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Eminent Domain

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Eminent Domain

September 24, 2000      Acts 13:13-52


Scripture Reading: Romans 11:1-15


          What's yours is yours, right?

          A man's home is his castle.

          He has the right to protect it against all intruders.

          There is a certain sanctity about your home that is protected.

          In general, you can do what you want in the privacy of your home.

          It is your eminent domain.

          But not if the government wants it – or for presumed good reason opposes it.

          Not if what goes on there violates some national sensitivity or law or corporate good.

          Remember Waco?

          You see, the government has the right of eminent domain too, and on a much larger scale than ours.

          And part of the cost of being part of a country such as ours is that at least on certain issues or questions of national or even local government interest, the government's right of eminent domain is greater than ours.

          We can contest the government's right to take our property in court, and we are to be compensated fairly, but the message coming down is likely to be that we must give up our rights for the greater good.

          We see this taking place on certain government building projects.

          We talked last week about going beyond ourselves rather than remaining beside ourselves, using the illustration of the need for a new airport or an expanded airport here in Chicago because it affects the national interest.

          To get such a thing accomplished, land is needed.

          Land has houses and farms and factories on it.

          Much would have to be moved, relocated and reconstructed in order to build or expand an airport.

          The message by the courts to the present owners would be that it is a compelling government interest.

          Interestingly, Pres. Clinton just issued a proclamation upholding the right of religion to buy and build houses of worship wherever they choose, and that local governments cannot use zoning laws to selectively alter the makeup of a community.

          An overwhelming government interest would have to be shown in order to successfully oppose it.

          This statement comes out of the controversy recently in a local suburb about the mosque that was proposed for construction in a predominantly Christian community.

          When I used to work in Iowa with agriculture and natural resources, eminent domain issues came up all the time.

          Farmers were continually being impacted, especially near cities, with having their land taken for roads, public utility rights-of-way, and even parks in some instances.

          These issues altered the way these farmers were able to farm – to carry out their business.

          Often, fields were cut up and made more difficult to farm.

          Or in the case of restricted access roadways like the interstate system, they could not even access some fields without going for miles and were forced to sell and buy to reconsolidate their holdings.

          Eminent domain laws may work for the greater public good, at least in most instances, but they certainly can cause great personal inconvenience, even if owners are compensated for their loss.   

          If you are a student, I think that a similar sense of eminent domain has a place even in the classroom.

          The teacher is charged with a job to do and must maintain order in the classroom.

          That teacher can be charged with wrongdoing if anything goes on in that classroom with her charge over the pupils.

          She can be charged with negligence, like one special education teacher was recently here in the city when there was student-on-student abuse going on in the closet while class was in session.

          Granted, she was placed in a room with too many pupils, but the domain was hers to control.

          It was her eminent domain. She was in charge.

          Eminent domain is not only an issue with government and even school, it is also an issue with God.

          In fact, if we were to take the issue of eminent domain back to its logical origin, it begins with God.

          He has pre-eminence, and this is all his domain.

          And he even set up the whole idea of human government in the first place which has assumed the right of eminent domain under his hand of authority.

          Last week's message was about God's mission for the church.

          We learned that God's mission for the church was to send those called to go, to evangelize those called to come, and to confront those called to judgment.        

          This was all in regard to Barnabas, Paul, and John Mark embarking on the first missionary journey from a sending church – the largely Gentile church in Antioch where "they were first called Christians".

          They returned to their roots in Cyprus and won the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, the head of the Roman government there, to Christ.

          Now, in Acts 13:13-52, they leave Cyprus and head toward another Antioch, this time in Pisidia, back on the mainland in Asia Minor, where the Holy Spirit has called them to enter the local synagogue and preach the message of Jesus.

Big Question:

          So the issue that this morning's passage will address is:

          "What is God's message that the church must proclaim?"     

We are moving from what God's mission for the church is to more about what God's message through the church is.

          The mission of the church is to proclaim the message – and that includes going, evangelizing, and confronting.

          But how does all this relate to eminent domain?

          God's eminent domain in and through the church is the message.

          There is more than one level to this.

          There is God's message to all mankind through the church directly, but there is also God's continuing message to the church itself which also speaks to all mankind indirectly.

          Let's go through the passage and discover more about it.

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (vv. 13-15)

          B.      Implication


God has the right of eminent domain over all our ministry.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

          "Luke reverted to the old order of "Barnabas and Paul" in his report of the proceedings of the Jerusalem Council (15:12) and of the letter that the council sent to the churches (15:25). Barnabas was an esteemed senior leader in Jerusalem, and it was certainly more appropriate for him to take the lead role there rather than Paul. Paul apparently let that happen. In other words, leadership is not an inalienable right to which we cling tenaciously. It is rather a responsibility related to the agenda of the kingdom. That agenda is always more important than our personal prominence and status."

          "Some of those we invest in and hope for will not live up to our expectations and achieve the ambitions we have for them. This will bring disappointment and pain because we were genuinely ambitious for these people. It may also result in humiliation since we have taken the risk of backing these persons in public."

          But to avoid such pain would be to be disqualified from the ministry of encouragement and to avoid the possibility of having any lasting fruit.

          Indeed, Mark came back into the ministry and wrote the first gospel.

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (vv. 16-41)

          B.      Implication

God has the right of eminent domain over all our lives – historically (God), temporally (us), legally (Christ), and rationally (you).

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

III.    Cycle Three (vv. 42-52)

          A.      Narrative

          B.      Implication


God has the right of eminent domain over all the church.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

          The message stirred interest among the Jews until they saw that the message threatened their exclusive status in the KOG.

          The Jews were blind just like Paul – and Elymas.

Is there any room in the church for jealousy?

What are the subtleties of this part of our sin nature?

          Is the message of our church that we are the only ones going to heaven - or that we want you to go to heaven with us?

          When others come into the church the church is forced to change to accommodate.

          Are we willing? Are we on God's side? S. Joshua 5:14.


Big Answer:

          "What is God's message that the church must proclaim?"     

God has the right of eminent domain over all our ministry.

God has the right of eminent domain over all our lives - historically, temporally, legally, and rationally.

God has the right of eminent domain over all the church.

Timeless Truth:

          The message of the church is the eminence of God – "it’s a domain thing" (Italian linguistics applied).

          Are you willing to accept it – that everything is his?

          God is sovereign over our ministry, our lives, and our church.

          We must speak it, and we must also live it.

Listen to the rest of the message in Romans 11:

17  If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,

18  do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.

19  You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in."

20  Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.

21  For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

22  Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.

            May our lives, our ministry, and our church be submissive to God's eminent domain over them all.

            May we be driven to worship His Pre-Eminence!

            That is his message, and it is ours, that we may continue in his kindness.

            We have a compelling interest to do so.

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