Thursday, July 7, 2011

Begging at My Father's Table

I LOVE being a dad!

Sure, I get tired at times, and at times I don't quite know how to 'get through' to various kids, but... I LOVE being a dad!

Start asking me what I love about each one of my kids, and I'll have no problem bragging on each one!

With all that in mind, do you know how much it would actually HURT me if I thought that any of my kids didn't know that? It would rip my heart out if they thought that they had to BEG me for my love, or my blessing.

Bottom line: I love 'em so much that I WANT to bless them! They don't have to pry it out of me, or talk me into it. I ENJOY blessing my kids.

In fact, it sometimes pains me to say 'no'--because I know what's best for them, and, in that particular moment in that particular situation, it would not be best for them to have 'it' (whatever 'it' might be).

...but I DO NOT want them to ever feel like they have to beg me for needs like water, food, shelter, nor do I want them feeling like they need to beg me for blessings of any kind.

I am their father. I love them. I want to bless them.

It is amazing to me, though, how often I still treat my Heavenly Father as though I need to 'beg Him for blessings'. He is THE Perfect Father. He loves me (as He does each one of His children), and that means it is natural in His heart to want to bless me. (Not to spoil me...not to be my 'sugar daddy', and not to satiate my lusts and demands...but to bless me with good things.)

I find myself asking God--my perfect, loving Heavenly Father--for 'scraps from His table' when He wants to bless me with the seat right next to Him at the banquet!

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!
So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

I guess the question I have to ask myself is, "Do I really BELIEVE that God loves me as His child, and that He wants to bless me?"

If I don't...why not?
Could it be that I've bought into a lie about God?
Could it be that I've been deceived?

I think so!

...and, as a dad, I think of how it must hurt My Father to know that I don't believe in His love--not really.

"So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children." (Romans 8:15-16)

Lord...Father in Heaven...Dad...teach us to really understand, and to KNOW that you are Good, you are Loving, and that you really do WANT to bless us.

Help us to stop the begging, and to have the confidence to come to you, our loving Father, as your true children.

You are my love me and I love you. Help me to rest in that love! I want to soak it up, enjoy it and learn to be confident in it!

I want to so 'delight' in Him that we become really 'close' a daddy to his child.

May God help me to believe!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dependent Independence

In last week’s historic broadcast of the US Open Golf championship, this is what you would have seen:
Notice anything missing?
Obviously, the words “Under God” were edited out. NBC apologized later in the broadcast, saying it was not done to ‘offend’ anyone…but they have never explained WHY they did this.
QUESTION: Does it matter?

A couple of years ago, President Barack Obama said this:
Was he simply describing the reality of America today, or was he sharing his ‘progressive’ philosophy?
Question: Is he right?

QUESTION: Does it even matter?

I believe it DOES matter, and that the best hope for America’s future is a return to its Judeo/Christian roots…but probably not in the way that you think.

Let me explain.

America, it seems, was founded as a Judeo-Christian nation.
From the Mayflower Compact that the Pilgrims made in 1620 to John Winthrop, the 1st Governor of Massachusetts, faith—specifically the Judeo/Christian faith—was a bedrock of belief for them.
Winthrop wrote these lines, which President Ronald Reagan would later reference for our modern age:
“the only way to avoid this shipwreck (ie, being punished by God) “and to provide for our posterity is to follow the counsel of Micah—to “do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.
For this end, we must be knit together in this work…We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when He shall make us a praise and a glory, that men of succeeding settlements will say “May the Lord make us like New England”
…and we shall find that we are “A city on a Hill”. (a Reference to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5, that we are “a light to the world”, and a “city on a hill” that His followers—who put their faith into action—should be like a city on a hill—meaning a light and an example to all.)

