Our Nations Problems Remain Spiritual

             As I listen to all the commentary around the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado, I must admit frustration.  It seems we always want to find a rational answer to irrational behavior.  Everyone wants to know why this happened and how might it have been avoided.  These are both fair and honest questions, though the answer may never be known and complete avoidance of such horrific acts as this one is unlikely.  But for some, this tragedy has provided another opportunity to push a political agenda, cast blame and to create further division among us as a nation.  I’ve watched this week as some in media have sought to blame the National Rifle Association, acting as if they pulled the trigger.  Only one person pulled the trigger, James Holmes.  I’ve heard others speak of the negative influence of violent movies.  I’ve listened as our presidential candidates commented on this tragedy.  I heard President Obama speak of this as a senseless act; and it was.  If only he thought that taking the life of an innocent unborn child was just as senseless, he might have greater credibility on these issues.  Words always ring hollow when actions speak the contrary.  So as our media seek answers as to why this shooting happened, and our political leaders ponder remedies to deal with potential fallout, one remedy, in fact the only hope, remains largely ignored.  That hope is a return to God!  Of all the problems our nation faces, our biggest problems remain spiritual.      

            It’s time we face the fact that our major problem is not the Second Amendment; it is not the desensitization of our society because of the violence in movies or music.  Our biggest problem is we have alienated God.  As a nation, we have failed to emphasize His will concerning societal issues.  We have failed to believe God when He said, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).  We think we know better, and as a result, we find ourselves reaping the consequences of our arrogance.  That’s why I find the comments of some liberals to be so hypocritical.  They ask why these things happen, yet fail to recognize that these are consequences of the policies they’ve largely supported.  Policies that fail to acknowledge the role of our Creator.  It is not to say that if this were not the case that evil wouldn’t exist.  Evil has always existed, and though not responsible for it, God has always been sovereign over it.  But more and more we fail to emphasize the value of God’s opinion in the public discourse.  Do you think He takes the apostasy of our nation lightly?  Do you think He pours out His mercy and grace to the exclusion of His justice and wrath?  What do you think it meant when Paul wrote, “God gave them up”? (Romans 1:24) What it meant was that God gave them up to their sin and the resultant consequences.

             But fortunately, we have a faithful God.  That’s why we continue to preach and to pray because in light of all that surrounds us, there is always hope to be found in Him.  Individually and as a nation, our greatest hope for change is to seek God’s face.  Instead of denying Him, obey Him.  Instead of running from Him, run to Him.  A seeking heart will always find a welcoming God, “You will seek me and find me.  When you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)  I guess we will never rid society of all its ills.  That is until Christ returns.  But until then, by submitting to God’s will expressed in His Word, we are provided a necessary filter with which to see the world and the events around us, making us less susceptible to its evil influence.  I hope you believe that God’s Word along with prayer has that much power because it does.  I also hope you believe that God will bestow blessing and favor to those who seek His will for their lives.  He will do that for our nation as well.  All of God’s Words are true and just as He meant Romans 1:24, He also meant Malachi 3:7 when He said, “Return to me, and I will return to you”. The question is, will we?

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Fullness Only In The Lord

“Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are.  When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord.”     

                                                    Charles Haddon Spurgeon   

Pastoral Faithfulness

“Have compassion on your servants.  Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:13-14) 

            Death happens.  It happens as a result of the normal aging process, when disease invades the body, and it happens when tragedy strikes. Whatever the manner, all are cause for great suffering for loved ones left behind.  However, it’s hard to imagine any death bringing about questions of faith in God like a tragedy that takes a life seemingly way too soon.  In those types of situations, how can we believe Romans 8:28? “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…”  How is it possible that suffering can be a path to glory?  Though it happens, we must never view death or suffering as natural.  In God’s world, they’re not.  But they are realities and as a Christian, suffering is often a greater one.  When we suffer in any circumstance, but especially under tragic ones, how is it possible to still find satisfaction in God?  In an article entitled, Preparing People To Suffer: What Expectations Do Our Sermons Create? John Piper addresses from a pastor’s perspective that very question, helping us not only in the case of suffering due to tragic circumstances, but suffering due to any circumstance at all. 

            “Have compassion on your servants.  Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” In this section of Psalm 90, Moses appealed to God to pour out His grace that people would find satisfaction in Him above everything, enabling them to rejoice all their days.  Piper suggests that in times of personal suffering, the wise pastor cries the very cry of this passage and then preaches its truth to those he shepherds.  This doesn’t mean that the hurt doesn’t hurt.  It doesn’t mean that tragedy will not bring about questions.  But what it does mean is that by the grace of God and by the Spirit of God we can accept the truths taught in Scripture.  Truths like Romans 8:28.  It means we can be sure that God sees where we can’t, that His purposes are perfect, and that He is always working for our ultimate good.  

            Pastor’s have an awesome responsibility to preach the whole truth of God, including the reality of suffering.  It may not be easy to preach and it may not be what people most want to hear, but it must be done.  According to Piper, by teaching the reality of suffering and God’s sovereign goodness in and through it, when tragedy strikes, it leaves you needing only to embrace those in the midst of their pain.  I’m thankful for my pastor, Buddy Gray for his faithfulness in not dodging this difficult truth.  I’m sure many in our congregation have been blessed because he didn’t.   But this is not only a pastor’s responsibility; it is all of ours who minister in any manner.  So be grateful for your pastor for preaching it and anyone else who teaches it.  Because when they do, it not only better prepares you to deal with suffering in your own life, but also minister to others in theirs.  And that is how our God is glorified. 

