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Posts Tagged ‘power’


In Seinfeld they talked about having “hand”, short for “the upper hand”, in a relationship. This is not to be confused with George’s short time as a hand model. They were addressing the reality that in relationships there is often one in control, the one who has the most power in the relationship.

This is not particular to human. My sister-in-law’s German short hair pointer Billy was “top dog” in their neighborhood for years. Those years have caught up to him, so he’s probably lost that status. The top dog is literally the dog on top because the dog on the bottom has submitted. He’s the boss.

Yesterday on the Shamrock Farms tour, I learned that cows have a pecking order. One is the boss and all the others know their place in line and follow along. This usually makes life much easier for the dairy farmer. Control the one cow, and you control the others in her group of 20.  When you have 10,000 cows, you can see why this matters.

Relationships are all about negotiating the balance of power.  Typically the one least concerned with the relationship has more power, “hand” and is in the driver’s seat. They have less need for the other person’s love, affection, admiration, attention etc. So they are less likely to be manipulated into doing the other person’s will.  We can see this in the recent labor negotiation in the NFL and NBA. The owners typically have the upper hand- they don’t need the sport to make a living. They have other revenue streams. The players on the other hand are dependent upon their paychecks.  Unions are only successful if a company has no other revenue streams. But in these cases, they don’t.

Edward Welch addresses this in his latest book, What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?.

“We prefer to be liked, loved, admired more than we want to like, love, or admire. That imbalance gives power in a relationship, and by power I mean the less invested person has less chance of being hurt. So goes the arithmetic of human relationships.”

There you have it. The person who wants out of a relationship usually has all the power, unless the other person poses a physical, emotional or financial danger.  Most of us cave in when the other person leaves. What are our options? Unless we are willing to blackmail, beat or rob them blind we recognize we can’t win and move on with life.

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It is hard to summarize the impact of an event.  I know I will not say all that could be said.  That’s because I don’t know all that could be said.  So, if you expect the authoritative statement of how 9/11 affected our nation and our world you will be sorely disappointed.

Some Positives

We Saw Heroic Actions- as we learned more about what transpired on 9/11 we learned of great acts of heroism.  We learned about some of the passengers on United 93 who fought the terrorists so they could not fulfill their plan.  They knew it would mean their own deaths, but the plane would not be used to kill others.

There were the many first responders who entered the twin towers knowing they probably, some definitely, would not make it out alive.  But they gave their lives to save the lives of others.  They are heroes.  As are the many people who surrendered days of their lives to search for survivors.

There are many heroes who decided, based on that day, to serve their country in far away places.  They loved their country and its citizens and offered their lives to keep them safe.

13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15

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After considering the idea of justice, Tim Keller moves to the topic of Justice and the Old Testament in his 2nd chapter of Generous Justice.  This chapter is about how to interpret the Old Testament law with justice as the example.  I think that best summarizes it.  Keller does this to answer the question of whether or not the laws of the Old Testament are binding on Christians today.

This is a thorny issue, and your answer reflects your method of interpretation.  Dispensationalists, Covenant, and New Covenant theology answer this question differently.  Keller comes from a Covenant Theology perspective.  He recognizes the differences between moral, ceremonial and case/civil law in the Old Testament.  The New Testament is pretty clear that Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial law in a way that means it is not binding on us any more.  We are ceremonially clean in Christ, and He is our Sacrifice which brings pardon and fellowship.

“So the coming of Christ changes the way in which Christians exhibit their holiness and offer their sacrifices, yet the basic principles remain valid.”

Keller brings a concept from Craig Bloomberg into the mix.  “Every command reflects principles at some level that are binding on Christians.”  So, Christians need to be ceremonially clean, have a sacrifice for sin etc.  The Christian looks to Christ for all this and more, however.  The need still exists, but the reality is in Christ.  Romans 12 teaches us that additionally we offer our whole lives in view of this great mercy.  We offer the sacrifice of praise (Hebrews), not the blood of animals or food offerings.

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While on vacation I started to read Tim Keller’s most recent book Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power and the Only Hope that Matters.  Yes, that is a long subtitle.  You’d think a Puritan wrote this book.

Others have tackled these topics, like Richard Foster in Money, Sex and Power.  But Tim Keller, for better or worse, frames it historically in light of the failure of many of these false gods in the economic crisis most of the world is experiencing.

This is an excellent book, though I am not sure it measures up to The Prodigal God.  Few books do.  This is a subject Tim Keller handles very well.

Some have been critical of the new, prevailing notion of idolatry as if it takes the place of sin.   Keller argues that the idea of idolatry makes more sense than the idea of sin (in this world of relativism).  Beyond that he refers to Luther’s point that idolatry is the root of sin rather than just being one of many sins.  So what Keller is doing here is trying to get to the root of our sin, the many false gods that we serve.

