A Prayer for My Country

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he chose for his inheritance.

Psalm 33:12

Why do people look for their salvation and safety with government instead of God?

The stories in the Bible have a common thread running through them…. and some of the most referenced stories often have hidden meaning and message buried beneath the surface, while others are right out in front.

Let’s talk a bit about faith this morning.  Faith is a firm belief and trust in something for which there is no proof.  When we turn to mankind, to government, for an answer to the problems of life, are we acting out of faith or fear?

When the giant Goliath taunted the Israelite army for weeks on end with no challengers, were the Israelites acting out of faith or fear?  Saul, the anointed king of the people was trained, armed, and a physical specimen, yet he cowered, and by his example all of the army did the same – none willing to challenge a single man and place his life in the Lord’s hands through faith.

It was God’s will through this lack of faith to demonstrate the power of faith.  A boy, the youngest born of a small family, a shepherd – not a soldier, was offended by the nature of the giant’s taunts and how none dared stand against him.  He did not put on the armor of man, but rather the armor of God.  He then stood in front of the evil of his time unafraid and unashamed of his faith.

You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.

1 Samuel 17:45-57

When did this country stop trusting God and start trusting man to provide for it?

Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.

Exodus 14:13

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

Could all of our past and current problems be a result of a collapse of faith in God and the prideful replacement of it by faith in man?

 

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Grace Revisited

I originally wrote this in October 2012.  In light of my last two days’ writings, let’s revisit it.

Have you ever contemplated what grace really is?  Grace is not an abstract concept, but a fundamental reconstruction of mans’ relationship with the Almighty.

Imagine when you die and go to stand in judgment before God.  Your sins and shortcomings will be laid before you, down to very last.  The case against you is ironclad, even if you are a “good” person.

This is the point of the law – the Ten Commandments, the Levitical Law, all of the guidelines for living contained within the Bible – they are an ideal to strive for, but we ultimately will fail because we are human.  We are not holy, nor perfect, and we cannot approach God in any way because of even the tiniest sin.  God’s infinite righteousness and holiness would obliterate our very existence like a candle’s flame being blown out because we have sin in our hearts.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23

Here is where salvation gets interesting.  You and your attorney (the Risen Christ, if you have Him as your Lord and Savior) will not plead for mercy.  Here is how I have heard this characterized.

God: “How do you plead?”

Christ: “The client pleads guilty your Honor.”

God: “The penalty is death then.”

Christ: “Your Honor, Father, the penalty has been paid.  I, Your Beloved Son, have paid it in full.”

God: “The Lord God is Just.  Since the penalty has been paid, no further debt is owed.  Your record is forever sealed and expunged.  Welcome good and faithful servant and enter your rest.”

(I’d like to think that, upon that announcement, the entire heavenly courtroom full of angels erupts into raucous cheers and celebration.)

God loves justice.  He said so directly in Isaiah.

For I, the Lord, love justice.

Isaiah 61:8

There must be justice for the actions you took as an enemy of God, as a sinner.  God will not show mercy at judgment, but rather He will exact full punishment on sin.

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

Romans 8:7

If the story stopped here, we’d all be royally screwed. Again, THIS is the point of the law in the first place.  The law shows us how we fall short, it shows us our need for forgiveness, for grace, for mercy, and for resanctification.

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

Galatians 5:4

We thankfully have a Savior.  He came, lived as one of us – fully God and fully human at the same time.  He surrendered His glory, His will, and His preeminence so that He could serve as the payment of debt for all sin.

We do not rely on the mercy of the Court, but on the fact that Christ already paid the debt you owe.  God is just.

What are you going to rely on?  Mercy or grace?

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5:1-2

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

1 Timothy 1:13-16

Christ has mercy on you.  He created you.  He came to reconcile His creation to Him.  You might be just a speck in the grand scheme of things, but the Creator of the universe paid your debt.  The payment is grace.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

John 1:1-4

The whole concept of the entire Bible, is to convey to us that we are recipients of grace, not mercy.  There will be justice in the end.  There has to be because God is just.

So what is it for you?  Grace and the chance to hear Christ stand up and say “I have paid his debt in full?” Or throwing yourself on the mercy of the court at the very end?