The founders were mostly Christian men…some were ministers, most were educated in seminaries, in which it was taught that the best way to govern our lives—individually, and as a group—were from principles founded in the scripture.
The belief in American exceptionalism was NOT that Americas traditions, etc. were better than others, nor that the American people were better…but the belief that God played a DIRECT and ACTIVE role in founding of the American people. Many of the founders believed that, without God’s direct action and blessing, America as a nation would have never come to be, nor would it continue.
George Washington wrote that it was “incumbent upon the American people to show gratitude, both publicly and privately, to the Great Author of every public and private good”.
James Madison observed that we owe our first allegiance to the Ruler of the Universe.
Benjamin Franklin, easily the most ‘progressive’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ with respect to philosophy and religion, said that “doing good to men is the only service of God in our power, and to imitate his beneficence is to glorify him”. He referred to this as the “American Religion”.

Time Magazine has recently come out with an issue that questions the relevance of our Constitution. In a obviously biased survey with leading questions throughout, they end up showing that Americans don’t still buy into the Constitution.
But the founders were very clear: The only way “America” would work would be to KEEP THE PEOPLE voluntarily submitting themselves to God…and if they stopped doing so, the so-called ‘American experiment’ would lose the active blessing of God, and would (they feared) cease to be.
Daniel Webster wrote, “I can see no danger to our country from a foreign foe…Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another {source}: The inattention of the people to the concerns {and actions} of their government—from the carelessness and negligence of the people.”
Samuel Huntington wrote, “While the great body of citizens are acquainted with the duties which they owe to their God, to themselves, and to men, they will remain free; but if ignorance and depravity should prevail, they will inevitably lead to slavery and ruin.”

As they put together our founding documents they embraced the role of God—

In the Declaration of Independence—which we celebrate tomorrow—they wrote,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States..
…And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Abigail Adams, to her husband, John: (after the battle of Bunker Hill—as he was in Philadelphia serving in the 2nd Continental Congress): “The race is not to the swift, not the battle to the strong, but the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Trust in him at all times, you people, pour out your hearts to Him. God is a refuge for us—Charleston is laid in ashes…may Almighty God cover the heads of our Countrymen, and be a shield to them”.
Patrick Henry, in his famous speech in St. John’s Church, said this:
“They tell us, sir, that we are weak—unable to cope with so formidable an adversary (as the British army)..Sir, we are not week, if we make proper use of tho0se means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three million people armed in the holy cause of liberty…are invincible by any force which our enemy can send. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight..
He finished with the famous lines “I know not what course others may take, but as for me…give me liberty, or give me death!”

After their freedom and liberty were won, Washington wrote, “The man must be bad indeed who can look upon the events of the American Revolution without feeling the warmest gratitude towards the great Author of the Universe, whose divine interposition was so frequently manifest in our behalf. And it is my earnest prayer that we may so conduct ourselves as to merit t a continuance of those blessings with which we have hitherto been favored.”

Their faith was not only ‘in the back of their minds’…it was front and center for many of them:
George Washington said “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable support. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness”

Our Constitution—our basis for all laws and collective behavior—was influenced in large ways by the Judeo-Christian ethics that the founders knew and embraced.
Ideas like ‘all men are created equal’ and that our “inalienable rights” don’t come from the state or the king, but from God—were radical at the time. (And they still make a huge difference today…because, if our ‘rights’ come from the government, that gives the govt. the ability to take them away!)
The very idea that each person could be counted on to give their input into the form and specific officers of the government, and that peaceful transitions of power would be written into this constitution were very radical at the time. One man/one vote was unheard of at the time.
John Adams, after the Constitution was ratified, wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other”
Even Thomas Jefferson, who rivaled only Benjamin Franklin in his religious tolerance, wrote “can the liberties of a nation be thought to be secure when we have removed their only firm basis—a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God?”

From it’s inception, America’s ‘identity’ has been “Independent”…but it’s been a “Dependent Independence”. America has been “dependent” on Almighty God for it’s freedom, liberty…and it’s “Independence”.

Even today, our attempts to export this “Democratic Republic” style of Govt. reminds us that it isn’t only about a set of laws, or a constitution. This form of govt. will not be welcomed—and thus, will not ‘stick’—unless the culture it’s being offered to will welcome it.

This is a uniquely Judeo-Christian idea.
The 10 commandments, for example, have played a huge role—not only in ancient Israel—but in America. Moses figures prominently in the writings of the founders, as well as in the sculptures and artwork in our halls of power.