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On the way to the office I listened briefly to talk radio- and some people see this election as a potentially a sign of the apocolypse.  Some prominent pastors are less than interested in the election- seeing no connection between the Kingdom and our nation.

Both extremes really miss the point, and ignore some significant biblical data we need to believe so it shapes us.  I want to meditate briefly on part of Ephesians 1.

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

  • Paul gives us an insight into his prayer life- his adoration, thanksgiving and petition in connection to the Ephesian church.
  • Paul wants them to know the Father better, and asks that the Father would send the Spirit to give them wisdom and revelation.  We now have all the revelation we need in the Scriptures, but we need the Spirit to illumine them for us that we might fear God and gain true wisdom.
  • Paul wants them to behold their great hope, the glorious inheritance of the saints.  This world ain’t it, folks.  It’s good, and we can enjoy it- but we look for the City whose builder and architect is God (Heb. 11).  This life is filled with ups and downs- if we have a clear sense of the hope to which we are called, those ups and downs will not overwhelm us and lead us to either forget God or despair.
  • Christ, by the powerful working of the Spirit, has been raised, exalted and seated at the right hand of the Father.  He rules, above all powers- earthly and otherwise- as the Father’s vice-regent.
  • Jesus reigns in THIS PRESENT AGE, and in the one to come.  He’s not in the throne room biding his time.  He reigns NOW.
  • He reigns now for the good of the church.  Not necessarily our nation or any other nation.  But he does rule over the affairs of this, and every other nation, for the well-being of the church.  What happens on the political scene has ramifications for the church.  In our finitude we can’t always reckon them properly.  What is good for a nation can be bad for the church; and vice versa.
  • I don’t know how this, or any, election will pan out.  We all have hopes and fears in that regard.  But, Jesus is in control of them for the GOOD of the church.
  • The visible church in America may shrink in the years to come- particularly if our “best life now” is revealed to be a false hope (which it is).  Worldly cares may cause many to leave the visible church (Matthew 13:20-22).  But I think that actually strengthens the church, and reveals the real difference between the church and the world- enabling our mission to be that much clearer and significant.
  • So, today we are called to vote (if you haven’t already and have the legal right to vote) and each of us is called to trust Jesus to do that which is right and good.

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As a result of Paul’s discussion of his own ministry, we also learn much about his adversaries in Corinth- the “super-apostles.”  This is important because their errors are found in many pulpits today.  Just as the Corinthian Christians were drawn to the “super-apostles,” many contemporary Christians are prone to follow their progeny.

Paul’s ministry, like Peter’s, was characterized by humility, knowing that this too was due to God’s mercy (2 Cor. 4:1; 1 Peter 5:1-4).  This stands in direct opposition to the self exaltation practiced by the “super-apostles.”  They carried letters of commendation and gloried in their abilities.  Brimming with self-confidence, they thought themselves competent for any task.

Paul boasted not about himself but in God Who chose to use this fragile jar of clay (2 Cor. 4:10-11).  He knew success did not depent upon himself, but upon the power of God.  Therefore, Paul felt no need to rely upon himself, but upon the power of God.  Therefore, Paul felt no need to rely upon half-truths or manipulation in order to further the Gospel.  He taught the truth plainly.  This is rooted in Paul’s convictions that God does not lie and His word can be trusted (v. 13).  The “super-apostles” used Scripture to further their own agenda and maintain their power.  They told the people what they wanted to hear, and not what they needed to hear.  This furthered their popularity and power, lining their pockets with money (2 Cor. 2:17).

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I’ve been here before.  My disgust with the 2-party system drives me to consider the Libertarian Party.  During time outs of the Celtics game I’ve been flipping over to the Libertarian Party debate.  I saw want to be Libertarian.  More than any other party they seem to get the Constitution.  I agree with small government.  They seem to forget that people are sinners, but the answer is not big government, which is giving lots of power to a group of sinners.

Then they do it.  “It” is something really stupid, something that turns me off just as much as the Big Party candidates.

Tonight it was their comments on marriage as a private contract which the government should not regulate.  If there was no such thing as children, maybe.  But marriage is a public thing, not a private thing.  It was designed to fulfill God’s purpose, not our selfish purposes.  Marriage matters, and since the Libertarians don’t get this, they don’t get my vote.

And this is why they really don’t garner much popular support.  Their isolationism, legalization of drugs and refusal to talk about abortion will sentence them to a mere oddity.  I guess their problem is they are Pelagians who think that evil only exists in the accumulation of power.  They don’t realize that individuals do bad things.

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