"Have you not asked those who travel the roads, and do you not accept their testimony?" (Job 28:29)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Slippery Slope Driving?


WHILE MOTORING home in a late model car, I had occasion to jam my foot hard on the brake pedal at an intersection. A proper response was felt beneath my arch within a second. The Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) kicked back repeatedly. I felt the brake pedal buzz. I was alarmed, but able to steer the vehicle safely through rather slippery snow that had blanketed hidden ice.
 In thinking about this, it seems that the unfolding of a greater emergency rattles us. The incident made me think about how we've been skidding in our nation today. Vehicles we call Church and state are competitively cycling from high to low in our culture. Many persons working in the world thus panic and freeze, wanting us to come to a screeching stop.
 Consider this! Accelerated by our modern communications... we in this country fast approach a historical collision. We seem out-of-control and are careening downhill a lot faster than in the days of ancient chariot and spear. Because we now communicate and accelerate using computer technology, going far beyond the speeds possible in former days, we think that any powerful collision can be handled. I fear, however, that this is not so.
 For example, we are already severely divided politically. Additionally, we have became a nation that has skidded into moral depravity. Like late-60s gas-guzzling cars, we've adorned our peoples with external baubles and beads, and put gun bullets in our grills.
 Worse yet, we of the Church ride like dumbstruck passengers in this corruption society. We have not escaped this downhill skid. Previous healthy steering systems formerly seen in many mainline churches... communities that once offered the right worship of God... now languish in the sinful back seat… sliding into a hell of false idols and unbridled progressive politics.
 Indeed, the road ahead looks dismal. We must ask ourselves, "Does hope for renewal exist?"
 I believe so, I contend that we must pay strict attention to the Word of God as spoken by an ancient prophet. He warned the dividing kingdoms of Judah and Israel….

And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 
 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry! 
 Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land. The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing: "Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.  (Isaiah 5:8-9)

 Here we see a portrait of an ancient society in a downward, sinful slide... one that came to view faith in God as an anathema to be detested. So it was historically in their land; and so it is today in ours. 
 Note the similarities to today's American society! We now have the words of true Christian preaching and persons we know as disciples.... threatened daily. Societal demons tear at the very existence of the Word of God rightly proclaimed. 
 We are politically torn, with our national steering misaligned like long ago Judah and Israel, and I fear that we in the United States may be fast on the road to exile from God. The ancient warning rolls to us across the centuries.

 Please remember our faith history! The children of Abraham and Sarah were called out of Egypt by God and the Hebrew nation was formed. From this calling came the Decalogue... that portion of scripture which we term the Ten Commandments. The laws were then, and still are now… a list of unchanging, divinely-given rules. These rules can provide a believing nation with abundance.
 Now, we of this land take these foundational documents down from our courthouses as we rudely skid past God. We, like those two ancient nations… thus devalue the Law. We no longer adhere to divine dictates. We trade them for permissive, undulating human legalities which undermine the path and substance of family in society. As the divine metric system that measures us, we deflate the Law from beneath us like a tire about to blowout its bead from the rim.
 For example, consider that we no longer rightly worship God. We ignore his precepts, salvation and altars. We fail to respect our elders, inventing senior care industries that will pull their life plugs for the sake of profitability. Our governmental leaders tell us falsehoods regularly, without account… using any slippery media means to fulfill shifting and thieving ends.
 Further, as a nation we murder our unborn with staggering efficiency. By doing so, we legally and intentionally swing the chains of racism. We also have desolated the definition of rightful marriage bed. As well, we show great distrust for our neighbors by increasing the flow of personal weaponry across our land... all in response to needed “homeland” security. Indeed, the upshot is that our nation slides toward a nasty collision with evil. 


 Within the Church we are not escaping. The Law of God is cast aside by too many leaders in the name of securing their own monetary acquisitions. In order to increase coins in the offering plate, rather than proclaiming both God's condemnations and the soul saving Gospel, the dictates of the Law are altered, demeaned or completely ignored. All this is done to keep moneyed-persons seat-belted into the pews.


 I say to you, tread softly here… for if there is no Law, there is no need for the Good News that declares the saving grace given freely through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In summary, if there is no Law and Gospel... no Christ needed… then there is no purpose for any church proclamation. We of the church become a rolled over and crumbling speed bump. We are little more than a poorly-administered social club that fails to excise demonic powers.

Sit in Ashes?
Faith history relates to us the tale of what is needed. The scriptures tell us that in sores ancient Job sat as a sick man in ashes and dust. Persons gathered around that righteous man and told him to just curl up and die. But sitting dirtied alongside history’s road, blessed and soiled... Job firmly sought the will and Word of God.
 Take heed! I say to you that we are in the same shape on that same dirty and slippery road. This nation will either sit in ashes and dust of repentance, turning to interact with the Word and judgment of God, driven to seek forgiveness and empowerment through Christ... or we shall continue to slide and most certainly perish. We shall crash under the judgments of history.


 Shall we waste time in this? Dare we sit idly by until we tread the ashes of this great nation? I say to you that we need not do so. Long ago, when all was said and done and though Job’s friends saw their words disappear into the dust; God spoke to the man of faith out of the whirlwind, He brushed aside all human claims to wisdom and self justification, until Job said…

 "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted." 

And God responded... “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?”

Job replied... "Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know."

And God said,  'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me."

And finally, finally... Job said, "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:1-6)

 Consequently, as the present Epiphany season runs full tilt and the intersection of the Lenten season looms, we are called to imitate blessed Job by placing ashes upon ourselves. We claim no justification. By doing so, by true repentance... we shall also see and know “the Way, the Truth, and the Life“. We of the Christian church are shown a most certain way. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can step on the brakes until reforming faith returns.