Archive | April, 2017

How you might be a slave-owner without knowing it (or…does the Bible condone slavery?)

22 Apr

How are you treating your slaves?  You don’t have any, you say?  Wrong.  You almost certainly do.  You just don’t know it.

Are you a good slave master?  How many of you benefit from slaves?  You’re thinking, “I don’t have slaves!  That was a thing of the past.”

I thought you might say that. Would you be surprised to hear that your answer is wrong?

You might not own slaves.  But it is almost certain that just about all of us benefit from slaves.

Here’s a little test you can do right now.  Read the tag on your shirt.  Where was your shirt made?

Do you know who made your shirt?  How were they treated?  How much were they paid?  What kind of working conditions were they in?  Do they get any benefits, like health insurance?

You’re wearing the shirt they made.  Wouldn’t you want to know who they are, and especially how they were treated?  Or would you prefer not to know, not to have to wonder if you are connected to slavery?

Slavery?  Yes, slavery.  Garment workers around the globe produce our clothing, doing so in conditions that amount to slavery.  Take a look at this article for example.  Or this one.  And how about this one?

My shirt was made in Cambodia.  But there is something special about my shirt.  I can guarantee you that it was not made by slaves.  Here’s why.

Yours though?

Slavery is real, and though we might not own slaves, our consumer choices enable slavery around the world.

Tomorrow at Faith Church, we continue our series through the biblical letter of 1st Timothy, this time looking at just two verses about slavery.  You can read them at 1 Timothy 6:1-2.

You might wonder if this is a passage we don’t need to study because we don’t have slavery in our culture?  Maybe we should just skip it?  I think you’ll find that even though our country got rid of slavery long ago, this is a passage that is still very important to study, especially given the prevalence of slavery around the world today and how slavery is still connected to America through the many products we can purchase that are slave made.

The problem with 1st Timothy 6:1-2 is that it seems to be okay with slavery.  But is it?

For the last two years, I have been participating in a program for pastors called the Clergy Leadership Program of Central Pennsylvania, based out of Messiah College.  We meet up 5-6 times every year for retreats and seminars to help us learn about the intersection between faith and the many spheres of life. It has been a wonderful leadership training opportunity.  One aspect that has been so helpful is that it has put us in touch with other leaders, authors, thinkers.   The program directors have given us books to read, one of which was written by a Messiah College professor, Emerson Powery, who is also one of the program directors.

Powery, and his co-author, Rodney Sadler, wrote the The Genesis of Liberation, an excellent study about how formerly enslaved peoples in the United States South read and interpreted the Bible in the 40 years or so leading up to the Civil War.  Powery and Sadler note that the problem with passages like 1 Timothy 6:1-2 is that Southern slave-owners used passages like this one to retain their stranglehold on their slaves and promote the culture of slavery.  Were the slave-owners right?  Does a passage like this justify slavery?  It seems a little like it does.  Does the Bible affirm slavery?

Join us Sunday, April 23, 9am at Faith Church to learn what the Bible says about slavery, how we might still be culpable of slavery, and what we can do about it.

How to access God’s power for your life

18 Apr

Image result for the power of godDon’t you hate it when the batteries are dead?  I pull out my cordless drill to work on something, and there is no power.  Thankfully, my drill came with a second battery, so I swap them out, and I find that they second one is dead too.

Ever dealt with that? So frustrating, right?  Powerlessness.

Power tools or other gadgets are one thing.  You can buy new batteries, or charge the ones you’ve got.  It just requires a little wait or money.

But when you are dealing with power for life, that’s another story.

What do you do if you are trying to kick a bad habit, and you feel like you have no power?  What about fixing a broken relationship?

What about dealing with a difficult health problem or job loss or lots of bills?

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt powerless?

Sometimes in life we feel totally powerless about the situations we get into.  And that is not a fun feeling.  We hate it!  I hate it.

In Ephesians 1:15-20, Paul talks about power that is available in those difficult situations.  Paul prays that they may know, in verse 19, “[God’s] incomparably great power, for us who believe; that power is like the working of his mighty strength which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.”

This reality is ours.  You can know God’s resurrection power at work in your life now!  What an amazing promise.

And yet some of you hear that, and it sounds so far-fetched, so unbelievable. How do you feel about that?

On Easter Sunday I have found that while we often look backward in thanks and joy remembering Jesus’ victory over death, and while we look forward to the day when we will experience that resurrection ourselves and be with him, we often neglect to think about the implications of the resurrection right now. Does the resurrection matter today?

Paul is saying that we can experience that resurrection power in our lives right now.  He is not talking about some distant future.  As followers of Jesus, we should expect that working of his mighty power in our lives right now.

Evaluate your own life.  Have you become defeated?  Have you forgotten that his power is available to you now?

