One of the things that many of us like is to be in nature, where it is more wild, and where no one else is. Where we can see vistas, the air is clear. You have to strip your life and possessions back to walk there. You need your wits about you. At times we also want to to this, preferably avoiding the crowds looking for an instagram shots in the cliche spots.
I’m off for a few days, roaming around dusty mountain peaks while attempting to avoiding groups of spotted yodelers.
The trouble is that God is not nature. Nature points to God. The beauty wee see is ephemeral. I have seen too many earthquakes, forest fires, and slips during floods. New Zealand is Beautiful, as are the Alps… but there is danger there, not least because the land is unstable.
The Greem worship of nature is an error. So is thinking that what we see now is what was, and what will be. The prophecy is about the destruction of Egypt as a great power, but there is within it a warning: nature dies.
15 “Thus says the Lord God: On the day the cedar went down to Sheol I caused mourning; I closed the deep over it, and restrained its rivers, and many waters were stopped. I clothed Lebanon in gloom for it, and all the trees of the field fainted because of it. 16 I made the nations quake at the sound of its fall, when I cast it down to Sheol with those who go down to the pit. And all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, were comforted in the world below. 17 They also went down to Sheol with it, to those who are slain by the sword; yes, those who were its arm, who lived under its shadow among the nations.
18 “Whom are you thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? You shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the world below. You shall lie among the uncircumcised, with those who are slain by the sword.
“This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, declares the Lord God.”
Ezra is obscure, but the text for today, and we can get profit from it. Another aspect of the world is an expectation of credentials, or recommendation, of references. However, not everyone will like you and some people will take offense.
To those proud of their fallen state, the gospel is akin to acid on a wound.
12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.
13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. 15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labours of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. 17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
We are hypocrites by nature and our culutre is fallen. Our culture expects us to note every deed we have done and every achievement on paper and by that curriculum we are judted.
But the same culture states they are inclusive, living and non judgemental. They Lie. Stacey has an essay on this, well worth a visit.
The belief that words in the Bible have no objective meaning — true for everyone, everywhere, at all times, eternally — is part of what has undermined institutional authority in the church. And once this pastor pointed out to me this “what it means to me” intepretation (which was already widespread 30 years ago) as symptomatic of a spiritual disorder, I began to notice similar tendencies in other areas of life. Eventually, after reading Christopher Lasch’s landmark book The Culture of Narcissism, I recognized that what some would call “moral relativism” was a consequence of the Cult of the Self that emerged clearly as a social phenomenon in the 1970s. This was a result, as Lasch said, of the way major institutions of social authority had been discredited by the cultural and political upheavals of the 1960s. By the time President Nixon was hounded out of the White House, a crisis in our system of moral values had been raging for a dozen year, dating back at least as far as the assassination of John F. Kennedy. What had been celebrated as “The American Way of Life” was in tatters, and one symptom of this was the rise of religious cults. Americans in the 1970s embraced a variety of weird beliefs, including imported Eastern religions (Buddhism, Hare Krishna, etc.), revivals of ancient mysticism (Wicca, Kabbalah, astrology, etc.), and newfangled beliefs like Scientology. The suicide cult at Jonestown was just the extreme end of a vast spectrum of kookiness that erupted during that depressing decade. One reaction to this confusion was, obviously, a surge toward conservative Evangelical churches. While liberal “mainstream” demoninations (Episcopalians, Methodists, etc.) dwindled, the back-to-the-Bible churches flourished, a trend that reshaped religion in America for decades to come. Yet here we are now . . .
Anyway, I have noticed the “non-judgmental” phenomenon become increasingly incoherent and self-contradictatory. People are using what is transparently a double-standard in declaring their devotion to “social justice” — which, among other things, involves ignoring or defending the faults of designated victim groups — while demanding the abolition of police and releasing criminals from prison. It is obvious that this kind of “social justice” policy will result (and has already resulted) in the deaths of innocent people, including many members of minority communities, and yet the advocates of non-judgmentalism don’t seem to care.
Nature and the natural are not bad in and of themselves. Paul said that nature groans to be rid of the burden of sin and be restored. There is nothing wrong with having a certain pleasure in a job well done: we should ge pleasure from our children’s achievements.
But a culture that worship nature worships an idol, and a culture that boasts in everything and sees high self esteem (that is, a score on a scale — the same thing applies to IQ) as a reason to be proud lies, to themselves and to others.
Let us instead say this was done by the grace of God. By ourselves we are nothing. In Christ, we are able to turn the world upside down.