Archives For matt-swaney

Halloween CandyCan Halloween, in some contexts, be something that prevents us from building relationships with people? Yes. In other contexts, can it be something that actually helps us build relationships with people? Yes. It seems inconsistent to say both options are okay but I think it is because sometimes we are motivated by the wrong mission. Halloween (along with everything else in our lives) should be evaluated based on what advances the gospel the best.

Creating policies like saying, “no” to Halloween or saying, “yes” to Halloween for different reasons falls short of the question we should be asking, namely, how does this advance the gospel? The mission is not purity (stay away from Halloween). And the mission is not enjoying our freedom in Christ (eating candy and dressing up).

Halloween, drinking, eating and whether or not to coach my children’s soccer teams are all missional questions. The reason you are where you are is because God is doing something with you. Our freedom is for the purpose of being a missionary.

We are God’s people who represent him to others (Gen.12:1-3; Matt. 28:16-20). The mission is not purity or enjoying the freedom we have in Christ but sharing the gospel with people, real people. This is why our freedom in Christ makes such great missionaries!

Paul makes this point when he says he has become “all things to all men for the sake of the gospel” (I Cor. 9:19-23). He wants to build bridges with people for the gospel’s sake and sometimes that might mean doing things that restrict the freedom we have in Christ or taking advantage of the freedom for the sake of the gospel.

Jesus was accused of being an alcoholic and a glutton because he was building relationships with people. He didn’t avoid them to stay “pure.” Paul was accused of being inconsistent in his behavior because sometimes he followed Jewish customs and sometimes he didn’t. Paul’s ultimate concern was not that he would be consistent in his behavior but that he would be consistent about sharing the gospel. The mission determined his behavior.  If the people were going to stumble over something it was going to be the cross, not some outward behavior.

Poor question:  How can I keep myself pure? Or what can I do now that I am free in Christ?

Missional Question:  What can I do that can help me build a relationship with certain people to be the good news to them?


Beautiful Authority

Matt Swaney —  November 11, 2011 — 2 Comments

Some friends and I are giving the television show Terra Nova a chance by watching the first few episodes and there is an interesting theme surfacing early on. One of the major themes is how authority is portrayed in the show as something to be freed from and not submitted to. Some shows have written entire series built around this idea (Jack Bauer in “24”; Jack in “Lost”). In order to accomplish anything characters must get out from underneath the control of whoever is in authority.

Terra Nova (Fox) takes place in the future where the Father, Jim, is able to resolve whatever dilemma arises because he does things his way despite everyone else thinking differently about it. The leader of Terra Nova is portrayed as aloof to what is really happening on the ground. Jim, on the other hand, is portrayed as the rugged individualist who is really just held back by most everyone but especially those over him with all the control. And the writers cleverly give the impression that those in control are not to be trusted.

Is this really that big a deal?

Yes, it is and here is why:

Authorities are put into place by God and we entrust ourselves to God by entrusting ourselves to authorities. Even if the person filling the authoritative position is not perfect we are still to submit to them because of the authoritative position itself. God himself has created that position and sovereignly placed that particular person over us. When we submit to authorities over us we are entrusting to ourselves to the ultimate control of God over us.

The tough part about submitting to authority is many times we have imperfect people in authoritative positions. Bosses who are unfair, pastors who are forgetful, or city leaders that make poor decisions with finances deserve to be obeyed and respected because they are authorities not because of who they are in those authoritative positions. We know behind all these authorities is the one who rules everything, Jesus Christ.

In the gospels, the Roman Centurion understood authority and he was said to have “greater faith than anyone in Israel” (Matt. 8:9). He could understand Jesus’ authority because he knew what it was like to have soldiers who were under his authority.

Some examples of opportunities to trust God by submitting to authority:

1. Praying because praying shows you understand who is in control and who has authority, God.

2. Trusting Church leadership even if decisions are made against what you think is most effective or best.

3. Praying for your Pastors, Elders, church group leaders who are over you because you TRUST that God has put them into your life for a reason.

4. Praying for your leaders in your city, state and country because God has placed them over you.

5. Committing to a church.