God-devotion makes a country strong; God-avoidance leaves people weak.

Proverbs 14:34—Righteousness exalts a nation,

But sin is a disgrace to any people.

 

On its own merit this Proverb speaks volumes, especially to a Christian nation that has turned her back on the Lord. While America is a Christian nation, she no longer looks to the Lord for her guidance. Today we celebrate the birth of our great nation, birthed by some of the greatest and godliest men in the history.

When you read Pr. 14:34 in context you begin to see the difference between America our Founding Fathers envisioned and the one we live in today.

33 Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding,

But in the hearts of fools it is made known.

34 Righteousness exalts a nation,

But sin is a disgrace to any people.

35 The [leaders] favor is toward a servant who acts wisely,

But his anger is toward him who acts shamefully.[1]

 33Lady Wisdom is at home in an understanding heart—fools never even get to say hello.34 God-devotion makes a country strong;

God-avoidance leaves people weak.

35 Diligent work gets a warm commendation;

shiftless work earns an angry rebuke.[2]

So let’s take it one verse at a time. Wisdom finds itself “at home” in the heart of someone who understands. Godly wisdom is accepted by choice, not forced upon anyone. God meets the needs of others; sometimes they believe in Him, sometimes they don’t. Either way when God sees a need He makes every effort to make sure it is met. The heart of someone who chooses to let it in can only accept God’s wisdom. This is a heart just like God’s, open to do what is right and just without regard to person. The fool on the other hand closes his or her heart, depending on themselves or others to provide for their need. For this reason the fool has no idea that wisdom is even knocking at the door.

Up until 1962 America routinely taught God’s wisdom to our young minds. Now after 49 years without God in the classroom, we have leaders claiming to be godly in their decision making, and a future looking even bleaker. Our national righteousness began to erode at light-speed in the 1980’s and has never looked back. The result, exactly what v34b states—we have become weak, and a disgrace to what America has stood for longer than any other nation. At one time American exceptionalism was the driving force behind industry, ingenuity, and growth. We were so exceptional; people came in droves to become Americans.

Towns and cities were built around churches and everyone worked hard at their trade, “One nation under God, Indivisible.” Today we have become a nation of groups, divided, and unwilling to work to get ahead. The apostle Paul warned that sin abounds when hands are left idle. Jesus taught money is at the root of all evil, not that it is evil, which is why when asked what needed to be done to follow him he told the young prince to sell everything, and give the money to the poor. He was demonstrating what hard work could do for society. It will not only provide for you and your family, but also after that provision it can help those who can’t work themselves—the widows and orphans. In other words we are to take care of our fellow men, women, and children; not the government.

The Founders envisioned a nation of people independent from the government, leading a government dependent upon the people. That is precisely what America has been, rising up against the oppressive dictatorial leadership of nations like Iraq, Germany (twice), Russia, Korea, Vietnam, and Mexico. We have forgotten what happens when the economic policies designed to bring equality to the people are allowed to exist. These policies work to suppress the Word of God, and eventually in every circumstance lead to a controlling class, who believe they are better than anyone else (Israel, Rome, The British Empire, Germany under the Kaisers and Hitler, Soviet Russia, Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Iraq…). The freedom the Founders wanted for America is found rooted in the Word of God, and when we turn our backs on God’s Word, we turn our backs on freedom.


[1] The Lockman Foundation, New American Standard Bible, iPad, prod. Olive Tree (Olive Tree, 2011).

[2] H Eugene Peterson, The Message Bible, 2002, http://www.biblegateway.com. (Accessed July 3, 2012).

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Mary: A Picture of Obedient Faith

Luke 1:26-38

I am the Lord’s servant, Mary answered, May your word to me be fulfilled.

Who is this young lady? What did she do to merit being “highly favored” by God? Why choose her to be the Messiah’s mother? These are just a few of the questions people have concerning Mary.

She was a simple teenager, from a simple family, and community. Until this moment, she was unknown to anyone except her friends and family. Yet, God chose her to usher in a world changing person and event. Her family lived in a town 70 miles from any significant city. Odds are she had little if any education, other than what she learned from visiting the Synagogue. None of the Gospels provide us with much information about Mary. So why would God choose her?

