PRAYER FOR THE NATION

This prayer, attributed to Paul Harvey and Billy Graham, was first penned by Bob Russell in 1995.  It has been modified somewhat over the years, but its message exposes the dialogue of the day and highlights how far we have gone astray.

“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says ‘Woe to those who call evil good,’ but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We confess that.

We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it Pluralism.

We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism.

We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative lifestyle.

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.

We have killed our unborn and called it choice.

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.

We have abused power and called it politics.

We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.

A DEPRAVED MIND

In my concern for our country, I would like to spark some Biblical insight about what is happening to America.  Last week I shared that countries will be judged for their wickedness.  Today I’d like to give some thoughts on what is wrong with our thinking.  Have you noticed that our leaders seem especially irrational in their thinking?

In Romans chapter one the Apostle Paul explains how rejecting God affected our thinking.  Romans 1:21, For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

If you think there isn’t a God, you fit in well with the liberal thinking of our times.  However, America was founded with the idea that there is a God who is identified in the Bible.  There is certainly still enough evidence to this conjecture to be convincing.  No doubt there are many who would like to destroy this evidence, but let’s get back to our investigation of the problem with our thinking.

Romans 1:28-30, Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.  They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.  They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.  They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents.

In God we find the source of wisdom.  We think we’re intelligent, but without God we falter in our use of knowledge.  Sin gets in the way of our ability to think rationally.  We need God!  He is our only hope!  Unless we repent and turn to God, we are doomed to continue in our futility and irrational sin driven thinking.

THE NATIONS WILL BE JUDGED

Is anyone concerned?  Is anyone fearful?  I’ve been reading in the Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.  They speak of Israel’s sin against God, and the pending doom that awaited them.  Jeremiah 9:3 states,

“They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land.  They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me,” declares the Lord.

We are not Israel, but we are a blessed nation.  Did the blessings come from our own hand, or did they come from God?  Can we escape the doom of Israel as we continue to reject God? Are we exempt?  Though it reads on our coins “In God we trust”, we as a nation do not.  We have gone our own way, and we refuse to acknowledge God.  When Israel strayed and turned its back on God, the surrounding nations, the descendants of Ishmael, harassed them.  I find it most interesting that the eyes of Ishmael’s descendants are now turned to the U.S.  We have now become the great evil.  Ishmael is against us.  Is it by accident that this has happened?

If indeed God does not exist, as many now declare, then we have nothing to worry about.  I believe God does exist, and he created us. We as a people belong to him.  I also believe that God has the right to and will judge nations.  Individuals are judged after death, but nations are judged here and now.  If this is true, the people of the U.S. should be concerned; we should be fearful.  I close with this warning from Hebrews 10:30-31,

For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

BEING A GOOD CITIZEN

(Romans 13:1-7 MSG) Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it is God’s order. So live responsively as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.

The Apostle Paul’s admonition to the first century Roman citizens has stirred many debates among Christians. We Americans have a sense of being autonomous, but the government is always intruding. Protesting is allowed, but only if it’s peaceful. Currently the Government is interfering in our lives, and we don’t like it.

Governments are established for the protection and prosperity of its citizens. During our covid 19 crisis, some say the government is not doing enough, while others say it is doing too much. We all have our opinions. The question is, “Is the government doing its job?” Considering that the government is run by humans I’d answer, “They’re trying.”

As a Christian I ask myself, “In my frustrations, am I considering others, or am I just focused on me?

NOT MY WILL BUT YOUR WILL

Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

There are two wills at work here in creation, God’s will and man’s will.  God’s will is that there would be harmony in his creation, that we would love one another.  Man’s will has brought about what we experience daily.  We are subject to man’s will because God gave us free will.  We each one get to choose.  The ultimate goal is that we would, of our own free will, choose God’s will. 

In Matthew 23:37 Jesus says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” 

I am in tears as I hear the heart of God in these words.  How much the words, “but you were not willing,” sting my heart.

THE GREATEST FORCE

Love is the greatest force in the universe.  The Bible tells us that God, the creator, is love (1 John 4:16).   The world and all that is in it was created in love.  It was love demonstrated by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that brought us salvation.  The redemption of mankind was accomplished by His great act of love.  In love then there is sacrifice.  As Jesus exhibited, love requires the laying down of personal wants and desires for others, or maybe just redirecting our personal wants and desires to others.  Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We obviously have the right to use love, and we are commanded to use it.  First we are to love our God, and second to love our neighbor.  Our neighbor being anyone we encounter.

We have access to the greatest power in the universe!  How amazing is that?  Why aren’t we using this great power?  Oh, it requires sacrificing our own wants and desires.  Bingo!  The whole world could be changed by this great force that we have access to, but it requires sacrifice.

