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Archive for March, 2014

Ever since Harry Truman was president in the 1940’s a day has been set aside each year as a National Day of Prayer. Presidents have traditionally hosted an annual ecumenical service marking the day in the East Room of the White House. President Obama abolished the service.

Atheist groups in our country had long objected to the National Day of Prayer. According to the Los Angeles Times, President Obama “has shown an unusual sensitivity toward atheists.” Our country, of course, has both believers and non-believers in God. Both have a constitutional right to believe as they do.

In recent decades there has been a consistent effort by secularists and atheists to push God out of the public square. They want God’s presence diminished in our national life. Many commentators believe that cultural power in America has already passed to the anti-Christian elite who rule the academy, Hollywood, and the arts. To the degree that this is true, secularism has become America’s state religion.

Today seventeen percent of Americans say they have no religion. Northern New England has passed the Pacific Northwest as the region with the highest percentage of persons who are unaffiliated with a church. As a share of the U.S. adult population, Christians declined from 86 percent in 1990 to 76 percent in 2008. This decline in religious affiliation is not restricted to Christians. Jews who describe themselves as practicing their faith fell from 3.1 million in 1990 to 2.7 million in 2008.

Every nation, every culture needs to be inspired by a body of morals to ultimately survive. Behind that body of morals must be a doctrine we call belief in a Supreme Being. What will ultimately be the result of the increasing rise of secularism in our country? For America’s greatness to continue a satisfactory answer to this question must be found. Former editor Meacham of Newsweek, in an article called “The End of Christian America,” pointed out that the following things have happened in our country since 1960:

  • The U.S. illegitimacy rate has rocketed from 5 percent of all births to 42 percent.
  • African American out-of-wedlock births have increased from 23 percent to 71 percent.
  • Since Roe v. Wade well over 50 million abortions have been performed.
  • Between 1960 and 1990, the teenage suicide rate tripled, then fell slightly, but is still the third leading cause of death of young adults and adolescents aged fifteen to twenty-four.
  • Cheating in sports, scholastics, business, and marriage is pandemic.
  • Violent crime has increased 550 percent, and prison population has increased 700 percent.

These are grim statistics, but they are all true. Cultural degeneration and social decomposition travel down the road together. In the early days of America Yale University Timothy Dwight wrote, “Without religion we may possibly retain the freedom of savages, bears and wolves, but not the freedom of New England.” Can our nation survive freedom from belief in God? Unless the current trend is reversed we will definitely find out.

What our country desperately needs is a genuine spiritual awakening. This will not happen until our pulpits come aflame with the Word of God that calls for sincere repentance of sin and commitment to a holy life. This places a tremendous responsibility upon the shoulders of those whom God has called to preach His Word. A good text with which they might begin to call for spiritual renewal is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14 – “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Pastor, immerse yourself in those words, pray yourself full – and preach until you are empty!

 

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Does Satan really exist? A Gallop poll some years ago revealed that as many as 70 percent of Americans believe he does, but half of that number see him as the sum of everything evil, and not as a personal being. So, which is he – a personal being, or just a term used to define the forces of evil in our world?

The Bible certainly portrays Satan as a personal being. Jesus during the wilderness temptations knew him to be a personal being. In that case, one might well ask, “Why would God create someone as devious, as evil, as horrible as Satan?” The answer to that question is that God did create him – but not as an evil being. The Bible says that he was created as a beautiful angelic being – the most beautiful of all the angels. He was called “the anointed cherub” (Ezekiel 28:14).

The Bible only lists the names of three angels – the archangel Michael, the angel Gabriel, and Lucifer, who is later called the devil or Satan. We are not told exactly how the angels ranked in heaven, but we know that Lucifer ranked high among them. Describing him, Ezekiel 28:15 and 17 state, “You were perfect in all your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you . . . Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground……”

The Bible gives us even more insight into this fascinating but completely wicked fallen angel in the Book of Isaiah: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground. . . For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God . . . I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:12-14). God then gives His answer to this strutting, egocentric being: “Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit” (Isaiah 14:15). He gave him the “left foot of dis-fellowship” by kicking him out of heaven.