The answer is simple, despite everything that may have been against her, Mary had a deep faith, which God knew would allow her to be the mother of His Son. We see how strong her faith was in verse 38 of Luke 1, “I am the Lord’s servant…May Your word to me be fulfilled.” She offered herself up to serve, even after hearing what God had in place for her. Gabriel came to her calling her highly favored, then promptly deflated that balloon informing her, she would become pregnant though she was not married. Undaunted by what could happen to her because of the pregnancy — social ridicule, divorce, even death — Mary’s faith told her God would take care of her.

Despite her questions, Mary put her faith before everything else. You see, faith and obedience go hand in hand. Following God’s plan if we know the whole story doesn’t require any faith, we as make a decision based having all the facts. Mary understood that God can see in ways we can’t. It is okay to have questions. In fact, it is good to have questions for God. Questions mean we do not have all the details, and in faith we are still obedient to His guidance and leadership.

Can you respond like Mary when God calls? We all have a choice to respond in worship or worry, fear or excitement. Mary focused on God, rather than man. In doing so, she could respond with worship and excitement to Gabriel’s announcement. Life does not always go as planned, and questions help us to light the path God paves. Seek information, not proof when asking questions, and be willing to wait out God’s working in our lives. Mary saw His plan unfold over 30 plus years, before she knew what Jesus would mean to the world, and her role in his life.

Mary teaches us three things about our relationship with God:

1. It is important to understand God’s plan for our life will not provide us with the whole picture up front.

2. Believe that God will do great things through our life.

3. When God calls, we are to submit to Him 100%, even though we may have questions.

Be Faithful In Giving Grace to All

For those who missed out on my lesson this week, we learned from Titus 2 that we need to keep all generations working together. Essentially, Paul wanted to make sure Ministers, whether older or younger made it a point to keep the other generation involved in and supportive of the lives of the opposite generation. If the Church is to fulfill it’s purpose, we must have all generations working together; encouraging and exhorting each other to be Christlike in all that we do.

However, if we are to truly do good for the Gospel, we need to expand our teaching and life example beyond our churches and families. Those same principles Paul listed must be expanded into our places of work (older) and school (younger). Until recently, the Church has been under the misinformed idea it cannot be present in [public] schools. However, over the past 37 years, See-You-At-The-Pole, and other organizations have helped students to know the truth about living out their faith at school. Some of that has also worked its way into the workforce.

By including “slaves” [employees] in his letter, Paul was emphasizing the point that all people should be treated with dignity and grace, just as God has treated us. Even though we do not deserve His grace, He has given it to us as a gift. How we treat those different from ourselves can make all the difference in how people view the church. If we include this passage with the passage from Ephesians 6, that expression of grace and love is a two-way street; [employers] are to show their [employees]. Regardless of where we are on the socioeconomic ladder, those whom you meet deserve to receive the grace God first gave you.

The question many of us have, might be, “How do I show grace to someone who does not behave in a godly manner?” It is often difficult to love those who have or continue to hurt you, but think for a moment how many times we “hurt” God by our words and actions. By living a self-controlled, upright and godly life, we say “No” to ungodliness and things important to the world (Titus 2:13). In doing so we are able to forgive, and offer grace and love. When we live such a life, no one has any means by which to accuse of hypocrisy.

Father God,

Thank you for the gift of grace you have given me. I know I do not deserve it, and I often trip and stumble on my walk with you. Please give me the strength and wisdom to live a life others cannot use against me, or the Church. I want to show others healthy doctrine with my words and actions.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Be A Faithful Minister – Defend the Faith

This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. 

1 Timothy 1:18-20 (ESV)
In his final directive to Timothy, Paul calls him to fight and defend the Faith. In doing so Paul utilizes two military references. The first provides Timothy with a direct order, “This I charge…” He give this order to Timothy both as a teacher and as a “father.” Though he was not Paul’s son, Paul considered Timothy as his son, for he had “raised” Timothy in the faith building on what his mother and grandmother had begun. The prophecy regarding Timothy raises some questions, however it more than likely refers to the moment laid hands on him before leaving to join Paul. It was customary for elders to lay hands, and anoint those they were sending out (Acts 13:3). At any rate, Paul called on Timothy to keep fighting the good fight (1 Tim. 1:18) in faith and good conscience (v. 19). These verses reminded me of Alan Rickman’s line in Galaxy Quest, “Never give up, never surrender!” Although Rickman’s character hated that line, it spoke to the aliens the crew was trying to help, and it really summarizes Paul’s intentions. 

