Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dealing With Disaster

Flood Recovery
It was a political, social and economic disaster. The country had been invaded. The government was gone. Large numbers of people were forced to relocate to a strange country.

A prophetic voice is raised up in the face of this disaster:
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."
Jeremiah 29:4-7 (NIV)

This is not our usual idea of “disaster response.” When disaster happens, we want to get things back to the status quo. Jeremiah was addressing Israelites whose concern would be returning to Jerusalem, their houses and farms, and their familiar life in Judah.

God’s suggestion for disaster response is to “build houses and settle down” in this new place they have found themselves. The point the prophet is making is that God’s priority is not saving Jerusalem but saving people. “Settle down,” God says, “Seek the peace and prosperity of whatever place you find yourselves in.” God is not concerned with restoring their past – God wants them to build their future.

Jeremiah again:
This is what the Lord says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,"
Jeremiah 29:10-14

Our world faces an uncertain economic future. We hear voices of doom and voices of hope trying to make sense of the credit and debt hole we seem to have dug. Some call it a disaster.

How do we respond? Jeremiah says we are to “seek the peace and prosperity” of the place where we find yourselves. God’s priority is saving people, not economic or political systems.

God’s “status” is not “quo:” “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future

Call upon God. Pray to God. And God will listen. When we seek God we will find God, even in the middle of disaster. That’s a promise.


New Book: Christless Christianity

I came across a review by Tim Challies of Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church by Michael Horton and have added it to my reading list.

The book appears to address the concern that, for many churches (including Friends churches and meetings), Jesus has become optional. The prevailing theology for many Christians in our culture is "moralistic therapeutic deism," which can be served up with or without Jesus.

Challies quotes from the last chapter:

"What is called for in these days, as in any other time, is a church
that is a genuine covenantal community defined by the gospel rather
than a service provider defined by laws of the market, political
ideologies, ethnic distinctives, or other alternatives to the catholic
community that the Father is creating by his Spirit in his Son. For
this, we need nothing less than a new Christian where the only
demographic that matters is in Christ."

What are you reading?