 Prayer

Father, thank you for your Word and the faithful pastor’s dedicated to its exposition.  It’s a struggle to grasp the difficult truth of suffering, but God, we know that you are good; you are good both in and through our suffering.  The reality of suffering is a hard truth, but you have given us your Spirit that we may accept and praise you in the midst of these times.  Help us to know that our satisfaction can only be found in you.  Comfort all who suffer and embolden those who minister to them that you may be glorified.  Amen!

True Evangelism

“True evangelism does not offer some panacea for all the ills in our life in this world; it does not promise to make us perfect in a moment or set the whole world right.  It says rather, ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation; but fear not, I have overcome the world.'”        D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

The Lifter Of My Head

“But you, O LORD, are a shield for about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head” (Psalm 3:3)               

                There is no part of Scripture that better represents the unedited experiences of life than the psalms.  And there’s no better person to tell of those experiences than King David.  Known as the “sweet psalmist of Israel”, he authored about half of the one hundred and fifty psalms.  His psalms are a reflection of his life and are laced with a wide range of emotions.  As we read David’s writings, it’s as though we’re looking in the mirror.  The ups and downs he expresses, in many ways, are our shared experience.  Psalm 3 is considered a lament.  A lament is characterized by the psalmist opening up his heart to the Lord, honestly expressing grief over a difficult situation and thereby requesting His help.  David had to be extremely disheartened at this moment.  This was but one of many moments in which discouragement consumed him.  Imagine having a child seeking to take your life.  The historical setting for this psalm is recorded in 2 Samuel 15-18 and tells of when David fled from his son, Absalom, who conspired to overthrow his father as Israel’s king.  Under siege and betrayed by his own son, David was at one of the lowest points in his life and definitely in need of the LORD’S help.     

               Have you ever been where David was in that moment, so shocked by events that grief overwhelmed you, making you believe that there’s no way out?  During times such as these, too often our focus is only on what we see.  We’re so busy looking at the circumstance that we fail to fix our eyes on God and trust in who He is.  Many times in his own life, including this moment, David did the same thing.  But it only lasted for a time. “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head” David knew the LORD was his shield and the source of his glory.  But in this psalm he also referred to Him as the “lifter” of his head.  He recognized that the LORD was also his greatest source of encouragement, always there to keep his spirit from failing.  Adversities in life come and go.  David knew them well, but he also knew who he had in LORD.  This deep abiding trust helped him to express faith in this moment of crisis.  Adversities will come in your life as well.  We may not like them, but they are a means that God uses to shape our Christian character.  When these times come, know that the LORD will be there to protect and encourage you.  Trust in His character, and be confident that just as He was with David, He will be there to “lift” your head.  God meant it when He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”   

 Prayer

Father, no matter where we are in our walk of faith, there are times when discouragement overwhelms us.  David testifies to this very fact.  But he is also testifies to your faithfulness in seeing him through those times.  Thank you for all that you are: our shield, our glory and our encourager.  Help us to keep our eyes fixed on you in our times of need.  You are always faithful.  Amen!   

The Only “Have” Or “Have Not” That Matters

            I’m rather tired of our political leaders trying to divide our nation between the “have’s” and the “have not’s”.  I don’t care who the politician is or in which political party they reside, when creating division between people becomes your strategy in order to maintain power, it’s despicable.  Over time it has become quite clear that one political party has chosen that course.  And sadly, President Obama has unashamedly chosen to lead the way.  There have always been circumstances in which those with means have taken advantage of those without, but there have also always been times when those without means have sought to inappropriately take advantage as well.  Greed isn’t reserved only for the wealthy.  We are brought down as a nation when our power hungry political leaders successfully pit certain groups of Americans against another.  I reject that and I believe many do.  I reject that every financial good fortune was ill gotten and every financial misfortune was someone else’s fault just as I reject that some people’s financial misfortune was of their own making.  I also believe many people, irregardless of their means, stand willing to reach out and help others in need.  This is not reserved only for those with greater means helping those with less.  It works both ways.  If you look for it, you can see it every day.  Rich, poor or whatever, I do believe in the good of people and I think we should.  We’re better when we do.  But a most important question is of what that good is motivated by. 

            Unfortunately, you find in some preaching that wealth makes it impossible to spend eternity in heaven, that heaven is only reserved for the poor.  On the other end, you find preaching that says wealth implies God’s favor, while poverty implies His disfavor.  The Bible teaches neither as these are both manufactured theologies.  Financial means are not the measure of how one will spend eternity.  God owns everything and needs nothing.  Though seemingly opposite, wealth and poverty present similar challenges.  In both cases, it has the potential to shift our focus away from God.  James addressed this very issue in his letter to those undergoing suffering and persecution.  He wrote to the poor, “Let the lowly boast in his exaltation” (James 1:9).  James was telling them to focus on their position before Christ and to boast in their heavenly reward to come.  To the wealthy he said be “rich in his humiliation” (James 1:10).  In other words, wealth passes away and is incapable of bringing the inner peace that only God can.  Sure James addressed the oppression of the poor.  It was wrong then and when it occurs today, it remains wrong, but are we better through division?  I don’t believe we are.    

            But there’s a bigger issue that the rich and poor need to be concerned with, a “have” or “have not” that really matters, and it has nothing to do with material wealth.  It’s the issue of whether or not you have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  That’s what truly matters.  Are you rich in His grace?  We should all want to be rich in this way.  All this other stuff is secondary.  Trust the sovereign hand of God to provide for your needs.  Don’t let material wealth allow you to take your eye off of the God who gave it to you, and don’t let your lack of it keep you from trusting His provision.  Remember, rich or poor, “have” or “have not”, His provision you can always trust.

1 John 2:15-17

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions is not from the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”