Verse 19 speaks of fighting by holding on to one’s faith, and maintaining a conscience abover reproach. Faith and good conscience are acting as rudders and sails, guiding us through the rough seas of life caused by those wanting to discredit the Church. They provide us with the direction and power we need to “wage the good warfare.” If a sailor allows his or her sails and rudder to work themselves, they will end up crashing on the rocky shore, or being crushed by the waves that through them to and fro. As the hymn states, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Paul wanted Timothy (and us) to be careful we did not let go of our faith (sail) or good conscience (rudder). Those who already he declares have, “shipwrecked” their faith. Whether this was unintentional or by design, does not matter. In the end, when we let go of our faith and do not listen to our conscience, we damage our witness and our credibility, as well as that of the Church’s. 

In my first Be A Faithful Minister post, I spoke of the world’s tendency to want universal agreement, that we all have to be nice to each other all the time. Unfortunately, that is not what love is about. Love and compassion sometimes require us to do difficult things; like criticize, and confront others when they are wrong or teaching false doctrine. In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus teaches that we are to confront teachers of false doctrine, and how to do it. Though we may need to end a relationship with someone becasue of their false teaching, we still need to pray for them to see the err of their way, and for God to guide them to redemption. 

This entire first chapter, Paul dedicates to countering teachers of false doctrine. Although it is written from one Pastor to another, because of The Great Commission, we are all ministers of the Gospel. Jesus commanded all believers to go forth with what they have learned from him and teach it to everyone else. Therefore, we must be careful to not allow ourselves to become distracted, and blown off course. Each of us needs to be teach sound doctrine, that is the hope that is found in the grace and mercy of God, only through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Our lives are to preach the gospel, Jesus came to save sinners!, to all we meet. Sometimes you may have the opportunity to speak with someone about Christ, but most of the time you only get to demonstrate his love and grace as we pass each other on the street. Finally, be prepared to defend your faith. Live out the gospel, regardless of what others may say or do. Do not let anyone keep you from providing God’s aboundant love and grace to a lost world. Be willing to confront those who alter the Word of God to defend their actions. 

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for sending Jesus so that I can have an intimate relationship with you. You are an awesome God, who wants to see all Your children saved. Humbly we ask for you to give us the strength and words to fight the good fight. May I teach healthy doctrine, and my life tell the gospel story. 

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Be A Faithful Minister in Proclaiming the Gospel

Monday I provided some background to Paul’s writing to Timothy in Ephesus, and discussed the first of three directives Paul gave. As we continue our walk through 1 Timothy, we should see circumstances have not changed that much for the church, its leaders, and all believers. Today I will take a look at 1 Timothy 12-17, and Paul’s second directive for the church – Proclaim the Gospel

False teachers like to confuse us with foolish questions, and histories that do not match what we find in Scripture. This may seem like a silly question, but what is the message of the Gospel? While there may be many answers to this question, Paul focused on one, which is probably the most important – JESUS CAME TO SAVE SINNERS!!!

Like Paul, many or most of us do not deserve to be able to proclaim the gospel, let alone speak of or to God. However, Paul reminds us that even he, with all his anti Christian baggage was able to be redeemed by the Lord. The key to our redemption according to Jewish law is in our ignorance. Conscious sin, knowing we are sinning and doing it anyway must result in expulsion form the community. Committing sin because of our ignorance however, allows us to be able to make an atoning sacrifice. Thankfully, the Father has already done this, and Jesus affirmed our ignorance from the cross (Luke 23:24) when he pleaded with God, “Forgive them, for the know not what they are doing.” Jesus came to save sinners.