Satan shows up later in the Garden of Eden where he reveals what his strategy is to be on the earth. A loose translation of what he said to Eve might go something like this: “Eve, are you serious? Did God really tell you not to eat the ‘no-no’ fruit in the center of the garden? That’s terrible! You must feel rejected. God just doesn’t want you to know as much as He knows. He doesn’t want you to be His equal. Go ahead, take a bite! It won’t hurt you! You will be enlightened with a new and higher level of consciousness.”

Following his encounter in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, the devil set up shop in the world, establishing a well-defined set of goals. When we least expect it and are the most vulnerable, he hits us between the eyes with such devious ideas as: (1) God has forsaken you; (2) God doesn’t love you, or you wouldn’t be having such a difficult time; (3) You have committed the unpardonable sin; (4) God is not fair.

The devil knows his time is limited, his opportunities short-lived, and his sentence already settled and sure. Therefore, in these last days the devil has dramatically stepped up his efforts to oppose mankind. In other words, he has pulled out all the stops, and regularly goes for the jugular. His objective is to draw as many people as possible away from Christ. After that, his plan is to cause those who have accepted Christ to stumble and fall. If he cannot cause Christians to fall away from Christ, he hopes at the very least to immobilize or neutralize them so we will not make a positive difference in our world.

Christians need to know that the closer they stay to the Lord the safer they are and will be. That does not mean the devil has no power on earth today. What it means is that he no longer has the upper hand, thanks to what took place on Calvary. The three words Jesus proclaimed while nailed to the cross – “It is finished!” reverberated throughout heaven and hell. Satan and his demon cohorts were from that day forward totally defeated. Christians share in that victory.

Even so, the Christian life is far from one of ease. It is marked by conflict, spiritual warfare, and intense opposition. The Bible not only likens the Christian life to war – it actually calls it a war. Satan is sometimes a dangerous wolf, disguised as a sheep. Sometimes he roars like a lion, but more often he comes like a serpent, in all his depravity and horror. And sometimes he comes as an angel of light. Make no mistake – those who stay committed to Jesus Christ, our Commander-in-Chief, will meet Satan on the field of battle.

If you haven’t met Satan lately, it could be because you are traveling in the same direction he is! In that case, you should go to Calvary’s cross, repent of your sins, turn around, and head in the opposite direction.

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In Harry Wilson’s book, The Seeker, there is a very emotional scene where young Bernal came to his grandfather to inform him that he had decided not to enter the ministry. The reason for his decision was that he could not accept the traditional views of God that his grandfather preached.

After a lengthy conversation, the old man looked into the face of his grandson and said, “I have no claim upon you; and I shall be glad to provide for you – to educate you further for any profession – away from here – from this house.” These were stinging words, and Bernal had not expected them from his grandfather.

“Thank you, sir,” he replies. “I shall hardly take anything further. But I will go . . . I will take a small sum to go with – enough to get me away . . .”

As Bernal slowly walked away, his grandfather fell on his knees and prayed for his grandson. As he did so, his sobs shook his body convulsively.

The following morning at twilight Bernal came to say goodbye to his grandfather. He made his way to the study door, then paused for a final word: “I believe there is no One above whose forgiveness I need sir – but I shall always be grieved if I can’t have yours. I do need that.”

Standing inside the open door, the old man said, “You have it, I forgive you any hurt you have caused me . . . For that Other forgiveness, which you will one day know is more than mine – I – I shall always pray for that.”

As Bernal left the following morning, his sister, Nancy, called out to Him. He paused and they talked for a while. Finally, Nancy asked him a very important question: “What are you, Bernal?”

“Nothing, Nance – that’s the trouble,” he replied.

“But, where are you going, and what for?” she continued.

“I don’t know either answer,” he replied.

What a powerful story! It tells us that it not enough for us to know all of the theories about God. We may be familiar with what the latest theologians are thinking, and be totally aware of the doctrines taught by the church, but unless we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, our soul will feel the same emptiness that Bernal felt when Nancy asked, “What are you?”