The reason I have such a problem with people picking and choosing what they want to believe out of the Bible is that they are trying to make themselves more comfortable. They are trying to remove the scary part of the grace equation from their consciousness, because to admit that you are as good as shit in a sewer and unable to emerge from it on your own is a scary, unpleasant place to be, and it is even scarier when you consider that every single person who ever lived, except One, was in the same place as you.  The good news is that the One reached down into that muck and all you have to do is take His hand.

That is grace, because

GOD   IS   JUST.

The Race

In the aftermath of yesterday, my daily life has not changed one iota.  My heart aches for the families rent apart yesterday and the people immeasurably maimed.  Right now, there is little that I or anyone else can say that will help heal the wound or patch the broken heart.  The medical care that they are receiving is about as far as humankind can provide.  The heart can only be healed by God.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

Yesterday produced moments of terror for people trapped between the blasts triggered by men bent on nothing but bloodshed and destruction of innocent life.  The murderers will meet justice eventually, but even then, humankind is only capable of a certain level of justice.

In our society, a capital crime such as a murder can only be punished once.  After the first murder, all subsequent crimes become essentially free to the murderer.  Their life is already forfeit.  While it is our right to apply the laws of our society and to prosecute the murderers and punish them in accordance with those laws, that punishment always falls short of the anguish of the imposed pain felt by the victims and the families of the victims of these tragedies.

This is the essential understanding that someone has to come to in order to truly understand God’s infinite grace and mercy.  All men fall short of the Law.  By failing to keep God’s law, we violate all of it.  Righteousness in God’s eyes is all-or-nothing. It is black and white.  There can be no gray or the very righteousness of God would be called into question.

So bringing this back to the loss of life yesterday, while I mourn for those killed and pray for those injured, the pain inflicted will far outweigh any pain that humankind can inflect in retribution.  That is the terrible fact of acts of terror – the terrorist will inevitably cause more pain than they endure in the end on this Earth.

My great fear is that this IED-style attack is just the beginning.  The attack was simple to plan and execute and few levels of interdiction would successfully stop such an attack within a free republic such as ours.  Perhaps though, this attack will prepare the people of this nation for the trials to come.

We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

So what can be done in the face of terror knowing full well that our legal system, our military, our laws can only take from someone their life and that is the ultimate punishment that we can mete out?

Rise.

Stand up.

Be strong and courageous.

Yesterday, there were instances of God’s grace and mercy at work right in the aftermath before the smoke even cleared.  Men and women, immediately took up that great charge of the unorganized militia and sprung into action tending to the wounded, tourniquetting severed limbs, staunching bleeding, carrying people to hospitals, and intentionally putting themselves in harms’ way.  Those men and women were not just police and paramedics, but spectators – mothers, fathers, children, parents and the runners themselves (many of which heroically ran toward the blast site despite their exhaustion at the end of the grueling marathon course).

Yesterday there was death and despair.  Today there is hope.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

2 Corinthians 4:8-12

Those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

Symptom

I recently got into a long conversation with someone regarding a stance that I published on this blog.

The conversation was enlightening for me in one way, and not in the way that the other participant anticipated.  They were hoping to either trap me in a rhetorical loop or get me to recant my position by being unable to defend it aside from the Bible.  I refused to play that game as there is only One Truth and why should I deny it in order to win a rhetorical argument?

That entire episode and my reflections on it have encouraged me to write a little further on the topic of sin.  In that conversation, we were focused on the political hot-button topic of gay marriage.  Gay marriage as a topic of conversation is merely a symptom of an all-consuming sickness that this world is suffering from – sin.

Sin is not a fun thing to talk about.  Sin is an infection that we are all born with.  Whether you want it or not, sin is there.  It is rooted in man’s fall from our created state and has been the root cause of every moment of heartbreak, malice, vice, and destruction in our collective history.

The fundamental truth that we need to recognize in order to fully understand grace and mercy is that we are fully incapable of correcting the infection of sin.  It is insidious and amazingly survivable.

There are many avenues that people take in trying to cope with their infected state.