Taking a broader look, I find that there is little use of this greatest force in our world.   I’m not seeing a wide use of love.  Knowing that God is love, we can say there’s a lot of ungodliness being exhibited.  For those who like to blame this on God, perhaps a look in the mirror might clear their perspective.  I’m looking in the mirror, and I find much room for improvement.

A SOLID FOUNDATION

Throughout my diverse teaching career the subject I most commonly taught was U.S. History.  Having spent my early years on the east coast, much of what I taught was set in places that were familiar to me. The inscriptions that I often read in those places were filled with Christian words and ideals.  It was obvious to me that our country had a Christian foundation.  Aren’t those inscriptions still there?  Aren’t our founding documents full of Biblical references?

What would be the purpose of denying this foundational connection to the Christian Religion?  Perhaps there are those who would go another way, to change the foundation.  Can you change the foundation without destroying the building?  If the foundation is faulty, don’t you have to build a new building?  What would be the foundation for this new building?

I will close with this excerpt from George Washington’s Farewell Address from 1796:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

[This is a repost from last August.  I thought it worth revisiting in light of the current political circus.]

LOVE OR TOLERANCE

I only found the word tolerance used once in the Bible.  In Romans 2:4 Paul talks about God’s kindness and tolerance toward us, but God’s tolerance is rooted in his love for us.  Can we therefore have tolerance toward others if we don’t first love them?  I don’t believe so.  I believe loving one another produces a much broader connection with our fellow man that will naturally include tolerance.  If I don’t care about you, I will have a difficult time tolerating you.

Our society has rejected the foundation of God’s word, and we have decided to use man’s wisdom to solve our relational difficulties.  This doesn’t seem to be working.  We are told to have tolerance for one another. Tolerance is simply a bandage over the wounds produced by our bigotry and prejudice.   All we have really produced is hate.  God’s way, to love one another, has a deeper power because his Spirit is there to empower us. Man says to tolerate but offers only the power of the will of man.  Our sinful nature is constantly battling against our will.  Without God’s help, our ability to tolerate is at best a draw.

Jesus told us to love our neighbor as our self, to love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-44).  Jesus lived out those words. In Romans 5:8 we read, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  He loved us and gave himself for us even when we were against him.  This kind of love is powerful and proactive.  It involves giving ourselves to others.  Before we are capable of giving love to others, we first need to receive God’s love.  Knowing that we are loved empowers us to give love.

We’ve been teaching tolerance to our children for years without much success.  Perhaps we should take a different tack.  Let’s start teaching them about God’s way of love.  You know it might just make a difference.

WHO IS MORE RELIABLE?

I read on internet news that Social Security benefits may end in 2016.  This is bad news for anyone depending on the government to provide for them.  “The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”  This is from Psalm 34:10.  Is this statement true?  Can you bet your life on it?  Basically, I’m presenting here the contention between the institutions of man and the creator of the universe.  Who is more reliable?  

I’m going with the creator of the universe.  Governments have risen and fallen throughout history, but the sun has risen every day since the beginning of creation.  That’s reliable!  Are hard times coming?  Yes, they are coming.  For many, hard times have already arrived.  Put your hope in the Lord.  God may use a government program to help you or the endless selection of other resources at his disposal.  God is infinite and all powerful.  The governments of man are not, and they are ultimately in God’s control.

My encouragement today is to not let rumors and predictions upset you.  Remember the reassurance of Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path.”  Put your trust in the infinite all powerful God who loves you.  Nothing else can compare with him.

DECEITFULNESS OF WEALTH

When Jesus was explaining the parable of the sower to his disciples (Matthew 13:18-23) he used this phrase, the deceitfulness of wealth, when speaking of those who represent the seeds falling among the thorns.  In Matthew 13:22 Jesus said, “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word making it unfruitful.”  This phrase caught my attention as I read through the passage, and I thought it worth a more in-depth look.

I frequently like to refer to The Message to expand a passage.  Here’s how verse 22 reads, “The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.”  (I love The Message.)  The words deceitfulness and illusions both give indication of something that is not really there.  We are lead to think there’s something there, but it is a deception.  Here in America, I believe the deceitfulness of wealth hinders us from fully participating in God’s kingdom.  Perhaps it is our greatest deception.

I remember, when my youngest daughter returned from a mission’s trip to Mexico, she was deeply impressed by how happy the people were in the village where she stayed.  She said to me, “Dad they live in shacks and have nothing, yet they are always cheerful and happy.”  It was a great experience for her.  She had the opportunity to realize that possessions don’t bring happiness.  It’s a deception.

As we celebrate this Christmas season let us not fall subject to the deception that it’s about getting more.  We already have what we need, Jesus.  We are celebrating God coming to earth, living among us, and giving his life for us.  What else could we need?  JOY TO THE WORLD!  THE LORD HAS COME!