Spirit, but I did not feel the Holy Spirits presence strongly at all during the conference, even when I was getting prophesied over. This was kind of upsetting to me at first because let’s face it, being overcome with the Spirit is like nothing else, and I wanted that feeling. But I remembered, and it really sunk in that depending on those spiritual highs in your relationship with Christ is unhealthy. And although I do love those moments, I am glad I did not have one at the conference, God was saving that for later.

You Go.

There was a time set aside on Saturday for us to go out into the city and pray for people. I group of my friends and I went to Woodland Mall to test the waters. My group ended up being Justin and Lauren Blake and myself. The whole walking up to random strangers and praying for them concept was new to all of us, and it was appropriately nerve-racking. We walked around for a good 15 minutes hoping that when we saw someone, God would tell us something about them to pray for/prophesy over them. This was not what God had in mind apparently. We got nothing. God wanted us to take the first step and approach someone with nothing. So we did. We started out by praying for the Salvation Army bell ringer. His only request was that people would be selfless and donate to the Salvation Army. So we prayed for that and then prayed a blessing of God’s love over him. The next guy, and unfortunately the last guy we prayed for had no prayer requests, so we prayed a blessing of God’s love over him as well. While debriefing in the car we all expressed our disappointment that we did not hear anything from God about either of those gentlemen. Knowing that Christ was ecstatic with us for putting ourselves out there for His glory was enough to overcome that disappointment and we were able to call the time spent a success.

I’ll Show.

The Twisted Rooster is where my family and I dined that night. We recapped our adventures while waiting to be seated and then had the opportunity to ask our waitress if she needed prayer. God showed up that night because my dad took the step to ask that question. I can’t share the details but basically our waitress needed prayer bad and God arranged things so we could be there for her right then. Turns out she is staying with some friends roughly three blocks from where my sister Rachel and I live. Rachel is also able to let her borrow her car on a day that she needs to get to Lansing each week. The absolute perfectness of God’s provision through us was incredibly to witness.

Another story. Again, I am leaving details and some names out for privacies sake. This story takes place Monday night, two nights after the conference. It is Bible study with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. This is the first week we did not stick with the normal layout as my leaders, Mike Hoehn and Carly Hall wanted to break away from the normal and switch things up. Turns out that was Gods plan for it to be that night. We ended up hanging out in groups of four and just talk about life. I was with three freshman, one of them was brand new to our small group. All three of them expressed how they almost did not come because of fatigue or homework, but ended up there anyways. Funny how God works. While talking one of the freshman breaks out some deep conversation and starts crying in emotional pain. There was a battle for her soul raging right in front of us. So we started to pray, and share with her. Now I am not the most encouraging or supportive type of person, and I am really thankful that these other two students where there with me. One of them, Kyle, has been blessed with the give of encouragement. He was able to give this broken student words of comfort and inspiration to keep going. This other freshman, Karlye, has been giving receptiveness. She was so in tune with what God was saying to her, and she was able to prophesy over all three of us. Those two did most of the talking and support. I sat there and prayed and said what the Lord was telling me the whole time, but I did not speak much. At the end of this this student said that she felt a huge weight lifted off her shoulders. That was God filling her with his love and peace. He was working so evidently in her life right then. Now at this point the air is thick with the presence of God, and none of us are immune to it. Kyle and are started getting super giggly, we could not make it through a sentence without pausing to laugh a bit. Karlye and our other friend had these huge grins on there faces. We sat there for a good ten minutes worshiping God by rejoicing in what he had done in us that night before we had to get back to the larger group. God showed up something fierce that night, I am still processing the magnitude of the power of God and the manifestation of it on Monday.

God is at work friends. Whether or not you aware of what He is doing around you, He is doing. Something is stirring, God wants to show His power in our community. All we have to do is obey and step out in faith, He will do the rest.

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I do not know why, but my use of the word worship seems to be different than most others. I do not know if what I understand to be worship is different, or if I just prefer to use more specific language, all I know is I tend to correct people use of the word worship in my mind. I don’t know why I am so picky about the vocabulary used by the church, but I am. It may be that I am scared that when people use vocabulary that does not fit my definitions, they do not know what exactly they are saying or participating in.

When people say, “Oh singing is my favorite form of worship” or “I love worshiping by creating art” or even “Come share the way that you worship with us”, I cringe. If I was to utter any of these phrases I would modify them to say “Oh singing is my favorite way that a worshipful heart manifests itself” or “I just love it when my heart is praising Jesus so much that I just have to paint” and finally “Come share the way having a heart of worship manifests itself in you with us”. I could also phrase these “Singing is my favorite form of corporate worship”, “Art is how I come together with others to give God Almighty praise” or “Come show us your favorite way to bond together with others is bringing God glory”. Do you see the difference?

Worship is not an action. Nothing you can do is worship unless your heart is in it. You can sing and dance and paint all you want, playing the participation game so you do not stand out, but if your heart is not truly worshiping. Neither are you. Now when you have a heart of worship, it does not matter what you are doing, you are worshiping. You can do the typical singing of songs written especially to bring God praise, or you can sing a regular old song to God. You can just sit, taking in the world around, and if you have a worshipful heart, you will see God in these instances. A conversation with someone can be the way that worship manifests itself. Shoot I have given praise to God while smoking my pipe. What you are doing is not important to the actual worshiping going on, provided the actions line up with scripture. So why do we call these actions worship?

One theory I have is people really mean to say corporate ‘worship’. That is partaking in praising the creator with a group of other people. This is an important part in the life of a follower of Christ. These actions can help build our faith and having those people around you backing you up is a wonderful thing. But this is still not worship unless your heart is in it. Maybe they mean to say this is the way the having a heart of worship manifests itself in my life. This has a whole different meaning to me, and it is the way that I use to describe how my love for Jesus shows itself.

What if people do not mean to say either of those? Maybe they do not understand what worship truly is. maybe to them worship is all about the actions. Participating in the rituals that have become standard corporate worship. What if that is what they understand to be worship? Frankly that thought scares me. To have people who confess that Jesus Christ is their lord and savior, and not know what worship means? That seems like bad news bears.

This is a subject that I wish churches discussed more often. I know I was left to figure this out on my own. Lucky for me I have parents who know what worship means. Without their guidance I may be one of those who think that worship is about the actions, not the heart.

Update: Isaiah 29:13

“The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.'”

I guess this is a good verse that voices more or less what I am concerned about. It has seems that we have put a lot of rules on what worship is, and as long as we are following those rules we are worship. False! That is not worship. Worship starts in the heart, not the mind.

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