Some deny it and live as if they are perfectly normal.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:8-9

Some try to equate or rhetorically minimize their sin by either pointing out the sin in someone else’s life as worse than their own, or by using someone else’s sin as an excuse for their own shortcomings.  The problem is that sin is sin.  Small or big – the blackness on your soul from sin is impossible for God not to see.

Your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.

Isaiah 59:2

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
    you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.

Habakkuk 1:13

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

Matthew 7:3

Or perhaps the sinner disagrees with the correctness of the translation or of the validity of the scriptures themselves – disagreeing that their sin is not prohibited based on language, societal, or cultural differences.

For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

1 Peter 1:21

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

2 Timothy 3:16

Others will just, with full knowledge of their state of sin, refuse to change, or believe themselves as being honest about their sin state by flaunting it rather than abrogating themselves of it.

For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 8:13

So what will it be?  Own up to your sin?  Refuse to assist your brother in committing a sin that may cause him future pain as he goes through the agony of the infection that sin truly is?

Just as I should avoid sin in my own life and invite Christ and the Spirit to purge me of those fleshly desires, should I not also do everything in my power to help my brother to do the same even if they are still horribly infected with sin?  Is it not my responsibility to teach, rebuke, correct, and train up in righteousness as Paul instructed Timothy and as I cited above?

So, to those that would say that I or anyone else firmly planting our feet and saying that we will not concede an inch to the infection of sin as being bigots, or old-fashioned, or bible-thumping?  How dare I!

How dare I stand with the Law?

How dare I be willing to stand with Christ and overturn the money tables with Him?

How dare I look at the woman at the well and love her, but tell her to stop sinning?

How dare I speak the Truth?

Is it love if you give in to sin and allow it to continue unimpeded in this world?

Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.

Romans 14:22

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

Romans 6

 

 

 

Divine Providence

For those of my friends that choose to believe that America was founded as a secular nation, you have to ask yourself where the concepts that emboldened those brave men and women hundreds of years ago to cast a new nation on this Earth with the utmost of conviction and belief that God Himself was guiding them.

Excerpt from Know Your History by Bradlee Dean.

The University of Houston political science professors searched to find where the Founding Fathers chose their ideas:

They assembled 15,000 writings from the era of the founders.
They researched for 10 years, isolated 3,154 direct quotes and identified the source of the quotes:

8.3 percent were quotes from Baron Charles de Montesquieu;
7.9 percent were quotes from Sir William Blackstone;
2.9 percent were from John Locke;
34 percent of their quotes came directly from the Bible – and when researching where Montesquieu, Blackstone and Locke got their ideas, they found that theirs came from the Bible as well.
Consider Isaiah 33:22 from which you can extrapolate our three branches of government.
For the Lord is our judge,
    the Lord is our lawgiver,
the Lord is our king;
    it is he who will save us.

Day of Affliction

Today is Good Friday.

Today is the day that we remember that a man walked the Earth and was punished, tortured, beaten, scourged, and nailed by his hands and feet to a rough-hewn log.

That man had committed no great evil, but yet he hung suspended over the crowd on a modest hill.

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

He was just a man, like me.  He walked, talked, befriended, ate, slept, had fears and doubts, and yet he was thrown down.  Shattered.  Crushed.  Buried.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

It was my inability to obey the law.  Every lie I told, I spoke against Him.  Every malicious thought targeted Him.  Every wrong, evil, regrettable thing ever done by me was against Him.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Even more so, not only as the target of my anger and sin, but He willfully replaced me in the cross-hairs of an Almighty God who cannot tolerate sin no matter how small or trivial.  My King stood there while I spat in His face and scourged his back with a whip and took the punishment that I deserved in addition to the punishment and insolence that I doled out.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.

Isaiah 53

On this day, Christ reached forward and backward through time.  The battle was to take place there, on that rough-hewn log.  God would crush sin once and for all.  Christ hung, afflicted, because of me.  Christ took all of the world’s sin, past and present, on to Himself and offered Himself as the target of the wrath of God’s righteousness.

His love, His desire for my freedom from the terrible burden of blackening sin, His desire for me to return His love held Him there, not the nails.

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Romans 5:19

 

Feelings

So much focus on feeling anymore.  Emotionally driven decisions are rarely good ones in the long haul.

