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   

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.”

Independence Day

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34) 

                Tomorrow, July 4th, we celebrate the independence of these United States of America.  As the early settlers charted the course of our nation, they had no shame concerning the things of God.  The first line in the Mayflower Compact was, “In the name of God, Amen” and when the Pilgrims’ signed it in 1620, they acknowledged God’s sovereignty and sought to glorify Him.  Our founding fathers believed the truths of the Bible and acknowledged their faith in God as they wrote the Constitution.  Many prominent universities were founded on the Word of God.  God is in our pledge and it is “in Him” whom we claim to trust on our currency.  But as a nation, is He in our hearts?  As we reflect on this day, a day of celebrating our independence, it is worth asking that if as a nation we have also sought our independence from God.        

            “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings.  Proverbs 14:34 plainly states that actions aligned with God’s standards exalt or “lift up” a nation, while sin is a disgrace.  The United States has been richly blessed.  Throughout our history, we have taken up the cause for much that is right and good.  But what are we becoming?  Has pride gotten the best of us and taken such a hold on our nation that less and less we see the need for God?  Today many deny His sovereignty.  Many of those educational institutions that were founded on the Word of God are now major influencer’s in denying Him.  It seems that our Creator whom we used to hold so close, we have now pushed away.  Consider the many instances in which we have sought to rewrite what God has spoken in His Word.  If we consider Him at all, it’s a God stripped of His holiness and righteousness.  That’s not the God of the Bible.  Yet we still seek His blessings, all the while ignoring His will.  Should we expect them?  It’s time to ask ourselves what kind of nation we want to be.  Is there any cause for hope?  I believe there is.

            No matter how things may appear, there’s hope.  Our hope lies in a Sovereign God.  Nothing ever happens outside of His control.  We hope, knowing that God is faithful to preserve His people through times such as these.  We can also hope in prayer that as a nation we would return to God and that the Holy Spirit would move as never before.  So today, as we celebrate our independence as a nation, as it concerns God, let this and every other day be a day that instead of seeking our independence from God, we reaffirm our dependence on Him.  He truly is the only one we can depend on.      

 Prayer

Father, as a nation we have strayed.  We have strayed in so many ways on so many issues.  Forgive us.  Give me a greater desire for your glory in my own life and in the life of our nation.  Help me pursue righteousness that you would be pleased to hear my prayers for our nation.  Thank you for Jesus Christ.  It is only through God the Son in which we can approach the Father.  Let our nation exalt Him above all.  Thank you for your grace and mercy.  Let us be a people who please you.  Amen!