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Sunday, December 05 2010
Part 2
Last month I began to make some reflective observations of what I see as a dynamic shift in the standing of our country. I listed these general points: 1) the economy remains in flux; 2) national security remains threatened by outside enemies; 3) government corruption is at an all-time high; 4) we have increased our national debt in just 2 years to an amount that exceeds the entire history of our country combined; and lastly, 5) our country is divided in its overall interests and pursuits. Last month, I addressed the issues of the economy and with biblical precedence, concluded that our economy is being threatened by our country’s move from merely neglecting God, to the outright denial of Him. Again, I realize there are several other areas that footnote these items. But I only seek to address the accentuated changes in our culture in the United States of America. And let me reiterate as well, as I observe these issues, I am not so interested in how the world handles it as much as I am in how the church does. According to Jesus, all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18). We being His disciples then are required to follow His lead, and not our own. 
Fewer sermons have I delivered in the past that were met with as much chagrin as one following the September 11, 2001 attacks by the al-Qaeda branch of Islam. In this lesson, I attempted to explain a complex concept of the theological dilemma classically called ‘The Problem of Evil.'  For brevity's sake, this will be somewhat simplistic and not fill in apparent gaps - God, the creator of all things, did not create evil. Evil is not something that is ’created’ per se; it is the net result of anything that does not desire to do the will of God—and evil exists in our world today because of mankind. Biblically speaking, evil is the result of our sin. This is a hard pill to swallow. If the biblical notion that evil is the result of man’s sin, and we as mankind are sinners—we share in a mutual responsibility for all evil. But before you dive off of the deep end in defensive posturing, it’s not to say that we stepped into the cockpit of the aircraft and piloted the jet into one of the Towers. However, we cannot conveniently divorce ourselves from being connected. All of mankind shares in the solidarity of sin (Romans 3:10).  God desires for you to love Him with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. He even commands you to do so – but He won’t make you do it. And in our sin, we are filled with pride and arrogance, and we turn from the Creator and worship the created (Romans 1:25).  So, to register in our hearts and minds our desperate need for Him, He allows us to suffer the consequences of that which we have committed against Him so that we can understand what seriousness and depth of wrong exists.  Then we can fully understand our incredible need for Him, His love, His goodness, and His protection. Have you ever let someone you know or perhaps a child of yours experience something that you knew would be painful because they were bent on doing so and you knew that the only way that they would learn their lesson was to have to suffer the result of doing what they wanted to do? The old West Texas saying comes to mind; “Some people learn by reading, some people learn by listening, some learn by observing, but some just have to reach out and touch the electric fence for themselves.” In short, God allows evil to exist so that in contrast He may demonstrate His divine love and goodness and that we will come to Him. 
I will never forget a pivotal juncture in my spiritual walk when a congregation member asked me some 12 years ago if God was causing wildfires that were ravaging California at the time. After having a brief diatribe with myself, I told her that I would have to get back to her after I looked at the Scriptures for a definitive answer. And I did. And the answer was never clearer—God directly uses and controls all the natural elements, including natural disasters. Period. So, does that mean that God is responsible if a person runs into the dry part of a forest and throws down a lit match? Not hardly. So how does the logic hold up? Remember in Job when the devil came sauntering through the throne room of heaven before God? And remember what followed shortly thereafter? Job’s world was shattered by what appeared to be a ‘faultless cause’. But the point is that it was caused by a force and even more importantly, God allowed it. That is another tough pill to swallow. Therefore, if God is omnipotent (all-powerful), and He is— and He is in control of all things, and He is — then all the evil we see in this world is being allowed to occur. Thus we see the complexity of ‘The Problem of Evil.' Surely you have a plethora of questions about specific acts of evil and assertion that God would allow such horrific acts. Those must be addressed in another article. As a reminder, the second point that I am dealing with this month is why our national security is threatened by outside enemies—and even more to the point, that they are being successful in attacking and controlling us. 

