Friday, August 7, 2009

Who to Blame?

As I watch the news, listen to presidential addresses and the like I often hear people placing blame for things. Was it big oil? Was it the conservatives or the liberals? Do we blame the banks? And of course this all begs the question: So, who's gonna fix it?

It seems the answers we are most likely to get are that it is someone else's fault and the government will (graciously) fix it for us. The question I struggle with is how do we as christians stand in this blame-fest and still make it out with a gospel-centric view?

It's not that christians are really any different. If this president gets in there will be peace in the land, if that one, well there won't be (to put it mildly). We impatiently watch legislation to ensure that our rights are not infringed and to make the world "safer" for us.

Now I am far from a-political. I voted, which by its very nature means I wanted one candidate to win and the other to lose. And not just lose, but really really really lose. I also follow legislation and have on numerous times emailed senators and congressmen to let them know my thoughts on particular bills and have been very surprised by the occasional email response that actually dealt with what I had to say. So, politics, in and of itself, I am not worried about. What concerns me is the fear and anguish that both sides have towards the other if their president/senator/congressman/librarian gets in.

Scripture tells us that fear of earthly leaders is entirely misplaced. For instance, lets look at Isaiah 2:

12For the LORD of hosts will have a day of reckoning
Against everyone who is proud and lofty
And against everyone who is lifted up,
That he may be abased.
13And it will be against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up,
Against all the oaks of Bashan,
14Against all the lofty mountains,
Against all the hills that are lifted up,
15Against every high tower,
Against every fortified wall,
16Against all the ships of Tarshish
And against all the beautiful craft.
17The pride of man will be humbled
And the loftiness of men will be abased;
And the LORD alone will be exalted in that day,
18But the idols will completely vanish.
19Men will go into caves of the rocks
And into holes of the ground
Before the terror of the LORD
And the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.
20In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats Their idols of silver and their idols of gold, Which they made for themselves to worship,
21In order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs
Before the terror of the LORD and the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.
22Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; For why should he be esteemed?

Alright. I know that was a lot of text, but let's look at it for a minute. Earlier in the book, Isaiah says that the leaders of Judah had gone astray and their prophets were speaking gibberish (as in they were that useful). All of the people, the elders and the prophets, the head and the tail, that were supposed to guard the people had gone away from God and were only interested in pleasing themselves.

So what does God promise will happen? Well, there will come a day when the terror of Yahweh will be made known. The proud man will try to hid in holes and in caves to escape the exaltation of Yahweh. Everything they thought would save them, all of their images of power will be destroyed, the cedars of Lebanon, the Oaks of Bashan, the Universal healthcare and the assured mutual destruction. All of it will burn. Finally the prophet puts the final bookend to his prophecy, stop being afraid, stop being wowed, stop believing the god-like promises of your government because their life is like a single breath.

After this, Isaiah prophesies that God will remove the leaders and the false prophets. They will be punished for their part in leading the people of God astray. If the rest of this was written today, it would involve putting new leaders in place that would lead the people better. They would set up some new education plans that would point out how the old leaders were wrong and how certain sinful behaviours were just plain unhealthy. Thankfully Isaiah wasn't written today.

The people themselves are held personally culpable for their actions. Wickedness, Isaiah writes, is like a fire that grows and grows until it sets the whole forest on fire (9:18ff). This fire manifests itself in the total destruction of the people:
19By the fury of the LORD of hosts the land is burned up,
And the people are like fuel for the fire;
No man spares his brother.
20They slice off what is on the right hand but still are hungry,
And they eat what is on the left hand but they are not satisfied;
Each of them eats the flesh of his own arm.

Wickedness was utterly and completely pervasive. It saturated the whole spectrum of God's people. It did not stop with the leaders and the prophets and God did not stop his anger until all who had participated in that evil were destroyed. You cannot hide behind a bad leader. You cannot hide in ignorance.

So where do we stand? Some might claim that there is nothing this serious going on in our current political system be it this president or the last one, but I would beg to differ. The larger the political plan, the more far-reaching it becomes, the more it is trying to take the place of God and his Church. (For a great read that nearly mimics my own beliefs read this). There is this totally foolish belief that all of history is resting on this or that politician. These men are just that. Men. Here for a few years and then gone. They reach, the try to build their towers to touch heaven, but they never do. They cannot do good, not true good. They can only twist good into their own self-image, creating idols of themselves. Idols that we all at some point or another have rushed to bow down to.

In Isaiah, God promises to use sinful, wicked nations to utterly obliterate his rebelliuos people. After God uses them as tools, he promises to judge them as well. But before we get into that, we see this chapter that stands out as something completely different. Chapter 11 tells us that there is coming a righteous leader who will not judge by what he sees and hears, but through righteousness. He isn't swayed by this or that talking head and is not concerned with public opinion. Under this ruler, everything changes. Check it out for yourself:
1Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
2The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
3And He will delight in the fear of the LORD,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
4But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
5Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist.
6And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
7Also the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den.
9They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea.
10Then in that day
The nations will resort to the root of Jesse,
Who will stand as a signal for the peoples;
And His resting place will be glorious.

We see two important things about this new age that begins with this ruler. 1) there will be justice. Everyone who was getting screwed over in the prior regime is going to finally find justice. 2) there will be peace. I don't think we could think up any more illustrations for peace except for maybe "the Republican can go out for coffee with the Democrat and both will have a good time." Obviously the fullness of this is not here yet. Lambs don't lie down with Lions and I wouldn't let my kid, no matter how well armed he was, play with a cobra. Not gonna happen. But if we jump over to Paul a little bit we understand that the beginning of this time is already upon us. The peace that we are looking for has started with the death of God's enmity towards us (Eph 2) which came about through the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. This peace should be more important to us than anything else (because it truly, objectively is more important than anything else). This peace is what allows us to put to death the wickedness that builds like a forest fire. It is this peace that demands we stop fighting with our brother. And finally it is submission to this terrifyingly powerful ruler that gives us the freedom to be utterly unconcerned with the posturing and gesturing of our earthly leaders.

So where does this leave the Christian? How is the Christian to think about politics and the pursuant bickering and blame-casting? Well, firstly, he is to place it all in its proper, divine perspective: God is the only true Ruler. Government is not bad. Read Romans 13. But it will not save us. It will not make peace on earth. It will not make your life easier. It's just one more fallen human organization. There is only one God and one Church. If you learn all that you can about those two things, well, you'll find that much of what the government promises will no longer be needed or seem that appealing. The second thing to remember is actually the counter-part to the first: Sin is pervasive. It consumes everything. One party is truly just as sinful as the other as long as they both continue to present themselves as "The Answer." That sin is not limited to those in power, it pervades you, me, and everyone else. Only through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit can we see the effects of Isaiah 11 in our churches and our lives. And that's really the answer right there: who's to blame? We are. Sin is. Sin, that is at home in all of us. This is why all of creation will continue to groan until the day of the Lord.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Unlike the world, these men did not allow for there to be any incongruity between the private life and the public image. They had to match for there to be value
PT 2. CHS saw his life as a guide from one world to the next. If he didn't know the other world then how would he get his flock there?
PT.1 the leader must do the hard spiritual work in his own life first. RB tells us that if we dont our sermons and lives will only serve to convict us later.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Jesus ACTUALLY reigns. He EXERTS authority. We become atheistic when we take the personal creator out of his creation. Don't think like the world. from CHS
things I learned today: big kayaks can get ripped off your roof by montana crosswinds and bloggr limits you to 160 characters. I'll have something in the AM.