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The Past of Our Future

Read Amos 9:8b-15

HOPE! Part 1 of 3

After what we’ve been reading in Amos, v.8 is so refreshing! “‘Except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,’ declares the Lord.” God will sift His people through the sieve of His judgment, but a remnant of solid stones will remain!

Remnant. God always takes a bit of the past in order to build the future. Remember Noah and the Ark? God could have really started from scratch, and just made a new Adam and Eve. But He doesn’t.

Evangelical Orphan was launched out of a desire to better know the remnant God has used through time to bring me us where we are today. I was “orphaned” when I became a Christian in a Restoration Movement church. Leaders adopted an ahistoric primitivism, saying that the remnant through Church history was irrelevant after the New Testament accounts, and that all we need is God’s pure revelation, the scriptures, in order to build our family expression today.

True?

But God, and His Word, betray a different agenda. Encased in our texts is our Biblical heritage, Old Testament and New, warts and all. God wants us to know this time-and-space history. And Jesus came as the fulfillment of that history: the seed, the root, the stump, the branch. And now we are grafted into that history through the Messianic gospel being proliferated to the nations.

God never gave up on His covenant people, and did a do-over. Why do we think that, since Christ, God gives up occasionally on His Church, but does a contemporary do-over today? Because we deserve it more than they have in preceding centuries? Because we’ve are more, I don’t know, enlightened? (Don’t get me started…)

“In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old” (v. 11). God could start over. Instead, He deals with ruins. And the completed project will be a re-stored people “as in the days of old.” We look back for an image of our glorious future. (I love that the “booth” or “hut” of David is contrasted with the ritzy, collapsing temple at Bethel earlier in the chapter.)

“I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them”  (v. 14). God will restore (see also v. 11, v. 15), but the people will do the rebuilding. Like Nehemiah, we are to be about God’s business of exploring our collective rubble, and rallying our people for the rebuilding of our tradition.

The past provides the plumb line for our building of our today, and our tomorrow. Our hope is firmly imbedded in our heritage. Without a keen sense of our history, we are lost. With it, we have hope.

Who is this hope for? And what will it look like? Two more days, friends…two more days…

– EO

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Is Our Amos Moment Coming?

Second Monday of Advent

Read Amos 3:9-15

The prosperous, wealthy kingdom was about to be brought low by the Lord.

(Interesting: God does everything He does in order for the world to see and understand Him. Even as He’s about to bring Israel down, he invites the power brokers from rival nations (Philistia, Egypt) to gather on the hillsides of Samaria – like festival seating – and watch the collapse.)

Their impending doom is coming from the outside – from the Assyrians, who will break them down and seal their possessions. But, make no mistake: The primary cause of Israel’s downfall is internal. “See what great tumults are within it, and what oppressions are in its midst. They do not know how to do right, says the Lord, those who store up violence and robbery within their strongholds.”  They were rich and strong, but their moral compass was lost.

(Grace: A central theme of the Old Testament is tucked into v.12. The word “rescue” leaps off the page with some unexpected hope. It won’t be most, and it won’t be many, but there will be a remnant from this beleaguered nation that will live on in fulfillment of God’s covenant. Amos uses the gruesome analogy of a few limbs remaining after being eaten by a lion. He also says that their beloved prosperity will be whittled down to “a corner of a couch, and part of a bed”… but they will live on.”)

Back to the judgment at hand. Two specific targets of God’s wrath are highlighted in vs. 13-15. First, Amos says God is going to “punish the altars.” He’s angry at the compromised religious practices. Second, God is going to tear down the residences and riches of the upper class. He’s angry at the economic inequality made possible through oppressive economic practices.

Can I just say it? I don’t see how 21st century citizens of the U.S. can read this, and think that we’re in some way different than Amos’ Israel. The inequity between the riches of the upper-middle class and the experience of the national poor (much less global) far exceeds that described in these Old Testament verses. We enjoy opulence that would make the Caesars envious. And the corruption of our faith practices is as plain as the growing noses on our faces. How does God feel about “His people”, cruising to their prosperity gospel churches in their expensive clothes and cars, to hear a message about “God’s favor”, while glorying in the “God-given” strength of our super-power nation? I’m sure the idea of a nationwide internal implosion would be scoffed at just as it was in Amos’ day. But might it be inevitable?

More to our Advent point: Is there anything we can do to repent and turn the tide before the destruction commences? Could we return to the rigorous truths of God in His Word? Could we cease striving for the prosperity of the American Dream, and instead live for the Kingdom of God, and its righteousness?

May we be part of the solution … or at least a part of the remnant of grace.

– EO

 

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Aside

Paul’s memo to Titus: “Good works – make sure they’re being done!”

Grace or WorksAs an Evangelical who’s theology could be described as “Reformed” (by people who love describing, prescribing and labeling theologies … though I wouldn’t do it), I do have the tendency to see grace and works in dichotomy. I highlight grace, and grayscale good works.

But, my lectionary readings have me in the book of Titus this week – during my Lenten journey, as I attempt to be a proactive DOER of Lent, rather than a reactive NOT-DOER. Here are some selections from Titus (see if you can spot the theme):

1:15-16  “The defiled … profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”

2:7  “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works.”

2:14  “[Jesus] gave himself for us … to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

3:1  “Remind them … to be ready for every good work.”

3:8  “I want you to insist … that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.”

3:14  “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.”

Why have I never heard of Titus spoken of as “that good works book”?

It’s a pithy Christian cliche, but still very true, and still quite ignored by us Cretans in practice: It’s not just what we’ve been saved from (sin, death and hell) but what we’ve been saved for (holiness, righteousness and good works). Grace doesn’t just extend mercy … it teaches, it empowers, it mobilizes a life full of doing.

Fruitful TreeAnd Paul urges Titus to good works, lest he be “unfruitful.” If a tree is known by it’s fruits (as the scriptures clearly say is the case), and good works are our fruit … well, would people realize we’ve been saved by the grace of God by the things that we do? Or are our testimonies bound strictly to what we know?

Lenten realization: Stopping my sin is not bearing good fruit. It’s just stopping the bad fruit. If I’m going to have a fruitful Lent, I’ve got to do more than just not sin.

The late singer-songwriter Keith Green (a uniquely fruitful man in his day) once said, “If Christians spent more time doing the dos, we wouldn’t have time to do the don’ts!”

Intellectual point taken. Now … what to do?

Stopping My Sin Is Not “Bearing Good Fruit”

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2014 in Lent

 

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