Can one read Romans 1:18-32 and honestly say that we are not witnessing such atrocities in our present society? As we watch, we see the tearing down of God’s laws that are publicly displayed, the banning of Bibles and prayer in our educational systems in the name of ‘civil liberties,' the incorporation of twisted religions in the name of a perversion of ‘freedom of worship,' the demand and positive response to homosexuality, and in our own contemporary holocaust, we hear the great cry of our unborn children that has most recently shrouded itself in an innocent package called ‘stem cell research.' What is this land where we live? Where is our heart? And to think that many people who claim residency in the church body that Jesus Christ purchased with His own blood would stand to even question the legitimacy of whether or not these things stand opposed to the very nature of God is unthinkable! How dare anyone — how dare us to even consider calling good evil and evil good. Do we not remember what the prophet Isaiah stated in 5:20? “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” And in fairness to such a scathing rebuke of the American church as a whole, I also feel it necessary to give a litmus test for ourselves to see if we have become that which embraces such wickedness, or even that which is headed in this direction. Here is the test: In reading this past paragraph, did you find yourself mentally ‘shutting down’? Did you feel an overwhelming sense of negativity and begin pushing away? In an attempt to observe yourself from the outside in, do you see any subconscious pressure that says, “I’ve got way too many pressing problems in my world to sit here and worry about this as well?” And maybe, just maybe, did we find ourselves even objecting to any of the things in Romans 1 as not being applicable in our day and age and trying to split hairs as to when some of these things may be acceptable? In the words of the Apostle Paul — “May it never be!”

Remember—the subject matter here is answering the question as to why our national security remains at risk. 

Perhaps at this point, you are finding yourself thinking, ‘Well, we can’t be all that bad. We haven't been taken over by an enemy yet.' Maybe our issue here isn’t one of a lack of spiritual protection as much as it is one of us simply doing a better job with our security. Strengthen the borders, increase the control and power of TSA, give better strategies in our military and its efforts abroad. Scripture gives us the answers to these thoughts by the demonstration of God’s character founded in His actions. An easy demonstration is found in the period of Babylonian captivity and exile of Israel (605—536BC). This time is of great relevance in Scripture as reflected in the amount of record it is given in: the scrolls of Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Lamentations, as well as all of the minor prophets (i.e. Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, etc) that God speaks through to warn His people of the impending captivity if they do not repent. 
There were 3 stages of the captivity, each one progressively worse to the point of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple that Solomon built. In brevity, the point is that 1) verbal warnings were issued from God, through His prophets, for turning away from Him; 2) God uses natural disasters, as well as disease and pestilence to get the people’s attention and demonstrate His ‘seriousness’ about their sin; 3) He delivers them into enemy hands to bring them to repentance. Should the people genuinely repent at any point, the progression of these events would halt. Periodically, God would skip a significant disease or pestilence infestation and go straight to occupation, but the overarching pattern is still consistent. It is so consistent, that we see it in Exodus when God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians (granted the Israelites did not ‘occupy’ Egypt. They were technically released from slavery, which the result is the same as an occupation in that the nation is declared ‘defeated’), all the way to Revelation, where we are told it will be used as a finality in judgment (i.e. John’s revelation to the churches, the witnesses, natural disaster, disease, pestilence). 
So, does this mean that if we follow the Lord we can just lay our national defenses down? Of course not. Then why should we have to be prepared to defend ourselves if attacked, if we have God’s favor? Because, just like the Israelites who had to fight to enter Canaan, we must experience the gravity of the responsibility. Some call it ‘having skin in the game’. We must be invested personally. But let us be abundantly clear—we cannot win any war without the blessing of God; and “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD (Psalm 33:12a)." The mighty nation of Egypt fell to slaves because God was behind the slaves. Victories are not because of great armies. Victories are because God has purposed them to be so. And if you are asking the question as to why evil empires are allowed to conquer, the answer lies within those who are being conquered. I know many Christians are terribly uncomfortable with this truth. But if He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, we cannot think that He has suddenly changed just because we are ‘America.' 
