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Snapshot of a Decaying Culture

Advent Friday 1

Read: Amos 2:6-16

Today, Amos, the Judean bumpkin, turns to his primary audience: the northern Kingdom of Israel. God is not pleased with them, and it is Amos’ job to tell them so. Israel had grown confident in its prosperity, its politics, and its spirituality. But God sees things quite differently. What was going so wrong?

(By the way…do you love your country? If so, are you even open to critical assessments of your country? How about when they come from a representative of your bitter rival across the border? And when they meddle with some of your dearest values?)

Economics: Like the U.S. Christmas shopping season, buying and selling had become paramount for the Israelites. They were vigorously richpoorchasing after their gift lists (precious metals, shoes, clothing, wine). And their minivans were full (v. 13). This may have seemed innocent enough … except that the upper class had become rich at the expense of the poor. They had “sold” them, “trampled” them, “pushed” them, “fined” them. They didn’t do these things literally, but were victimizing the poor through their selfish economic policies. But, hey, it’s a free market right? Aren’t they entitled to whatever prosperity they can engineer for themselves? If the poor want things to be better, they should just work hard and work the system like the rich, right?

Social Issues: Standards of appropriate sexual conduct were unraveling. The parameters of “family” were being redefined based on gratifying desires of the flesh. And the people didn’t realize that their conduct was a slap in God’s face. But we should be free to “love who we want”, right? If I feel like doing something, who is this “God” to tell me how to live?

worldly-christiansSpiritual Things: Worldly standards had crept into their faith, and they had taken to dabbling in all kinds of disparate religious practices. Their spiritual gatherings looked like Happy Hour. And they simply didn’t want to be bothered by the traditional truths of the faith that was supposed to identify them. “You command the prophets, saying, ‘You shall not prophesy!’” Enough of this God-talk, especially if it cramps our style. We’re free to choose whatever faith we want (they all point to the same God, right?). We like what we like. And we prefer a faith community that makes us feel good (is that a cab or a merlot?).

Through Amos, God essentially says, “Remember me? You were lost, and I saved you! All those impossible victories I gave you? And this unlikely prosperity you now enjoy … you know that was my gift to you, right? I established you as an upstart colony! The land, the freedom, the spiritual revival … Is it not indeed so, O people of Israel?”

They had forgotten, and gone astray. What will be God’s response?

Very interesting. Not an invasion. Not economic collapse. Not a pestilence. Instead, God promises internal decay. Israel will lose its strength, its speed, is skills, their heart.

When I look at life in our contemporary, post-Christian, western culture, I get very pessimistic. We’re off the rails just like the Israel of Amos’ prophecies. We too have some bumpkin voices crying in our wildernesses. But those shouts are growing fewer and fainter. And our godlessness increases with incredible brashness.

Is there any chance we’ll listen to the Amos among us? Advent would be the ideal season to do so.

– EO

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Posted by on December 4, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos, Uncategorized

 

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The Poor … Where Are They?

I can’t shake the fact that there’s a hole in my gospel … and that I need to seek out the poor.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (Luke 4:18-19, John 20:21).

So, my Lenten journey has me wrestling with a long-standing conviction: It’s not that I should care about the poor if I happen to bump into them. It’s that I am anointed by God to target my proclamation and emancipation to the poor and oppressed. It’s not up to them to find me … it’s up to me to obey the Lord, and get His ministry done. 

But, I’m going to be honest here (and VERY open to follow-up comments). I know the poor are out there. But I don’t see them in my circles. Where are they, and where do I go to find them?

I live in Arizona. Releases from the U.S. Census Bureau have shown that Arizona has the 6th worst poverty rate in the nation.  The percentage of people living below the poverty level in 2011 was around 20%, representing over 1.2 million Arizona residents.

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20%? It doesn’t seem like that to me. But that’s because I don’t live in an among the poor. The reality is that poverty in Arizona is primarily found in the American Indian or Hispanic communities.  The poverty rate on some native American reservations is as high as 47%. Nearly to 30% of the Hispanic population of Arizona lives in poverty … and that’s 30% of Arizona’s 6.4 million residents … 1,920,000 hispanics living in poverty.

ImageI guess I could try really hard to find some easier-to-deal-with, culturally accessible poor people who are more like me. But I think that would be pathetic. I’m kidding myself to think that I can “fill the hole in my gospel” by remaining in my antiseptic, white, middle-class ghetto. If I’m to bless the poor, I’ve got to get out of my world, and venture into others.

I’m blessed that the Christ did this for me. I was the poor, blind, oppressed captive, and it was all my fault – the cause and affect of my sin. But Christ left the comforts of His community to enter mine. And it didn’t go well for Him, physically speaking. He has told us, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me,they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). I think that means …

You’re anointed to go. I send you like the Father sent me. They persecuted me…they’ll persecute you.

Who’s in? (They didn’t tell me about this at the Seeker Sensitive church … ) I’m not at all sure how I might do this, but it’s my Lent. Hmmm.

 
 

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