Admittedly I was tired at church yesterday and I felt badly for my moments of not paying close enough attention to Pastor Bill’s sermon. What I got I relish to this very moment. His sermon, as typical, brought the fire of God into the belly of our souls. As Bill was speaking, and quoting our fine Presidents (some finer than others) I found myself wandering to the question, “And why are we taking God out of the pledge,” “why are we taking God out of our nation?” We were founded on the virtues and values of God but now, because of the freedoms with which our nation has been formed, we are turning our backs on who brought us to this place from the beginning – God!
Bill quoted Ronald Reagan:
“America was founded by people who believed that God was their
rock of safety. I recognize we must be cautious in claiming that
God is on our side, but I think it’s all right to keep asking if we’re
on His side.”
Bill followed up this quote with this thought:
What President Reagan said is really something to think about.
Think of the difference it makes when we choose to be on God’s
side. The early church certainly experienced the benefits of being
on God’s side. Let’s look at an occasion when the Apostles were
commanded to preach no more about Jesus.
Acts 4: 24 – 31 tells us how Peter and John handled being told they were not allowed to preach about Jesus (http://bible.logos.com/passage/nasb/Matthew%205.38-39#q=&ref=Ac%204%3A24-31%2Chi%3DAc%204%3A24-Ac%204%3A31&ver=NASB&tab=home&content=.)
24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O 1Lord, it is You who amade the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them,
25 who aby the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,
‘bWhy did the 1Gentiles rage,
And the peoples devise futile things?
26 ‘aThe kings of the earth 1took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His 2bChrist.’
27 “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy 1aservant Jesus, whom You anointed, both bHerod and cPontius Pilate, along with dthe 2Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,
28 to do whatever Your hand and aYour purpose predestined to occur.
29 “And 1now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may aspeak Your word with all bconfidence,
30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and 1asigns and wonders take place through the name of Your holy 2bservant Jesus.”
31 And when they had prayed, the aplace where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all bfilled with the Holy Spirit and began to cspeak the word of God with dboldness.
Bill had us take a journey along the pathway of questions. The first of which is asking what God can do for you. The second is what you can do for God.
What can God do for you?
- God answers the prayers of people.
“Much prayer, much power; little prayer, little power.” All of what happened in Acts 4:24 – 31 happened because people prayed. They prayed together, the power of many, and the prayed honestly, their hearts were open to God’s answers. To quote Pastor Bill, “Whatever your theology, you cannot walk away from a reading of the Bible without admitting that there is a relationship between desperate faith-filled prayer and God’s intervention into the affairs of men and nations.Today I think back to the masses of prayers reaching out to absolute strangers. A young woman who had given birth to her second child, a sweet baby girl. The pregnancy was perfect, the labor and delivery flawless, and then only a few days after the baby was born the Mom was in the hospital having cardiac arrest. They saved the Mom but her heart was so weakened by the traverse of childbirth that the doctor’s put her at the top of a donor list. The woman’s name was brought to the MOMS group I was a proud member of (Moms Offering Moms Support) – a non-religious group that were there to help each other be the best Moms we could be – and we all prayed. We prayed night and day. We prayed in our meetings. God’s hand of hope reached down and touched this woman’s heart. It was healed enough that she no longer needed a transplant, and she could go home to be the devoted Mom she dreamed of to her sweet girl, and older son.I think about the young boy, Austin, who survived his second airplane crash in his short 16 years. The first crash took his Mom, sister and brother. The second crash took his step-mom, his Dad, and a beloved family pet. Austin was injured, brain damage, and the news report went out. I, along with thousands of strangers, cast our calls of prayer to God asking for Austin to survive this terrible accident, to give him hope, courage, and life. God answered by giving Austin his dog Brady back, unharmed, and to help heal his injuries. God heard the power of the prayers of many, strangers and family/friends alike. And he is still holding Austin in his tender spirit with love and grace.God answers prayers.
- He does what he wants to do.
Have you ever prayed to God for answers and the result was not what you expected? Does that mean that God is not good? That God did not listen to you? Or is it that your prayers were not honest and sincere? Or that the answer is truly the one God can give you and it is in your belief that you accept or reject God for his answer? Per Bill, “The early church prayed knowing that their prayers did not violate God’s Sovereignty. He is still God and not taking applications for His replacement.”sov·er·eign·ty [sov-rin-tee, suhv-] –noun, plural -ties.
1. the quality or state of being sovereign.
2. the status, dominion, power, or authority of a sovereign; royalty.
3. supreme and independent power or authority in government as possessed or claimed by a state or community.
Bill goes on to say, “We ask but God is not bound by our prayers. This is actually good news. Thank God because He sees what we don’t and knows what we don’t, that He will move in our best interest.”