How do we become the most secure nation in the world again? Embracing God, seeking His will as founded in His word, and appointing leaders who will lead the nation in like manner. Make no mistake, the real notion behind the absolute lie of ‘separation of church and state’ is intended to actually be the separation of God and our government. This is literally a new found notion that is a poison rolling through the veins of our country. I have before me 2 books: one is a book full of biblical passages and devotionals that was published for our servicemen in the military. The title—’Strength For Service to God and Country (1942).' It has a warning issued inside the cover that states, “When inscribing the presentation page of this book, don’t write the name or number of division, regiment, or company, ship, or other military unit with which the sailor or soldier is serving.” The next book is entitled the ‘Spirit of Liberty Holy Bible Bicentennial Edition’. The forward states, “The Publishers feel that it is fitting and proper that the Book most responsible for what is best in the American spiritual heritage should be accorded its rightful place in nation’s observance of its 200th anniversary.” I also own a military issue of a New Testament issued by the United States Marines from WWI that has a metal jacket (cover). Our public institutions and news media outlets are successfully brainwashing the people of this country into thinking that God has nothing to do with whether we stand or fall. Yet any reasonable person should be able to see the decline in our national standing in this world. We have gone from one nation under God to making apologies for our existence to the rest of the world. And as if this country, which used to be the greatest representation of Christianity to the world, has not insulted God enough with its behavior and governmental changes, the headlines in the news this past week is about repealing the ‘don’t ask don’t tell' policy of homosexuality in the military. Did we miss Romans 1:26, 27? Did we miss the last words that say ‘receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error’? What do we expect to come of this? How do we expect the Lord to respond? I have grave concerns for the safe keeping of military in combat operations being headed by politically correct leaders as opposed to God fearing men. And yes, I’ve been told how ‘complicated it is,' and how we ‘need to be careful of what we say’ in this matter. But at what point do we actually begin to fear God more than men (Matthew 10:28)? 
Whether it sits well with us or not, when we find ourselves losing in battle, or someone pulls off a successful attack against us on our soil, Scripture is very clear—it is because God has allowed it to be so. And just as in Joshua 7, when Israel was defeated by the sons of Ai, we must ask the Lord, as Joshua did, why we are losing. Then, we must be prepared to hear His answer as in Joshua 7:11; “Israel has sinned, and they have transgressed (‘sin that knows better’) My covenant which I commanded them.” For the sake of our national security, we, the church, must beg God for His mercies to protect us, and to give us leaders who will fear Him. We must not be silent. We must not be prideful. We must not be ignorant. The lives of this nation are at stake.  "If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now My eyes shall be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. 2 Chronicles 7:13-15."                                                                
                   Keep the Faith,
Posted by: James A. Sterling AT 07:57 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, December 04 2010

 Part 1

As we move into the latter part of our calendar year and begin to reflect on 2010, we recognize a tremendous shift in our country. Some general observations are: 1) the economy remains in flux; 2) national security remains threatened by outside enemies; 3) government corruption is at an all-time high; 4) we have increased our national debt in just 2 years to an amount that exceeds the entire history of our country combined; and lastly, 5) our country is divided in its overall interests and pursuits. I realize there are a number of other areas that footnote these items. But I only seek to address the accentuated changes in our culture in the United States of America. 
As I observe these issues, I am not so interested in how the world handles it as much as I am in how the church does. According to Jesus, all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18). We being His disciples then are required to follow His lead, and not our own. Now, this sounds simplistic, but my observation of the church in America is that many, if not most of those who call on the name of Jesus as Lord, depart from seeking the will of God when it comes to their politics. I’ve even had Christians tell me directly that their political views have nothing to do with walking with Christ. You may chuckle at the hypocrisy, but when tested, we may find how little we actually consult Him in the matters of government and the laws in which we bind ourselves. When we called upon Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, ‘Savior,’ this meant we needed saving, and ‘Lord’ meant that we were willing to subject ourselves to His will. 
And in the context of ‘His will’, I also find ‘Christians’ arguing over whether the Bible is God’s inerrant word. So please let me state bluntly – if one does not view the Bible as the word of the living God (known as Yahweh (YHWH)), one needs to find another God by another name. These writings came long before the time of anyone reading this, which means the precedence is already set. If a person wants to call upon Jesus as Savior but rejects the Bible as His will, they are merely attempting to hijack His sacrifice for an idolatrous prospect of their own.  John 14:21 quotes Jesus saying, "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." Moreover, we are commanded to not add to or take away from any of the words of Scripture in Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; and Revelation 22:18, 19. And I will add that it is no coincidence that these statements are given at the last of the Torah/Law of Moses/ Pentateuch and Revelation – the two places of ‘finality’ according to their context and position in Scripture. 
So let us establish this – We are to seek God’s will and His way and follow what He says. No ‘ifs.' No ‘ands.' No ‘buts.' 
The items I’ve listed at the front of this article are not listed in priority or importance – but I will biblically address them in the number I’ve listed. 1) Here is a montage of passages concerning God’s word on living well and prospering: "Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. "O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Then you will prosper, if you are careful to observe the statutes and the ordinances which the LORD commanded Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and courageous, do not fear nor be dismayed. Then the Spirit of God came on Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest; and he stood above the people and said to them, "Thus God has said, ' Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD and do not prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, He has also forsaken you.'" An arrogant man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper. " You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess. ‘But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’.  