The greatest danger in life is not that we aim too high and miss it, but that we aim too low and reach it. God did not create us to be a “nothing.” He created us in His spiritual image – to be noble and to live on the highest plateaus. Even so, the purpose for which God created us is always blurred when our goals revolve around fulfilling our selfish desires.

Have you found the purpose for which God created you? If not, could it be that your goals in life revolve around the acquisition of money and the things that give you the most pleasure?

Money can buy luxurious mansions, flashy sports cars, fine clothes, expensive jewelry, and exciting adventure, but none of these can satisfy the deepest longings of your soul. The richest person in the world cannot buy health or love or any degree of lasting happiness. Money cannot buy courage or forgiveness or the level of inner peace that comes from knowing all is well with your soul.

In Wilson’s book, The Seeker, the questions Nancy asked Bernal emphasized the importance of knowing who you are and where you are going in life. Until you have a satisfactory answer to these questions you will never know what it means to be genuinely happy. But what is happiness? And where can it be found?

Happiness is not something you have in your hands or have on deposit in the bank; it is something you carry in your heart. It begins the moment you establish a right relationship with God. This is why C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity says, “God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself.” With God living in your heart you will have a healthy mental attitude, a grateful spirit, a clear conscience, and a heart full of love. If these four things could be bought, you wouldn’t be able to afford them.

Therefore, ask yourself in a personal way the questions Nancy asked Bernal: “Where am I going”? And “for what am I going?” It is vitally important to have a worthy aim for your life, but only if you are willing to pull the trigger.

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Power failure!

Power failure – the lights blink a couple of times and go out. Suddenly you are surrounded by total darkness. The sound of motors running – heat pump, refrigerator/freezer – can no longer be heard. An eerie silence hangs in the air. Your first thought is, “What happened?”

If you live anywhere along the southeastern coast of the United States it could be because you are hunkered down in the middle of an Atlantic hurricane. Or it could be a blown transformer resulting from a vehicle hitting a power pole. Or maybe it is something as simple as an electrical short somewhere inside your home that flipped the switch in your power box. But no matter what the cause, a power outage is no fun. If the power is off for an extended period of time, food decays in your refrigerator and freezer. Heat can rise along with your temper. When you are cut off from the source of power it changes everything, doesn’t it?

The thought of an unexpected interruption of electric power gives us the opportunity to segue into another kind of power both available to and needed by each of us. In that regard, consider two questions:

First question: Who is your source of power? Is it you? Your spouse? A teacher who has influenced your life in a powerful way? Your friends? Or is it Jesus Christ? Those who go through life believing that they are the master of their own fate, that they need nothing and no one beyond themselves, ultimately run into problems and challenges that need a power source from beyond themselves. But those who rely on the Lord for their power have a source that is available twenty-four hours of every single day.

The power that God makes available to those who believe in Him is accessed through prayer. Prayer is dialogue, not a monologue. It is our talking to God and God talking to us. Said the psalmist: “I will hear what God the Lord will speak” (Psalm 85:8). And through the psalmist God says: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Therefore, when at night you cannot sleep, don’t settle for counting sheep – talk to the Shepherd. In our prayers we often try to give God instructions, when what we need to do is report for duty.

In Acts 2:32-33 we read, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” He gives us the gift of power through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Second question: Are you plugged in? An electric tool cannot and will not work unless it is plugged in to the source of power. The same thing is true with regard to living the Christian life. You have to be connected to the source of power. We are connected when we pray, listen, and read God’s Word. You say you are busy? Yes, we all are. But we do what we want to do, what we consider to be a priority, don’t we?

You can pray lying down, sitting, standing, walking, or driving down the highway. I have prayed many times while driving – but not with my eyes closed, of course. You can read God’s Word at any time – if even for five minutes. Those who begin the day with Jesus Christ realize that they are connected to a power source that won’t overload or run out throughout the day. There is no need to have a power failure in your life.

Samuel Henry Price was on target when he said: “The world is full of faces, black with anger, green with envy and red with shame, which could be made radiantly white with holiness and spirituality aglow by the transfiguring power of prayer.” Prayer is love raised to its greatest power. It is one of God’s unique gifts to those who believe. Prayer is a very reliable and always available source of power!

Do you use it?

 

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