Monday, April 18, 2011

Camping in tents, looking towards the city

I'm working my way through another book off the shelf (Finding Your Purpose In God's Plan, by B.R. Coombs, available on good clearance shelves everywhere, that's where I got my copy, at least) and I came to a quote from Hebrews that set my mind off in a different direction from the rest of the chapter.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Heb. 11:8-10, NIV

Some words and phrases jumped out at me.  "He lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise."  "For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."  We are sitting here, living in this world in our tents, our temporary, physical bodies, looking forward to the city with foundations, Heaven, which is built by God.  If we go back to Genesis and read Abraham's account, it isn't an easy road he walked.  The man even threw several of the rocks onto his own path by his choices.  But he got through, not by focusing on the tent, or on the state of the land he had not yet received, but by focusing on the promise of God.

If you've been following me for a while here, you know politics is one of my favorite topics to debate.  While there are numerous good reasons for Christians to be active in the political world, we have to be very careful not to get hung up on the tent while losing focus on the city with foundations.  For example, are our words against political ideas and opponents in line with the Bible?  The shooting of abortion provider Dr. Tiller in Wichita Ks comes to mind.  Personally I abhor abortion and the abortion debate, for religious and political reasons (still haven't figured out how regulating a medical procedure falls under the federal government's Constitutional power, at minimum, on the legal side, the issue should be left to the states, instead of a federal mandate) but gunning the man down doesn't match our Biblical mandate, does it?  Ideally, the best way to deal with the issue is to put the abortion providers out of business through a lack of customers, instead of legislation.  That matches words like "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" much better doesn't it?  How many words and actions of "religious" people have been turned into fuel for nonbelievers, often with little to no twisting or taking words out of context?  How many of those were spurred by putting that focus on the fragile, temporal, dirty tents instead of that solid, permanent, holy foundation? 

It's not up as of this writing, but check later this week for the April 17th sermon on the normal Christian life.  Pastor Dan talked a great deal about how even Christians have a tendency to get focused on the tents others are wearing, like skin color and sexual orientation, instead of focusing on that eternal foundation and treating others the way Jesus wants us to.  Yes, it's nice when the Church wins some of its legal and social battles, but what about when we individuals listen to the hurts of an unsaved friend?  What about when we break down those stereotypes and don't just beat sinners up with Scripture?  What about when we follow Christ's example and weep for the world instead of screaming at it? 

It's hard to keep that focus on the eternal and not the worldly.  The world is here in front of us, in our faces, yelling at us, taxing us, sending us disconnect notices, telling us our loans weren't approved, apologizing for the pink slips, telling us that if we just let go of those old superstitions our lives will be so much more enjoyable, while the eternal tells us to wait, trust, and have faith.  Go back to Abraham, he listened to the world, took the world's route to answer God's promise, and the result caused numerous problems, even beyond Abraham's lifetime.  Compare that to the Apostles after the Ascension, who listened to Jesus' words and waited in Jerusalem and received the Holy Spirit, in spite of the possible threats against them there.  These are just two examples of the results, it doesn't take too much looking to find more, in the Bible, in history, and even in our own spheres of influence.  The question we have to ask ourselves is, which example are we making?

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