Archive for July, 2009

To the gods you have chosen…

In reading the book of Judges today, I was struck by these words:

13 But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. 14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble! –Judges 10

The people find themselves in great distress because as they go awhoring after other gods, they find themselves in bondage to them.  Indeed, their enemies all around them oppress and enslave them.   When things are at their worst, they cry to the Lord for help.  “Save us!” But, the Lord says, “Forget it.  Let the gods you have trusted rescue you.”  The Lord knows that his people only desire to use him.  As soon as they are safe and sound they’ll hit the streets again searching for other gods to worship and serve.

Now while I am reluctant to ever make a connection between the way Israel acted and the way we act in our country, I find the comparison too obvious to avoid.  And I wonder if it does not always bear out.  We trust the gods we worship to save us when we are in distress.  That means we will trust the economy, more precisely, great inflows of [stimulus] money to save us in our current crisis.  [Now my assertion is based not on conservative ideology, however fiscally conservative I may be.  It is based on Biblical truth.] The very god we worshiped, our financial resources our economy, we now trust to rescue us.  The problem we shall find was the same Israel discovered so long ago.  Those gods have no power to save.  For Israel, their attempts to find a way out through their gods always led them to a worse place, not a better one. It did not leave them better off.  Here’s why.  In doing so, they simply wanted a way out.  They did not admit the true nature of the problem.  Their pride was too great, and so they refused to turn to the one who could save them.

Now, I’m no economist so I can’t predict the outcome of our attempts to avert the present crisis.  But theologically, the result could not be more clear.  There may be a momentary sense of progress and a “brief salvation.”  But, how can it be lasting?  Will not the days that follow be worse?

Next…good news from Judges.

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Entering a new world…

Just received and skimmed Culture to Culture:  Mission Trip Do’s and Don’ts.  This book provides a country by county list of acceptable interpersonal behaviors so that mission trip visitors will not make idiots of themselves.  It recognizes that each culture has its on particulars and the most loving thing is conform our actions to the norms of the community we are in.  For Christians this is the heart of incarnational ministry.  This is what Jesus did.  He did not visit us as culturally neutral.  That can’t be done.  Instead, he became a Jew to share his life and love with the Jewish people.  We,too, must learn the language, customs, and cultural proclivities of the people we are amongst wherever we are.  Now of course, we don’t do that completely uncritically.  The gospel challenges every culture since many cultural ways are not neutral or helpful but sinful.  But, that’s not where we begin.  We begin seeking to understand.  We must first enter their world just as Jesus did.  To what extent are we entering the world of others?   The old missionary way was so invade the foreign culture with one felt to be “superior,” and to push the people to conform to it.  But, this isn’t the way of Jesus. Nor should it be ours.  It is in the gospel that we are provided the security that we need to do just this.

Now as I read this book, for us Miamians we need such a handbook not for trips abroad but for trips to the grocery store!

Caution! Under Construction…

Next week we will arrive at church to find the sanctuary locked down, and yellow construction tape signaling that the work inside has begun.  The pews will be removed and refinished, flooring replaced, walls painted, and lighting added.  What an exciting time for us.  After planning the project more than a year ago, all the pieces are in place for execution.  Now when the people of God constructed or restored the temple, it prepared them for a time of spiritual renewal. These times challenged them to renovate their hearts and renew and strengthen their relationships.  Actually, construction provides a powerful metaphor explaining what Jesus does in each of us through his grace.

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. — C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

God’s people didn’t despise these moments but greeted them with expectant joy because of what God was doing in them and among them. Now, of course, such construction (in us and in the sanctuary) is bound to cause some upheaval, but we rejoice in what is coming.  We even embrace the hardship that comes with the work.  Why?  Because we know what God has planned for us.

Happy 4th of July

Charles Drew wrote a smallish book a few years ago that has proved to be a rich resource in thinking about living out our personal faith in public life (see: A Public Faith. NavPress, 2000.).  On this July 4th we pause to thank God for our country.  It is the time when we may be most aware of the freedoms we have been afforded as citizens of one of the greatest nations ever.  It is also a time when we recognize the limitations of this kingdom.  Our experience as free men and woman deepens our yearning for complete freedom and peace for which our hearts have always longed.  You see, the most distinguished Christians across history have been the most faithful citizens.  They have also longed for the coming kingdom of Jesus.  We are told in Hebrews that Abraham, when his feet were planted firmly here on earth, was looking forward to a city whose foundation is found in God.  We know this selfsame longing, this holy tension.  But, we can forget.  While other Christians have had their focus on the kingdom of Jesus made more clear and urgent by persecution or deprivation, our vision has been blurred by all the benefits our nation has provided to us. The question today is: how can we be grateful for what we have without losing our holy longing for what has been promised?  How can we enjoy all that we have been given without forgetting that it is a shadow at best of what is to come?

So this 4th of July, let’s reflect and give thanks for our heritage and our present riches.  Let us remember our founding fathers and their accomplishments, and the sacrifices of subsequent generations that maintained this freedom and kept the peace.  At the same time, let us remember that this is not our kingdom.

20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ… Phil. 3

Happy 4th.