Whenever God’s people resisted Him in Bible-times He would often “turn them over” to their enemies, their idols, or their own obstinate ideas. And then He would wait until reality sufficiently chastised them and sent them running back to Him. It’s a pattern we see throughout scripture from Israel’s wandering in the wilderness to Jesus’ story of the prodigal. Reality has a way of turning us towards home
I believe we’re seeing this pattern at work today as God “turns us over” to the false god of power-politics. If you’re anything like me, you may be wondering if we have any truly good and beautiful choices in the upcoming elections.
The Christian church, (myself included), has had an long unnatural infatuation with politics. We have placed our hopes in elections and trusted men to turn the world rightside-up again. But hope rooted in the political process is misplaced, empty, and idolatrous. And now that we’ve reached the endgame our idol is failing us because politics – the exercise of power – has no place in the Kingdom of the crucified One.
Jesus went to great trouble to show us a kingdom that would operate on a radically different axis than the kingdom of Caesar. His Kingdom would be:
A place where the poor would be blessed.
Mourners would find comfort.
The meek would be rewarded.
Those who yearn for the world to be made right would not be disappointed.
Mercy would rule the day.
The pure-hearted would see God.
And peacemakers would be known as God’s children.
Not exactly a description of our political conventions! But the encouraging thing is that we have – hopefully – hit the wall. Many are awakening to the fact that this political circus feels much like “feeding pigs in a distant land.” And maybe, just maybe the stench is becoming noxious enough to turn our faces back to the Servant-King who is already seated on the Throne.
PS: Please don’t think I’m encouraging you to refrain from casting an informed vote in November. We need to exercise every influence we have. But we must not put our trust in politics. It is a fading, fallen system that will soon be obsolete.
Three great fears tend to worry the sons of Adam: “Do I matter?” “Do I belong?” and “Am I able?” While modern culture tells us we’re merely “dust in the wind”, the Kingdom answers all three questions with a beautiful richness that is absent from any other philosophy, science or religion.
Do I matter? Aren’t we all achingto know that our lives matter; that we’re more than spare partsto a great machine we call the universe? To this question, Jesus made the delightful observation that we are so valuable to the Father that “Even the very hairs on your head are all numbered”. (Matthew 10:30) In a universe where not a single sparrow falls without his notice, we are the crown of His creation, made in His image and created to leave an eternal mark on the world. In fact, so precious are we to him that Jesus crossed all worlds, entered our darkness, shared our sufferings, and redeemed us at a staggering price. The Kingdom assures us that not only do we matter, but everything we do matters; that even a cup of cold water given to a thirsty child in the name of Jesus is noticed and valued by the Father. (Matthew 10:42)
Do I Belong? Most of us easily default to feeling like cosmic orphans, searching for a place to belong. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:4-5 that “Even before he made the world, God … decided to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” We are not an afterthought to God! He has had us in his heart since before creation itself, awaiting the moment when he could adopt us into His circle of Trinitarian love! We are His pearl of great price for which he sold everything. And now we have been included in his large and glorious family!
Am I able? “Do I have what it takes?” This is where the Spirit shines so beautifully. The full work of redemption didn’t stop with forgiveness. It was completed on Pentecost when God returned by His Spirit to live once again in his sons and daughters as he had in Eden. Abba’s aim from the beginning was to win us back, flood us with His life and fill us with His power! “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” (Acts 1:8) “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) There is much left to be done in this world, and the Spirit makes us equal to the task! So yes, we ARE capable… “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord!” (Zechariah 4:6)
The sons of the Kingdom understand that they are loved, included, and designed to make a difference in the world. And that is a message of hope our friends are waiting to hear!
Yesterday I caved into a friend and watched one of those terrifying videos about America being “Babylon the Great mother of harlots” soon to be thrown into chaos by an EMP attack. (Better act now if you want to survive). I normally avoid those sorts of things on the premise that they disempower our hearts and produce a panic over the “inevitible” rather than a hope for the future. Some end-time presentations carry the silent message, “There’s little you can do apart from tightening your seatbelt and preparing for impact.”
Of course that’s contrary to everything Jesus is, and everything he taught. We have a clear part to play, and we don’t fulfill our destiny by “surviving” in fallout shelters and holes in the ground. Any preacher, author, or YouTube video that leaves us running for the hills or stockpiling food and ammunition carries a distorted message of the Kingdom at best. God’s word encourages us to prepare for troubled times, but there’s never a hint of fatalism and helplessness. While religion is waving the flag of doom, God’s children are manning the bullhorn of hope: “These are exciting times!” “Darkness as black as night covers the nations of the earth, but the glory of the LORD arises upon you.” (Isaiah 60:2)
Animals, on the other hand, seem to becoming “kingdomized.” Videos by the boatload are surfacing of species playing together: Orangutangs with cheetahs, lions with bears, and dogs with leopards. My friend, Beth, calls them “millenial animals.” These furry friends are aligning themselves with the Kingdom of God and offering a glimpse of the future . We ought to be doing the same.
“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6).
As much as we Believers need to recognize the darkness, ours is the honor of pointing the way forward. “Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isaiah 60:3) Regardless of what may come, it’s time to turn from our fatalism and boldly proclaim the Hope of God’s Kingdom.
New Year’s Day 2012 seems an appropriate time to bust-down another of the enemy’s well-planned strategies. One of the big stories of 2011 was Harold Camping’s doomsday bus tour announcing the rapture on May 21. Even though most of us didn’t buy into the circus, it provided the media with tons of fodder about clueless Christians shooting themselves in the foot. This year, of course, the Mayan calendar has reserved “doomsday” for December 21st. The enemy loves to send us off on apocalyptic rabbit trails that distract us from the true hope of the Kingdom. It’s the Chicken Little syndrome, and we ought to know better.
The Rapture tells us that working for a better world is like rearranging the deck chairs of the Titanic as it slides under the water. And that’s exactly the Enemy’s intention: to infect us with passivity like a tropical disease. Of course we believe Jesus is returning! Nothing could be more clearly stated in the scriptures. But many have gotten it backwards: His return is not about Him taking us up to Heaven, but about Him bringing Heaven to earth. “Then I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven”. (Revelation 21:2) “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Maybe we should take our cues from Jesus, who never once used the word “Rapture”, but spoke instead about the Kingdom and of making “all things new”. (Revelation 21:5) Let’s engage our neighbors in conversations about hope and possibilities, about God’s answers to aimlessness, despair, poverty, and injustice. The Kingdom calls us to action: “live quietly, work hard, bless others, create beauty, plant gardens, raise families, preach the gospel, heal the sick, entertain strangers, and pray for my Kingdom. Oh, and by the way, I’ll be back”. This is the promise before us in 2012. Earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes will come as the “Prince of this world” realizes his time is short. I’m excited about this year. It could be a difficult one, but my hope is grounded in a Kingdom that is growing nearer every day.