So if God knows what is best for us and will do what he wants anyway, why should you bother to pray? Are you only going to pray if you get the answer you want? We are merely humans, mortals who are walking the Earth, which was created by God. We are born in the image of God, thus he is our Father. As a child did your Father (and Mother) ever tell you “no” and you thought for certain that was the wrong answer? Did you ever question your parents only to find out they were right? Praying to God is like having a conversation sitting on your Father’s knee. You may not like the answer in the moment, but you will understand why that is the answer over time. So pray to God, talk to God as you did your Father as a young child (or your Mother), and listen to the answer. Open your heart and your spirit to understand and accept even if it is not the answer you want to hear.
- He honors his word.
When Pastor Bill spoke, my ears were fully engaged, “Believers should seize God’s promises relevant to our nation’s crisis situations as well. “ He quoted from one of our former President’s, Woodrow Wilson:“There are a good many problems before the American people today, and before me as President, but I expect to find the solution to those problems just in the proportion that I am in the study of the Word of God.”In my lifetime, albeit 42 years, America is in the worst state I can recall. I do remember when I was a young child unemployment reaching a staggering number, and some similarities to today’s lingering crisis, but this is something new, deeper, and longer lasting. Yesterday we still, as a nation, held God at the helm of our ship, today we are doing all we can to have God walk the plank. There are advocates fighting to take the word God from the Pledge of Allegiance, others got a bill past saying that the word God cannot be used in public education, and all along the line are those that just have chosen to not even teach or practice the values with which God would want a nation to exist.Where has all this anti-God, anti-religion taken our nation? In my humble opinion to Angry Street, to Entitlement Road, to Lazy Circle, and it can all be found in the city of Anti-Believers.For all of those that are really not certain about God, that lacking of faith or belief, is not a right to get off the hook of at least following the values with which we discuss. The values which God is asking each person, American or otherwise, to live their lives is one of honor, trust, nobility, kindness, acts of graciousness. It is a life that leaves anger, murder, and entitlement at the doorstep of some dark and evil place.
A bit over a year ago I was in a debate over gun control. The laws keep changing and not necessarily, again my humble opinion, for the better. Those that have differing opinions are not wrong, nor are they bad people. One of the things driving my position is the number of reckless murders that have seemed to be increasing in our country. As I mature, and look at things from different perspectives, I can see how it is not necessarily gun ownership that is the underlying issue but the anger that is currently the sea of our nation.
Over the course of the past few years I have read article after article with the same exact thread – Man unable to find job kills entire family before killing himself. These men opted murder/suicide instead of changing lifestyles because they were angry, disillusioned, and felt a sense that they deserved all they had but did not deserve to lose it.
One particular article still stands with me. The details of the story shared that a father had lost his job and was struggling to find another. He was frustrated and the neighbors recall he’d often be seen screaming and his wife. They said before he lost his job he was a peaceful man. Divorced with a teenage son from his first marriage and a newborn with his current wife. They were a quiet family, though warm and friendly. On this tragic day the man was heard yelling again, one neighbor recalled for the news article. This same neighbor was in their garage when she saw the wife go to the car with the newborn (3 months old) strapped into the car seat. The man came out of the house shot the baby, shot the wife, turned the gun on the teenage boy who ran for his life, and then himself. The boy made it to the neighbor’s house but now has to endure the rest of his years reminded by the devastation his father’s anger played out on his family.
What strikes me the most about this article, and why it is one I have yet to let go of, is that the infant, 3 months old, had no time in this world to cause friction, make trouble, hurt someone so much that they’d want to kill him. His soul and spirit were as innocent as the budding of a new flower. And yet, anger, lacking of faith, took his life.
- 4. He rules the rulers of the Earth.
Psalm 33:12 – “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people wom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” (KJV)Proverbs 21:1 – “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” (KJV)1 Samuel 13:13 – “You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.”And from George Washington Pastor Bill quotes, “Direct my thought, words and work, wash away my sins in the immaculate Blood of the Lamb, and purge my heart by Thy Hold Spirit… Daily frame me more and more into the likeness of Thy Son Jesus Christ.”And George Bush, “The Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us; so that He may incline our hearts to Him, to walk in all His ways… that all people of the Earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no others.”
Harry S Truman, “We can all pray. We all should pray. We should ask for courage, wisdom, for the quietness of soul which comes alone in them who place their lives in His hands.”
Our newest President, Barack Obama, extends his hand out through this quote, “And I will do everything that I can as long as I am President of the United States to remind the American people that we are one nation under God, and we will call that God different names but we remain one nation.” And in another remark, “But what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people, and do our best to help them find their own grace. That’s what I strive to do, that’s what I pray to do every day.”
Everyone of our elected leaders – elected by the majority of the voice of American people – see God as their master, their guide, that they serve Him. Yet as American’s we turn our backs on God’s words, His work, and His plans because they don’t fit our idea of what is right. We are lost in our own birth of entitlement and justice. We forget that we elected these officials and that they, in their approach to overseeing our homeland, have chosen to follow the words of God. Is it to say that every action they take would honor their words and wisdom in a house of God? No. Then again, is that our perception or is that fact?
- 5. He confuses the plans of the enemy.