Anyone can get a concordance and query the word(s) ‘prosper’ or ‘live well’ and find that I have only given you a fraction of how many times the Lord speaks on the matter. But the final analysis is this: good economy is directly tangible to following the will of God. Furthermore, this ‘following’ exceeds the individual cause. The economic situation of a country rests entirely on the people of the country and their desire to submit themselves to following His will and His way.
So for the sake of challenging this supposition and testing its philosophy, let’s present China and its current situation of economic superiority over the United States. China is not a God-fearing country and yet they appear to be growing and ‘prospering’. How can this be? I could effectively argue that only a small percentage of the people see any wealth in China – but let’s not make this easy on ourselves in this test.  Let’s assume that China would appear to be, for lack of better phraseology, ‘more blessed’ than America, because after all, Scripture does say, ‘The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender's slave (Proverbs 22:7).  
Initially, God does tell us that we are supposed to trust Him, even when we see Him do good things for wicked people; "for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45b)" and "for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men (Luke 6:35)." Secondly, Scripture tells us that God has blessed enemy nations to use them as ‘rods’ of discipline when His people rebel against Him.
This leaves us with a rather simplistic conclusion – if America is suffering economically, it is because it has departed from God, as reflected in the leadership it has elected. Bluntly (again), willingly ignorant (stupid on purpose), arrogant, godless politicians are in place because of willingly ignorant (stupid on purpose), arrogant, godless people who elect them. And Christians are so eager to compromise their ethics and principles based on what they think an elected official can do or get for them. Too often the great justification is in believing that it’s the choice of the lesser of two evils, and therefore, qualifies the most debased of individuals. How is it that men and women who openly and proudly argue in the most adamant of senses for the right to murder the most helpless of all human life (the unborn), who participate in what God has called an ‘abomination’ (Leviticus 18:22) of relationships, embrace false religions, and declaratively announce to the world that we are no longer ‘just’ a Christian nation, continue to receive the praise, adoration, and unyielding support of the American people? Americans have loved their representatives who have fought for things to be brought and given to their districts that the people did not earn. Therefore, it had to be taken from someone who had earned it. But the people did not care, so long as they received it. This exacerbated others in feeling that they were ‘owed’ something beyond which they had worked for, on the grounds that things had been taken prior. And thus, the cycle ensued. Our people love to denounce slave labor while we import record amounts of cheap products from nations that work children in dangerous conditions for pennies a day. People protest companies in the name of ‘environmentalism’ and yet drive their cars to the rallies burning fuel from oil producers in foreign countries who have no regard for pollution. We are victims of our own self-centeredness, which is the essence of all sin. 
This is not a new sin and thus gives us a feeling of helplessness. We can’t see viable choices that have any chance of being elected, so we compromise, hold our noses, and vote for the veritable ‘lesser of two evils.’ We see no immediate result, and in our impatience and ‘instant gratification’ mindsets, we never consider investing to make a change that truly is in line with the Lord God Almighty. What has deceived God’s people in this nation to ever think that He would approve of electing people who are so specifically against His will? Psalm 33:12 states, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance."
So, how did this happen? What sent us in this direction? How did we come from statements like The First Charter of Virginia (granted by King James I, on April 10, 1606), "We, greatly commending, and graciously accepting of, their Desires for the Furtherance of so noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God;" and "We Recognize No Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus! (April 18, 1775, John Adams and John Hancock)", to the blatant rejection of Him in our leaders? It was forewarned by God through Moses in Deuteronomy 6:10-12; "Then it shall come about when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." Very clearly, America has forgotten from whence it came. 
We cannot have it both ways. We cannot turn our backs on God in the political, entertainment, economic, and educational (etc) sectors and praise Him in our worship assemblies while expecting His blessings to continue our prosperity. If He loves us, and He does, He will not allow us to flourish in such sin. The good news? "And My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14)." Do you want the economy to pick up? Apply yourself in this way and elect leaders who will do likewise. It matters not if they get elected – but it does matter that you did what you could in the eyes of God. The people in Ezekiel 9:4 objected to the abominations of their nation and its leadership, but to no avail because they were ultimately led into Babylonian captivity. However, they were preserved (marked) by God through the persecution. You must choose whether you are going to be committed to an economic model/political party, or to one you call ‘Lord.'
Keep the Faith,
Posted by: James A. Sterling AT 01:30 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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