When one places their faith in Christ as his or her personal Savior, they accept his atoning sacrifice, and are allowed to come before God. It is our sinful lives, redeemed that gives us the right and authority to proclaim the Good News to the world. Our sinful lives serve as an illustration for the patience, grace, and love God has for His children, for His Creation. Telling our own story of redemption helps more than those hearing it. When we hear our story, from our own mouths, we are more thankful for God’s grace. We become humble, knowing that one man died so that I could have a relationship with God. Our thankfulness and humility allows God to use us to further His Kingdom. The last thing tell our story does for us, it draws us into a state of worship as we prayerfully stand before God in thanksgiving. 

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for send Jesus, so that I can enter into an relationship with you. Each day you help me to see my sins, and remind me I am redeemed. Let my story tell your story, and bring praise to You from those who see you at work in my life. Though I still am ignorant, You are providing me with new wisdom and knowledge each day, that I may not sin; that I might draw closer to You. 

In Jesus’ Name, 

Amen

Be A Faithful Minister

Have you ever gotten so preoccupied with the appearance of something, you neglected other key aspects? My wife and I like to watch the baking competitions on TV, and often the contestants get so wrapped in the design they forget about the taste or the time it will take to build their supper cake. The result is a cake that either looks, or tastes awful. 

Today there are many churches that are committing the same mistakes. This is a problem that has been going on for centuries. Even some of the. Apostle Paul’s churches suffered. One that I am reminded of is the one he left Timothy in charge of in Ephesus. Thankfully, Paul provided Timothy with instruction to over come distracting issues that hurt the Chruch’s witness and role in God’s plan for salvation. Open your Bible, or click the link to 1 Timothy 1 to see what I mean. 

Paul left Timothy in charge of the church at Ephesus, when he was called to Macedonia. Not a huge deal, Paul often left others in charge when he left. However, there were several things working against Timothy in Ephesus. Namely it was the worship center of the fertility goddess, Diana. Second, he was quite a bit younger than Paul, and not nearly as outspoken or deliberate. Not long after Paul left, several self-centered “teachers” began teaching doctrines contrary to want Paul taught and Timothy was trying to teach. These false doctrines were causing division within the church, and harming its ability to reach the unbelievers. 

In the first part to his letter, Paul offered Timothy three ways to keep false doctrine from spreading in the church. The first is to “teach sound doctrine” (vv. 1-11). Christian doctrine should always include hope for the people because of the love God has for us, and grace He provides through Jesus Christ. Today, we are all responsible for our church, and to keep false doctrine from being taught. Remember the Law, though fulfilled by Jesus, still serves as a reminder of from where we have come, or what we were. It’s purpose is to identify sin in our lives. It is faith in Jesus as the Son and Savior that allows us to come before God. A faith that causes us to change how we are living – to love others in such a way that hope is produced in their lives. 

What is this love to which Paul refers? Well for starters it is the love Jesus refers to as the greatest commandment – love God, with all your being, and love your nieghbor as you wat them to love you (Mt. 22:36-40). Before we can offer this love, we must first deal with the sin that is in our own lives, for the Lord wants us to be of a pure heart when we work to further the Kingdom. The sins we commit are ours, and we must own them, not blame them on the actions of others. That does not mean we are to be nice to everyone all the time. For love sometimes comes in the form of criticism and correction. Remember our objective is to glorify God in all we do, and get others to do the same (Mt. 5:16). 

Father God,

Thank you for sending us a Savior and Mediator to offer us the hope we needed. We need you in our lives everyday. Search my heart Lord and show me my sins, so that I may seek repentance and forgiveness. I want to love others the way You love me, and I cannot do that until I face my own sins. Your are a gracious God, Who wants us to be righteous and loving, just as You are. Help me to be more like Jesus and offer the hope this world needs through love.

In Jesus Name I pray,

Amen

Natural Law + Nature’s God = Nature’s Blessings – Genesis 1:27; Galatians 5:1

Bowing Eagle Prayer

Today there is much discussion around the role of faith our leaders are expected to employ. Contrary to the opinion of many, there was no question about faith and God when it came to American politics by our Founding Fathers. All we have to do is look at our founding documents to see where these men and women stood with regard to God, and Jesus Christ. In an early post I mentioned Natural Law, but what is natural law, and from where does it come? The next question then is, “How does natural law pertain to me?”