Pastor Bill gave example after example how those who spoke the word of God stood mighty against those that found themselves the enemy: The cross was the ultimate upstaging of Satan’s plans; In Israel He caused the enemy to turn on himself; Lord send the sound of a multitude of horses and chariots to drive away Israel’s enemies; The Lord showed Elijah what the king was thinking in his chambers; Daniel told Nebucanezzar what he dreamed; Gideon with clay pots and torches; David with a rock and sling.The enemy does not have to be so mighty and big, a ruler or a king, or even Satan himself. The enemy is simply those that make the choice to follow the word without God as their leader, their voice, and their inspiration. Those that live without the word of God are the ones that should be pitied, loved and prayed for but not followed by those that know the righteous path.Those that walk with God are not confused as the message is clear, the leadership to be trusted.
6. He provides protection for us.
2 Kings 6: 15 – 23:
15 Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”
16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
18 When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Strike this people with blindness, I pray.” So He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.
19 Then Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he brought them to Samaria.
20 When they had come into Samaria, Elisha said, “O Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the Lord opened their eyes and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.
21 Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?”
22 He answered, “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.”
23 So he prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel.
A prayer, talking to God, and listening to the Father brought the opportunity to stop bloodshed, stopped the opportunity to kill and be killed. God helped Elisha when she opened her heart to His words, and instead of hating each other God said to “set bread and water before them…” Is that to say that God expects all people to be friends? All people must get along together? That we must always agree with one another? If that was what God wanted he would not have created man to have a brain, the ability to speak, and the ability to think. He would have created droids in all people but that is not what God wanted. He gave us the ability to be who we are and asks that we remember Him in our lives, how we came to be, and through that He will give us protection.
Think of all the times that you thought your life was over and you prayed to God, humbly. You made it through that moment but did God come through with you? Have you remembered to honor his sparing your life or that of a loved one, or have you, like so many others, used Him in your moment of need to only turn your back on Him? Regardless of your actions and choices, God would never turn His back on you. That is the power of His love and His protection.
- He responds to obedience.
Romans 2:13 (NIV) For it is not those who hear the law that are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.Psalm 25:10 (NIV) All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of the covenant.John 8:32 (TEB) “If you obey my teaching you are really my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”John 15:10 (NIV) “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”Deuteronomy 11:26-27 (NIV) “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse–the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today.”
Exodus 19:5 (NIV) “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of the nations you will be my treasured possession.”
Numbers 24:7 (NIV) “…Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land…” (Read context in Numbers 14.)
Hebrews 4:6 (NIV) It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience.
1 John 3:21-22 (NIV) Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.
The bible is clear when it comes to obedience. It is not that God will turn his back on you but it is you who are turning your back on God in your disobedience. Listen to His words, learn from His teachings, and in that you will be obedient and be honored as such.
- 8. He can birth revival out of the enemy’s attack.
I know that Bill provided great illustrations of how this is true, but for me the greatest display of the authenticity of such a statement comes from Columbine. Truly one of the more horrific attacks our nation’s school children (and families) have faced. Those that survived did not turn their backs on God, or church. Those of the Faith did not turn their backs on the families. In the book, Columbine, by Dave Cullen, he talks about how in the days following the attacks the students and families needed a place to come together. Being a small town location for such large gatherings were not easily accessible so it was decided that a church would play host to the masses. The church opened its doors to all including the other preachers, priests, servants of the Cloth, to come and speak openly about their religion, to hold each other, and find the comfort under one God without separation or conversion. It truly was about birth of a community our of the enemy’s attack. And the enemy did not win.Bill talks about 911 and Billy Graham, “We will look back and see this as a day of victory.” And though it is difficult to see there is truth in this as a Nation we pull together to help all of those who have seen their loved one’s lose their lives in this senseless attack. We think about all the other battles, WWII, Vietnam, The Gulf War, and so on. Each of these battles, though tragic and terrible, also has elements of lessons and re-birth. The flower that sprouts through the ashes of the fire.
Bill asked us, in closing, what do we want for our America? What would we ask God to give to our entire nation? There was no hesitation in my one request. I pray to God daily that our nation would no longer be so angry. To replace the anger with patience, kindness, or any other emotion that would stop the senseless killings, murders, suicides, the desperation that sticks like tar to the fibers of our soul.
I read about the displays of anger whenever I venture into Yahoo! News. And it makes my heart sad. Most recently I read an article about a man who accused two parking attendants in Chicago of killing his teenage son. The boy just graduated from high school, signed a football scholarship for a local university, lost his life in a brawl started by his father over an assumed missing bottle of cologne. My question was, if the bottle was truly there and now is missing, why did the father not call the police but instead engage in a physical fight? The judge found the parking lot attendants were acting out of self-defense and it was the father who was truly to blame. It was not the father but the anger that most American’s carry in their shirt pocket ready to access at the first signs of some perceived injustice. So I pray to God, before another sweet soul is taken senselessly, help us as American’s stop being so angry.