That power that God wielded to raise Jesus from the dead is available to us!  Or as another translation puts it “how tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God.”  New life is available to us now.  Power for victory over our on sin.  Power to be changed.

But you might be thinking “wait a minute…I have been asking for that power to be at work in my life for 20 years, and I feel like I haven’t seen it.”  Or “I have been praying for a loved one to experience that power, or for that power to heal a broken relationship…and I have been praying for a long time, and I haven’t seen it!  What gives?”  Know that many people feel this way.

Some things to remember:

  1. We are in a battle with an enemy who has not given up.
  2. We have free will, and God rarely, extremely rarely overrules us.
  3. We might have a misconception about our part in the process. Paul is not saying here that we need to just do nothing and wait for God to rain down his power in us.   We have a responsibility.

Know that God is alive and well, and his resurrection power is at work changing lives.

A couple weeks ago at Family Night, a former Faith Church member shared the heart-wrenching story of her husband’s arrest, conviction and incarceration for child pornography.  She also shared how the power of God has been very evident in their family’s life, and especially in her husband’s life, as during his 20 month-long house arrest he started following Christ.  He lost his job, they had to declare bankruptcy, and their neighborhood rejected them because of his sinful choices.  Through this, God’s transforming power was at work, and her husband, though he is in prison, is a changed man, and is even ministering to other inmates in prison.

Those of us here for the CV Community Good Friday worship service heard the amazing story of how one of the top gang leaders in Lancaster City came to Christ.  He went to a presentation at Clipper Stadium where Nicky Cruz spoke.  Cruz was a big time gang leader in New York City whose life was transformed by Jesus, and has been sharing the story of the power of God for decades.  So this Lancaster City gang leader was listening to Cruz.  He didn’t respond to Cruz’s sermon, to the invitation or to the prayer.  But as he walked out of the stadium into the parking lot, he broke down and gave his life to Christ.  Since that time, he has now led 13 of his gang members to Christ!

On Thursday night at our Maundy Thursday Passover Seder, a Jewish Christian shared his story.  He grew up in a Jewish household, and though he heard about Jesus, he never read the New Testament.  He was always taught that Christians were violent cult members.  Later in life he started reading the New Testament, and he was absolutely astounded at what he read.  He learned about a thoroughly Jewish man that was truly the Messiah, the Savior, the Promised One, and this Jewish man gave his life to Christ.

God’s power is at work in so many ways!

And that power is available to us.  If you have a problem with complaining, God’s power is available to you.  If you have lustful thoughts, God’s power is available to you.  If you have anger issues, God’s power is available to you.  That same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to you to transform your life now.

But what about the people who are Christians who feel distant from God?  What if they are thinking “I wish I could experience some of God’s power in my life! But I don’t feel like I do.”

We need to first of all realize that his amazing power is available to us!  That alone might be a new concept for you.  God is not distant. His power is available to us.

Second, we should ask him for his power.  That’s what Paul is doing in this prayer in Ephesians 1.  Paul is praying that those Christians in the Roman city of Ephesus would know God’s power like never before. Start asking God to give you his power to transform you life.

The hard part of this is that some of us are not experiencing this amazing manifestation of power, and we wonder if something is wrong with us.

“Where is this power you are promising, God?”

God can and does manifest himself in radical ways.  But his incredible power is also available and flowing to us in many ways, sometimes quiet ways, sometimes in ways that don’t seem like power.

It should be seen as a partnership.

I have heard people say “God took away my desire for cigarettes” and it was miraculous.  But more often than not, it will be hard work.  God empowering us to work hard, to be creative, diligent, determined.

Should we think “God will supply food for my family while I do nothing.”?  No, most often God’s power will enable you to get out there and work.

I am an adjunct professor for Lancaster Bible College.  I teach online course.  Back in the fall, I was looking ahead to the winter/spring, and I hadn’t heard anything from the college about teaching.  So I contacted them, and asked if they needed me to teach. The one course I teach is for adult learners who are going back to school later in life to finish off an uncompleted bachelor’s degree.  That course has been on a standard schedule, and they responded that would continue as normal.  But I also teach regular semester courses in the traditional undergrad program.  I asked about that, and they told there were none.

Two weeks later, surprise, my name was on the list for one of those regular semester courses.  I thought Okay, great!  That extra income would be a wonderful help.  Then two weeks after that, I got an email from the guy who originally told me there were none available, and this time he offered me to teach another course!

I had to ask, I had to work, but clearly it was God who provided.  And what amazing is that this winter/spring we needed extra income to be able to go visit our son who graduated from Army boot camp in Oklahoma.

God’s power is available for the powerless. Remind yourself that God’s resurrection power is available to you.  Believe it. Ask for it.  And then strive for it.