A Straight Line with a Crooked Stick: How God works in broken people like us

Read Isaiah 45:1-11

The Old Testament tells us that certain special leaders were anointed with oil: prophets, priests, and kings. In addition to that sort of ‘anointing’ we read passages that refer to a coming ‘anointed one’, God’s promised Messiah (see Ps 72:8, Ps 18:44-48). This promised Messiah is the one whom the New Testament identifies as Jesus Christ (see Matthew 16:16).

What surprises me in Isaiah 45 is that this term is applied to Cyrus, a Persian ruler. Cyrus was a non-Jew. He was not a worshipper of the One True God. He was devoted to Marduk and other pagan deities. Had he ever presented himself to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship the Lord, he would not have been accepted as a worshipper with the people of Israel, and instead he would have been confined to the outer courts. So it’s pretty amazing that the Lord calls Cyrus ‘his anointed’. The Hebrew is even more challenging: the words ‘messiah’ is used.

History tells us that in the first year of his reign, Cyrus issued a decree which allowed all exiles to return to Jerusalem, worship the Lord, and rebuild the Temple (2 Chr 36:22–23; Ezra 1:1–3; 6:2–5). So this pagan king was used by God to bring his promises to fulfilment. God used a crooked stick to draw a very straight line.

We are all crooked sticks, but God does his work through us

But then, was Cyrus so special in that regard? Sure he was, in the historical sense, and by reason of the fact that he’s the only pagan to be called a ‘messiah’ in the Bible.

On the other hand, doesn’t God use all of us to bring his purposes to completion? Even if we were to regard ourselves as mature Christians and devoted followers of Jesus, isn’t it true that we are all failed and fallen people? Crooked sticks, all of us? For sure. Still, God promises to work through us, and bring his will to completion as he works through people in his world. Even through people who would not identify themselves as ‘his people’.

When our culture is so driven by self interest and cynicism, it is overwhelming to know that we are not left at the mercy of random and naked forces. In some mysterious and incredibly comforting way, God is at work in our world. We are not on our own, not left to our own devices.

Today, this day, with all the stuff you have to deal with, this God has chosen you to do his will. He will work through you. He loves to do that, and he wants you to love him and honour him in return. Your commitment to delight in this is called ‘obedience’ – your glad response to his overwhelming love, grace and power.

Q: How does this truth help you survive in a world where there is so much evil? Does this truth help you worship God, or make it harder for you to do so?

The Surprise of Grace

Read Romans 5:-11

“We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his doors to us … we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God graciously pours into our lives through his Holy Spirit.”

Grace surprises us. Sometimes this comes with the realisation that even though we thought we had chosen for God – and in our experience that is often what happens – he has always been at work in us first. It seems that things are not always as they seem.

Why do we hang on to this notion that it is us who have made the difference? Is it because we desperately want to believe that we are still in control? That we can influence God? Is it because we are horrified by the thought that our rebellion and the fall have warped us at our core? Is it because we want to make some contribution to our eternal security? I am not sure. It could be a lot of things.

Our utter inability finds is glorious resolution in God’s love through Jesus

Truth is: we were sinners. We were God’s enemies. We were weak (too weak to make a difference). We were ungodly.

An yet God acted in Christ to change all that. Christ gave his life for us. God loved us. We were saved from God’s wrath. We were reconciled. God loved us. We were rescued. Our utter inability finds is glorious resolution in God’s love through Jesus.

You may not like this truth, but it is your reality. Good thing, too. Because being a rebel, a sinner, an enemy of God, it could not have happened without God initiating your rescue through Jesus.

But it has happened – how good is that? Through Jesus we have peace with God, and we rejoice in the truth that while we may not understand, we gladly accept that he has opened his door to us. First.

Leadership, Vision and Policy Free Zones (1) #ausvotes

I am disillusioned with this political campaign. I am waiting for some vision, some passion and spirit. I want to see leaders with a captivating vision for our great country. They are nowhere on the horizon.

Excuse the romantic language, but I love my country, I love my community. I want to see my country prosper and thrive. I want to see people and families happy and safe. I want my country to be a world leader, and not so much a world beater. I keep praying that we’ll become more compassionate, increasingly sustainable managers of our resources, and that we’ll speak up for the weak and stand up for the broken.

So, what is this captivating vision? I don’t profess to have many answers, but there are several issues which will capture my vote and perhaps even my heart. The problem is these issues are getting little attention from Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott. I don’t know why it is that way, but guess the policy advisers think they are not vote winners. True, maybe these aren’t your typical hot button election issues. But perhaps that is just as much a reflection on a shallow minded electorate as it is on shallow minded parties. True leadership, I believe, is not always doing what people want (that’s actually following, not leading). True leadership is about doing what people, and in this case, our country, needs.

So, here are the issues I believe our politicians, and our country, needs to address:

Homelessness: Homelessness Australia reports that last year 105,000 people experienced homelessness in Australia. Each day nearly 1 in every 200 Australians is homeless, without safe, secure or affordable housing. One in every 39 children aged under 4 slept in a homeless service. 23% of Australia’s homeless are children – almost one in four homeless people is under 18. Of every 42 Australian children under four, one has experienced homelessness. Every day, half the people who request immediate accommodation from the homeless service system are turned away. Two in every 3 children who need support are also turned away, as are almost 80% percent of families.

This is a growing problem and I don’t understand why it is a non issue for those who are seeking to lead our country.

Murray – Darling Basin: On July 28 the Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a special program to trap storm runoff in Adelaide. That sounds like a great idea until you realise that this Prime Minister, the previous Prime Minister (Kevin Rudd) and the Prime Minister before him (John Howard) have done precious little to end water harvesting along the Murray Darling Basin. We hear regular reports that the Murray mouth has not been open to the sea for years. I can imagine there are significant complications where state and federal governments have to cooperate to act on this. But how hard is it, really? What is the point of winning an election but losing an ecosystem? What will that teach our children about environmental responsibility?

We need a government that will act decisively to restore the Murray Darling system. Even if this means the acquisition of properties along the Murray Darling which are depriving the system of life. Even if it means spending lots of money. The Murray Darling needs to live. Adelaide needs a reliable water supply. Isn’t this a matter of national importance? Buy the farms back, I say.

Refugees & The Boats: No one doubts we need to protect our borders, but on the global refugee and illegal immigrant scale, our problem with boats is actually very small. It seems that about 90% of those ‘illegal refugees’ who seek asylum end up having their case upheld by the authorities. The number of actual illegal immigrants who are eventually rejected is a very small figure. I think both major parties are pumping our fear to prime our vote.

I don’t know what the solution is. I doubt that the authorities of the nations where the boats originate have the desire or the capacity to help us with our little problem, and I suppose that means the boats will continue. We don’t want people to drown on the high seas, and we’re well nigh powerless to turn the boats back. It would be so refreshing to see our response governed by values of justice, responsibility, and compassion. There is no value in a response driven by fear.

…more to come