So, again, I don’t believe there’s any doubt that America was founded as a Judeo-Christian nation, and that this partly explains why we have been the most prosperous, most powerful, and most liberating nation of all time.

That is why America has historically also been the most generous nation on Earth.
Americans give away hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars to charity—here at home and abroad—every year…more than 2 x as much as the next most generous nation.

When other nations are in trouble—via natural disaster, modern mishap, or military threat—they have a tendency to drop their protest signs against America, and instead come to us for help.
And, for the most part, Americans answer—in a HUGE way.
I believe that a PART of the reason for the freedom, liberty, prosperity and success that we have experienced is that we have, historically, welcomed the role of God—specifically the God of the Bible-- in our lives and our governance.
“Blessed is the nation who’s god is the LORD!” (Ps. 33:12)

Question is, ‘what now’?

Clearly, we are no longer the kind of nation we were during the era of the founders.
America’s population—largely because of it’s status as a beacon for freedom and liberty in the midst of a dark world—has changed dramatically.
America has been a ‘melting pot’ virtually from its inception…we have welcomed immigrants from around the world. We have not demanded that they forget where they came from, but have demanded that they become “Americans”, first and foremost.
We have had a process for legal immigration that has worked well for hundreds of years. We have had citizenship tests (which most of us would probably fail), and have held up the flag of this country as a unifying symbol—of a republic, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
…and it’s worked! More people try to get here to become citizens than any other country in the world!
America is, as John Winthrop put it back in 1620, ‘A shining city on a hill” that others would look to and be attracted to!

Yet, again…we are very different now.
Our racial and ethnic makeup is changing, and from a religious standpoint, we are different as well.

(If we were close to 100% adherents to Christianity in 1776, what do you think we are now?)
According to a Pew Research study a couple of years back, here’s what I found:

Is it possible for America in the year 2011 to be governed by the same Judeo-Christian principles which have guided and directed for centuries?
I believe it is!
Not only that, but I believe it’s critical!
Our very constitution…our very existence as a nation—is at stake!
Time magazine…Constitution…weighted article seems largely designed to make it look irrelevant.

Are our best days as a nation behind us?

Many people who look at Biblical Prophecy about the end times note that, in all the proposed scenarios, America does not play into their understanding of end time events at all.
Could it be that America will not participate in battles over Israel, or in ‘wars and rumors of war’ for one reason or another?
Is it possible that we’d be so financially strapped that we wouldn’t help our one middle eastern ally, which also has a Democratic Republic style of govt.—if they were attacked?
Is it possible that America would be so focused on one kind of ‘crisis’ or another at home that we literally could not get involved in these kinds of events?
Is it possible that Americans would be so sick and tired of helping other people that—largely like we did for the lead up to the 2nd world war, we’d bury our head in the sand and say ‘it’s none of our business’?
Is it POSSIBLE that America—when the end time events roll around (which MAY not be as distant as you think) WILL NOT EVEN EXIST?

Because we have rejected—or are in the process of rejecting—the Judeo Christian background that we’ve had, we are beginning to implode.
Our moral standards have lost all bearing—and now almost literally ‘anything goes’.
Our respect for God—and his role in our nation—is mocked and ridiculed, if it’s brought up at all.
It seems that the One Thing that is NOT to be ‘tolerated’ in America in this day and age is a person who is a Christian, and still believes that living life— individually and as a nation—by the Bible—or at least with Biblical beliefs as it’s foundation—is still the best way to live.
You and I can speak out about almost anything today. We can wave signs, we can have parades…we can do all of the above for almost any cause.
…but try to have a rally about returning to our Judeo-Christian roots, and you’ll be opposed, ridiculed, even assaulted.

So, what are we to do?
Back in the OT time, when the nation of Israel was literally “God’s people”, they were told in no uncertain terms by God Himself: I will be with you and will bless you…but if you turn from me and worship the false Gods, and follow the customs and practices of the nations around you, I will remove my hand of blessing from you, and will punish you.
…but He also promised that it would not be that way forever.
No matter the reason for the problem..whether it would be their sin, or God’s testing, one thing they could be sure of: If they called to Him, He would rescue them.
“If 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).

