Saturday, September 06, 2008

Into the Middle of God’s Story

I believe that he circumstances of our lives find their meaning when we see them fit into the story God is telling, the purposes God has for the world and the purposes God has for us in the world.

When God saved me the other night from death by automobile, God did not just save me for no reason. And God’s purposes are not generic; God’s reasons have to do with God’s story. So we all find ourselves in the middle of God’s story.

In our adult Bible study at my church we’ve been following God’s story since January. We began in Genesis, the beginning, because we get a good glimpse of God’s purposes by beginning at the beginning. But we could just as easily discern God’s purpose by beginning with the end. The end and beginning are tied together and each pole revels God’s purposes.

The Bible’s version of the end is recorded cryptically in the Book of Revelation. But it’s not so cryptic that we can’t see God’s heart. Our class looked at a few verses from the Book this past week.

After this, I saw a large crowd with more people than could be counted. They were from every race, tribe, nation, and language, and they stood before the throne and before the Lamb. They wore white robes and held palm branches in their hands, as they shouted,

"Our God, who sits upon the throne, has the power to save his people, and so does the Lamb." The angels who stood around the throne knelt in front of it with their faces to the ground. The elders and the four living creatures knelt there with them. Then they all worshiped God and said, "Amen! Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honor, power, and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen!" One of the elders asked me, "Do you know who these people are that are dressed in white robes? Do you know where they come from?" "Sir," I answered, "you must know." Then he told me: "These are the ones who have gone through the great suffering. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and have made them white. And so they stand before the throne of God and worship him in his temple day and night. The one who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. They will never hunger or thirst again, and they won't be troubled by the sun or any scorching heat. The Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd. He will lead them to streams of life-giving water, and God will wipe all tears from their eyes." Revelation 7:9-17 (CEV)

This passage takes me all the way back to God’s promise to Abram in Genesis:

The LORD said to Abram: Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you. I will bless you and make your descendants into a great nation. You will become famous and be a blessing to others. I will bless anyone who blesses you, but I will put a curse on anyone who puts a curse on you. Everyone on earth will be blessed because of you. Genesis 12:1-3 (CEV)

God’s purposes are bookended here, beginning and end. What we are living is the in-between. And all the circumstances of our lives (like my car accident) find their meaning when we see them fit into the story God is telling, the purposes God has for the world and the purposes God has for us in the world.

Ben's Plea

My Christian brother and friend Ben (no really, he's a friend In Real Life!), has blogged this stuff on Daily Kos. Here's how he begins, but there's more:

Look, I'm an Evangelical Christian. And I've taken a lot of heat in the past for saying that on Daily Kos. But today, I'm speaking to my fellow Evangelicals about Sarah Palin. I'm speaking to people like Robin Smith (TN GOP chair) and Richard Land (Southern Baptist ethics and religious liberty director) and James Dobson (Focus on the Family) and Matthew Staver (Liberty Counsel) and Pat Robertson (Christian Broadcasting Network).

As your brother in Christ, I ask you - Are you really interested in using your power to enflame a religious war?

Because that's what you're doing by supporting Sarah Palin and John McCain.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Put Away Falsehood

I wasn’t gonna get into our sister Sarah Palin's speech, but I’ve been thinking about it all day from a Christian perspective. When my friends at Matthew 25 Network put forward this statement, I thought I’d publicize it. I’ve reproduced it below. And the Associated Press is kind enough to point out the specific lies reflected in both Governor Palin’s speech and those of other speakers at the the Republican National Convention. Judge for yourself.

From Matthew 25 Network:
As Americans and people of faith from around the country, we were extremely disappointed in Sarah Palin's divisive, sarcastic, and often deceptive address last night at the Republican National Convention. We call on her not only as a political figure, but also as a prominent Christian, to recommit herself to campaigning in good faith, with a strong commitment to truth-telling.

As Christians, we are called to be respectful and loving toward our neighbors, honoring their intentions even if we disagree with their plans. We are also called to "put away falsehood" (Eph 4:25) and to refrain from slandering, belittling, or speaking out of contempt for anyone.

If these are the standards God has set for us in our personal lives, our church communities, and our neighborhoods, how much more so should they be the standards of those Christians who choose to be in the public eye? Shouldn't we also expect our brothers and sisters in politics to speak the truth in love and to extend respect and goodwill even to those with whom they disagree?

Sarah Palin has shaped much of her life around her Christian faith [1]. Indeed, it has been continually suggested that one of the major reasons John McCain chose Palin as his running-mate was her Christian faith and her ability to energize evangelical Christian voters. Thus, it is no stretch to say that Palin has suddenly become one of the most visible faces of Christianity in today’s political scene.

As such, we believe she has a calling even higher than her responsibility to her party's victory in November - a calling to represent Jesus to the rest of the world. This is why her speech at the Republican National Convention last night was so disappointing to us at the Matthew 25 Network.

In questioning not only Senator Obama’s policies but also his motivations, and mocking his career, Palin went far beyond what could be considered acceptable disagreement and into what seemed like open contempt for a political opponent.

To be blunt, we saw very little of Jesus’ love in Sarah Palin's speech last night, as she heaped contempt on those who disagree with her politically, while offering no vision for how to resolve the critical issues facing Americans today like job loss, health care, growing child poverty rates and the war in Iraq.

Moreover, as has been documented by major media sources including the Associated Press [2], Palin spoke falsehoods not only about her own record, but about Barack Obama's record as a State Senator and as a U.S. Senator. As Christians, we are called throughout Scripture to speak the whole truth, to put away falsehood, to bear true witness even when it hurts our own interests. The name of Jesus should never be associated with falsehoods or deception, but last night, in Sarah Palin’s speech, we believe it was.

Therefore, we in the Matthew 25 Network call on Gov. Palin to repudiate her attitude of contempt towards her political opponents and to tell the whole truth, not only for the sake of a more honorable politics, but also for the sake of our Christian witness in the world.

Senator McCain is no less responsible because he selected Gov. Palin and praised her speech, and he claims to be a Christian as well. It is ill-fitting to use Christian identity and language for one's political advantage without seeking to live up to that high calling. Ultimately, as the Presidential candidate, Governor Palin's tone and infidelity to truth reflect negatively on Senator McCain as well.