Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The More Things Change...

Have you ever considered what a coincidence it is that two consecutive generations of one family way back in the misty past have wound up having such an unproportional influence on human history? Granted, the population of the planet then was much less than it is today, but it was, even at that time, spread broadly across the earth. Nonetheless, one family in one little corner of the earth has impacted us all through the following years like nothing or no one else ever has. I'm not talking about Adam and Eve, nor even their east African analog that "science" seems so ready to embrace. I'm talking about a non-descript drifter, well within the reach of recorded history, who never was an emperor, king or emir, and yet...

Abraham, the nomadic shepherd, had two sons* by different women in the same camp-- one was his wife, Sarah; the other his, er, mistress, Hagar. As in the case of many blended families in our day, things didn't go all that well as tensions and jealousies increased.  Finally, the straw that broke the camel's back was laid upon the situation, and Abraham was forced to send the mistress and her son away to the east with nothing, really, but an amazing prophesy for their lineage. They ended up in what is today Saudia Arabia, and the son, Ishmael, went on to became the father of the Arabs (as both the Bible and Koran attest).

Isaac, the son who stayed, had two sons too, but by the same woman. They were, in fact, twins. The older, Esau, flippantly sold his birthright to the younger for a bowl of soup after developing a bear of an appetite on a hunting trip. He didn't have the faith to believe the promise of God (which was, really, all that Isaac had to pass on), was an inheritance worth fretting about. As a result, the "potential" title to Canaan fell to Jacob, and Esau headed east to the area Hagar and Ishmael had headed to earlier. There, I have no doubts, the blood of the rejected son commingled with that of the son who rejected the promise.

The history of the son of promise has been, well, checkered at best. The line of Isaac and Jacob has been in constant rejection of the terms of its covenant, consistent in its rejection of the God of that covenant, and as a result, repeatedly rejected by the land of the covenant. Somehow, in the midst of such a debacle, the promised one came forth from the people of promise, and the world has not been the same since. Nearly a third of the world's population today at least nominally pledges allegiance to Jesus Christ, the promised Savior from the house of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The history of the rejected has been mostly quiet with a bang at the end-- like fused dynamite! From tribes of nomadic shepherds, waylaying bandits, and unscrupulous traders a mighty nation and a worldwide religion was born. Mohammed burst on the Arab scene in 570 CE, and things have never been the same since. Near one quarter of the world's population today hear the call from the minaret five times a day and pledge allegiance to Allah and his prophet. Their zeal for conquest and conversions knows no bounds, and I think the percentage giving fealty to the Koran will rise noticeably before our eyes as we approach the end.

It's hard to imagine that such an inauspicious start so long ago has ended up effecting so much. There are 1.2 billion Chinese, and about the same number of Indians (~40% of the world's population combined), and yet it's not Buddhism or Hinduism that is at the forefront of human affairs, it's Christianity and Islam-- the promise and the rejection of the promise. One would think that would cause an unbeliever pause, but it doesn't seem to! Solomon said there was nothing new under the sun. At the end of time, it seems fitting that the spiritual battle for the hearts and souls of mankind would come out of that same struggle fleshed out between two sets of brothers so long ago.

Ultimately, the lie at the end of time will springboard from the lie of Islam-- twisting promises made long ago by God to that one family. Not a very surprising twist of circumstances if you take biblical prophecy seriously, but a periously ignorable happenstance if one never considers just how unusual it is that things have worked out they way they have. I guess when it comes to unbelief, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

*Abraham did have other "wives" and other children after Sarah died.

Monday, December 7, 2009

To Mahdi, To Madhi...

Check out this article. Could it be any more evident that there are not many tomorrows left? Do I hear singing on the wind (or maybe the airwaves)? "...To Mahdi, to Mahdi, I love ya, to Mahdi, you're only a day away!"

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Danger in Depending on Status

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."   Luke 3:7-9  NIV

Grace and the finished work of Christ are the shoes upon which the Gospel walks, but John the Baptist's statement above should put a wrinkle into the casual way many Christians look at those shoes. Granted, John was the last of the OT prophets, and prophesied under that economy, but I think he still speaks to NT faith. What he says is wake up and don't be presumptuous.

The people he leveled these statements at were depending upon their birth status to make and keep them acceptable to God. What occured in a moment in time (through no fault of their own, no less), at the begining of their journey on earth was sufficient, in their minds, to carry them to the end of their time. They knew whose child they were, or so they thought!

John said the fact of their birth in the household of faith was not enough. It was not their history (especially an isolated moment in it) that mattered so much as their present. It seems the religious have ever been satisfied trying to establish labels written in indelible ink rather than in faithful practice, but there is no better way to give faith shoes than practice. Hence, John's comments about stones and fruit.

Fruit, like manna, has a limited shelf life. It needs to be fresh to be useful, to provide sustenance. The faith that recognizes God and therefore turns to him from sin and self is not something that can be stored on a shelf either. Faith, it seems to me, is not a status but a state, and an active one at that! Grace may not be established on works, but the one in grace will most definitely work.

For those made right by God, there's no getting past the need to bear the fruit of repentance today. You may say, "but I was born again on such and such a date, I'm signed, sealed, and delivered." I would say in response that your dependence on a birth experience seems as hollow as that of those that came to John. There is a danger, you see, in depending on status rather than fellowship with God.