Liberalism touts itself as the politics of equality and fairness, but when you boil it done and understand the psychology behind it – you come out with rationalized guilt.  Liberalism is basically spreading the guilt, spreading the wealth, spreading everything out so every has an equal share so no one FEELS different than anyone else, but it ignores the basic reality of life, and that is everyone, without exception, is unique, so the goalposts on equality of feelings keeps moving further and further away for every step taken toward them with more entitlement spending, handouts, bailouts, graying of moral standards, etc…

So why this focus on feelings when the reality of a situation and history has shown us that worrying about feelings deals with the temporary issue at hand without at all addressing the true causes or effects of a problem.

When reality comes to call – do you address the problem at hand or try to provide a response that fails to address the problem, but makes you, or someone else “feel” better about it?

Do you address the true need or do you address a transient want?

Welfare (really ANY entitlement) makes politicians and bureaucrats feel better because they can give others’ money to those that do not have it. Gun control makes politicians feel better because they limit the tool used by a mad man rather than addressing what caused the mad man in the first place.

Pandering of any kind really is just a way to appeal to the emotional needs, rather than the real needs of a bloc of people – whether they be poor, black, Hispanic, gay, straight, or unionized.

You address a transient need to make them feel better by pandering to them, as if they were children that could be made obiescent with a cookie and a cartoon to distract them while the house burns down around them.  It is far easier to offer bread and circuses than to address why Rome itself is burning.

How far the mighty have fallen that THIS is how we conduct politics and governance in this country!

Like the blind we grope along the wall,
feeling our way like people without eyes.
At midday we stumble as if it were twilight;
among the strong, we are like the dead.

Isaiah 59:10

 

 

Liberty and Tyranny

I see the debate is framed here as it is in my own country; as a struggle between liberalism and conservatism.

Yet no matter how the struggle turns out, both the liberals and the conservatives feel frustration, no matter who “wins”, neither seem to enjoy the victory as “their” party fails to live up to its promises once in power.

You see there is another, less obvious, struggle at work in the body politic, and that is tyranny verses liberty. Tyranny is the natural course of professional politicians, whilst liberty is the heart’s cry of the populace.

Tyranny lives in the professional politician’s desire to remain in power, to increase his own personal power, and therefore the power of the central government over the people. He sells this through offering to lift the heavy burden of personal responsibility from off the shoulders of the populace.

The amount of this tyranny you allow is entirely based on the amount of personal responsibility you refuse to bear; for personal responsibility is the cornerstone of personal liberty. Surrender your personal responsibility to anyone or anything else, and that other controls your actions.

The true struggle of politics is therefore, how best to balance government control with personal responsibility. And the level of tyranny a people will abide is inversely proportional to their moral ability to shoulder personal responsibility.

Archbishop Cranmer

This is the essential issue at root in terms of our fight for maintaining liberty.  Every year, every election, every political cycle removes us more from our founding principles and ultimately will mutate this society from one of self-reliance, faith, and prudence, but to one of dependence, apathy, and lustful pursuits.

Someone once asked me why I think that the Second Amendment is the most important right codified in the Constitution. Why are guns so important?

Guns, weapons of war held in private citizens’ hands, are the ultimate manifestation in the modern age of personal responsibility and sovereignty, and once the people abdicate or curtail their personal responsibility and sovereignty, then they will have fallen further into tyranny and exposed themselves to more of it in the coming age.

The simple truth is that, while I remain armed and able to exercise lethal force not just in defense of myself, but of others, and of liberty as an whole, tyranny will be stopped.

In righteousness you will be established:
Tyranny will be far from you;
you will have nothing to fear.
Terror will be far removed;
it will not come near you.

Isaiah 54:14

Old Acquaintance

Looking back at this year, many amazing things happened.  They far outweighed the bad.  Even looking forward and the uncertainty of the next year politically, socially, culturally, and financially, I have nothing but praise for God for all the blessings He grants me every single day.

So looking forward, despite the uncertainty, I have great hope in another blessed year.  Whatever may come… I will walk forward into the next year with faith in His grace and faithfulness.

May the Lord of all creation grant you the same.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

pine_sun

For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.

Isaiah 41:13

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