Sunday, December 05 2010
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,