Now, many Americans claim this verse as a way to get our country back on track, but we have to note that there are some differences between Israel and America…
Israel was a THEOCRACY…with God at the lead of the country.
America was never set up to be a Theocracy. Our founders saw the wisdom in religion, but did not want to mandate a particular religion.
This promise was to Israel, specifically.
America is not the equivalent of “My People, who are called by My name”

However, I DO think that the CHURCH in America fits that bill.
…and many of US in the CHURCH have done the very same things that God was warning His people of Israel against.

That’s why I personally believe that the key to America’s future is not so much in the politicians or the politics…but in the Church.

WE NEED TO COME CLEAN! WE need to repent!

WE need to humble ourselves, to pray, to seek His face and to TURN FROM OUR WICKED WAYS.
WE need to worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

If we do that, I believe that He will continue to bless America…after all, even if the 82% figure is too high, it still shows that a significant number are showing up at church…and if they turn back to Him, He will do powerful things in this country…
AND He will use His people (the Christian church) to spread the great news and begin to change the country, one conversation, one person at a time…not as a ‘takeover’, but as a natural outgrowth of the Church being the Church.

So, what are we to do?
Well, we—Christ followers—are to FOLLOW CHRIST!

So we will no longer have the govt. to back up our policies and beliefs.
Follow Christ anyway.
There may come a time—not too far off, in my opinion—in which our beliefs will not only be mocked, but in some cases, outlawed.
Follow Christ anyway.
There may come a day—again, not too far off—in which the Govt. tries to step into the pulpits of our nation and tell us what we can and cannot say about behaviors, beliefs, mindsets and policies in our nation, from a Biblical perspective.
We will say it anyway.

We do not bow our knees to men and their governments…we bow our knees to Jesus only.

It may surprise you to hear that, in some ways, I agree with President Obama…our nation is NOT a Christian nation—not now.
After all, a ‘nation’ cannot be Christian.

We—in the Church—we Christians and Christ followers—may have relied on the govt. to be our friend over the years.
Sometimes we even thought that, by electing ‘our guys and gals’, our nation would be transformed into ‘heaven on earth’.
I don’t believe it will—period.
And that’s o.k., because here’s the truth:

No matter who is elected, and no matter what laws are passed, this nation will not be full of actual Christ followers UNLESS WE –the current followers of Jesus Christ—START LIVING IT OUT AND TALKING ABOUT IT MORE.

Our hope for our nation does not lie in laws and governments, but our hope for our nation lies in Jesus Christ…and ‘governments’ cannot turn to Jesus Christ, only individuals can.

We DO need to be convinced—today more than ever—that we are Christians first, Americans 2nd.

We need to be people who are committed to following Jesus, no matter what goes on in our culture.
We need to be educated and prayerful, and we need to be INFORMED when we vote. (And, I believe, we need to vote for those who we believe best fits with our identity as Christians.)
We need to get the Word out about God, about Jesus, about sin and salvation—one person at a time.

As to the nation, I still believe that the best days can be ahead…but it will only be that way IF the Church is the Church…not relying on the govt. to do what we should be doing—sharing the word, sharing our resources, and bringing both to those who need it…Living holy lives, dedicated to conformity to His Word and His Character, regardless of what our culture—and even our govt.—says about it.
Does God still want to “Bless” America?
I don’t know.
I don’t know what God’s plans are for the country of “the United States of America”
I DO know what Gods wants from the Church—he wants people who are committed to Him, living life according to His word, and loving Him and loving others—as He said.

He wants us to be purified, committed, and dedicated to Him.
As we do that, we will impact those around us.

…and I believe that THAT is America’s best hope—people coming to Jesus Christ.

So this weekend…and this week…let’s make sure that WE are “humbling ourselves” and ‘Praying”, ‘seeking His face” and “turning from our wicked ways”.

This weekend, Celebrate our Independence…but celebrate it in the right spirit—celebrate our DEPENDENT Independence!