Natural Law is that which God, the Father and Creator of Heaven and Earth, create to govern His creation as it was first designed. Earth and life on it did not just happen, it was built based on a plan devised by God to provide his love and blessings to any who chooses to accept it. Created in and by love, natural law foundational principle is love. Love first for God who created it; second for each other to help those who stray from God to see how we were designed to behave and who created us (Lk. 10:27). Man was created in the image of God after natural law was established, which means it is the law we are to follow – the law of love. It is also the law upon which our legal system is founded. If commit yourself to live by nature’s law, which God put in our hearts through faith in Christ, two things happen: (1) You keep yourself from jail. (2) (This one is by far more important) you are adopted into the Kingdom, and have eternal life.

America was founded and built upon this simple principle, through God’s love all mankind has been given “certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (Declaration of Independence). The document goes on to state that governments are the product of man, designed to make sure these rights are provided to all people, and not at the expense of others’ rights.

In following Nature’s Law and putting your faith in Christ the third part of the equation are yours – Nature’s Blessings. True freedom and real blessings are your reward for living in obedience to God’s created law. This very faith led men like Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Rush to step out of their comfort zone to build a nation greater than any on Earth, ever. These men and women loved this land and people so much they stood against the might and power of Great Britain believing God was on their side. Their faith and love was rewarded on October 18, 1779 when Gen. Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown, and the Treaty of Paris September 3, 1783.

To this end I am calling on men and women to exercise that freedom which Christ so freely gave, to love as he did, giving up his life for his brothers and sisters. It is time to stop bickering and finger pointing, and simply love the people around you. Love them, not because of what they do or stand for, but because they too are created in God’s image. Let us return America to the great nation of love she once was. This is what God has called us to do.

 

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the law of love, and for the love and blessings You have bestowed upon your children. Help us to remain strong and willing to love despite the attacks of the enemy. You built a nation founded upon Your Natural Law, may we lead her back to what you designed her to be.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Listen, Wait, Speak – James 1:19; Ephesians 4:26

undulating_straight_highway_at_sundown

One of the keys to James’ letter – be doers of the Word, not just hearers (1:22) – here in the first chapter, specifically with regard to anger. Today’s world, and especially in America, anger seems to be the most prevalent emotion, despite all the calls for peace. Unfortunately, no one seems to want to address the underlying cause for the hostility people are showing toward one another. Everyone makes excuses, but no one is willing to address the issue head on. In the United States of America, which was built on faith and love, it is because we are anything but united, and our politicians and media are doing nothing to restore that unity. America was born because its people were united in certain godly principles, namely that all men are created equal, holding equal status under “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” (Declaration of Independence).

Nature’s God made two laws we are to follow: (1) Love God with every thing you have, (2) Love your neighbor as your self (Mk. 12:30-31). History shows how difficult these to simple laws are to follow. Post-modern, progressive thought is nothing new, for eons men and women have been at odds with each other because of a desire to be right. I am not saying anger is evil, or even bad, rather that what we do with it is the problem. As Paul notes in his letter, letting your anger fester only leads to bad things (Eph. 4:26). Even Jesus had moments of anger, clearing the Temple of the sales people (Jn. 2:13-6). Anger when used properly, as God designed it, is a tool to inspire us to change something that is wrong in the world, whether it be global in nature, or personal. Anger = Caring.

Key to a response in anger is to not respond angrily. To accomplish this difficult task one must take a step back, and as James says, “Be doers of the Word.” A doer of God’s Word responds in love and respect. This is where Jesus was responding from when he cleared the Temple of moneychangers – responding out of love and respect for Israel and the Fathers residence. Responding in love and respect requires of us to wait before we speak (or react), but no so long that no resolutions occur. Waiting allows us the opportunity to gather our thoughts and calm down, preventing an unjust response.

 

Father God,

 

Thank you for filling me with your Spirit, so that I know when to wait before acting. Please help to address wrongs in this world with anger that is not sinful, but filled with love and compassion for my brothers and sisters.

 

In Jesus’ Name

Amen