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.

A GOOD LIFE

Most people would say, “My overall goal is to have a good life”.  If you asked them what that means or what does that look like, you’d get a human answer.

Planning for a good life requires many assumptions because our lives are terminal and of an unknown number of years.  This is a precarious platform on which to plan.  We don’t know what is going to happen five minutes from now, or if we will be alive five minutes from now.  Statistically, we’re pretty confident that we’ll be living five minutes from now, but you know statistics aren’t that reliable.

We have only one sure way to plan a good life.  I found that way in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” The longer I live, the more I appreciate the wisdom of this proverb.  Since we have no clue about the future, how can we plan for it?  The Lord alone knows what the future holds.  Trusting him provides a great life plan.  I’d like to add this amazing truth that comes with trusting the Lord, “in Christ Jesus death is no longer part of the equation.”

THE DEVIL’S SCHEMES

I had eye surgery this week so this is a repost.  I’ve been aware that our sequestering is an opportunity for the Devil to turn us against each other.  Negative thoughts can be whispered in our ears to cause us to think badly about those we love.  This is a reminder I needed to hear.  I hope it helps you.

 

Ephesians 6:10-12

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

We have an enemy that we cannot see.  This enemy is of the spiritual world.  How do we defend ourselves?  The ensuing list from Ephesians 6 tells us with this armor analogy:

The belt of truth

The breastplate of righteous

Feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace

The shield of faith (which extinguishes the flaming arrows of the evil one)

The helmet of salvation

The sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God)

These are to help us stand against the devil’s schemes.  Let’s take a look at how the devil works.

In Genesis chapter three we get our first look at the enemy’s methods.  He uses three devices.  One, question the truth, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  Two, dispel the truth, “You will not surely die.”  Three, set a temptation, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.”

Here’s an example of how it plays out today.  Everybody says that drugs are bad, but are they?  You surely won’t become addicted.  Look at all the fun your friends are having.  You don’t want to miss out.

Yes, the scheme is still the same, and we are just as vulnerable as Eve.  The way these lies are communicated is through suggestions, whispers in the ear, or through someone who has already bought the lie.  The devil is always scheming.  The plan is to steal, kill and destroy (See John 10:10). He and his helpers are constantly busy.  What lies and temptation is he setting before you?

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?

GOD IS PERSONAL WITH HIS CHILDREN

Last week I made this statement, “God’s love is personal. As Jesus ministered with his disciples, he knew each one of them individually. They were intimately involved in Jesus’ mission.” The truth of this struck me. We are his disciples, and he knows each one of us individually. We are intimately involved in his mission.

That being said, it stands to reason that by examining Jesus’ interaction with his disciples a clearer understanding of our relationship might be gained. Jesus taught his disciples directly, he occasional rebuked them, and always forgave them. We don’t have Jesus physically here with us to teach us, but his indwelling Holy Spirit teaches us in the most intimate way by leading us and guiding us. Jesus sometimes rebukes us, but he always forgives us. He knows we are humans.

In John chapter 14, Phillip says to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus’ response is very revealing, “Don’t you know me, Phillip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” I take from this that the Father’s and the Son’s interaction with us is the same. The broad perspective here is that God’s interaction with us is always the same whether with God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit. God is personal with his children.

A great deal of Jesus’ interaction with his disciples is portrayed in John chapters 14-16. Reading those chapters, thinking about how personal these exchanges are, has given me clarification for my relationship with Jesus. I hope you have a chance to explore these chapters and embrace that experience as well.

GOD’S KIND OF LOVE

God’s love is other oriented. God’s love is self-denying.  I’m relying simply on what Jesus demonstrated on the cross to make these statements. Jesus thought about us. He put our need for salvation before his own needs.

God’s love is personal. As Jesus ministered with his disciples, he knew each one of them individually. They were intimately involved in Jesus’ mission.

Today we are recipients of God’s kind of love. He continues to look to us and our needs. He knows us personally and draws us into his family.

1Peter 1:17-21 MSG, Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no after-thought. Even though it has only lately – at the end of the ages – become public knowledge, God always knew that he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.

FACING EVIL WITH LOVE

(1 Peter 3:8-9) Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Continuing last week’s subject of overcoming evil with good, the above quoted Scripture expands on this theme, and includes loving and caring for one another. The Apostle Peter asks us to return evil with blessing. Blessing inspires an active giving in the face of evil, a kindness, an encouragement. This is facing evil with love.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies, pray for them that persecute you (Matthew 5:44).” As I put together these thoughts, the words “God so loved the world” come to mind. When we become his children, these words become a clarion call for us. As his children, we should also love the world. Consciously putting aside hatred, prejudice, and revenge is part of the new life he has given us.

I never want to present topics of this nature without inserting Jesus’ reminder to us, “Without me you can do nothing.” Only in fellowship with Jesus can we ever hope to love the world, and love enough to overcome evil.

OVERCOMING EVIL WITH GOOD

“The only way evil ever wins victories is by making a man retort by evil, reflect it, pay it back, and thus afford it a new lease on life. Over one who persistently absorbs it and refuses to give it out, it is powerless.” (Eugene H. Peterson, Traveling Light, p.188)

I am truly challenged by the words of this quote from the book Traveling Light. Everything in my cultural training and my human nature tells me to get back at someone who does me wrong. Yet, I see in my retaliation, the propagating of evil. How can I change my natural tendencies?

I find in Jesus’ death and resurrection a definitive example of overcoming evil with good. By not returning evil for evil, he brought forth the ultimate victory over evil. I, as his follower, am challenged to carry on his example of good over evil in my daily life. When I think of the suffering and humiliation that Jesus went through, I realize that this is not going to be easy. Perhaps, I can simply trust God and do as the Apostle Paul exhorts in Romans 12:17, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.”

Paul expands on this exhortation in the next few verses then concludes in verse 21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Evil perpetuates evil. When I repay with evil, I will be overcome by evil. The only way to break the chain of evil is to avoid responding with evil. Now there’s an encouragement. Who wants to be overcome by evil?

Jesus gave an example of how I can overcome evil in Matthew 5:38-39, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also.” So if I hit them back the situation escalates, and I perpetuate evil.

I know that these words challenge our basic nature. Yet, if we are to have victory over evil as Jesus did, we must avoid returning evil for evil, and overcome evil with good.