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A Call to Renewal: Part One

II Chronicles 7:14

Jesus scoped out the scenic city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and wept. It was not the structure he saw but the soul of the city. As a result He lamented:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”  (Matthew 23:37).

Had Jesus such a vantage point of America, He would feel such a separation and be grieved similarly.

There is a strong viable faith community in America, the core of which loves the Lord dearly and seeks with diligence to serve him. The moral and spiritual contaminants that eat at the very soul of our society virtually engulf the faith community.

WHEN A DECADENT NATION TURNS ITS BACK ON GOD IT TURNS BACK TO THE GODS OF DECADENCE.

The spiritual, moral, social, and ethical decay in America indicates we are a nation suffering from internal decay.

The death of virtually every former great society has begun from within before external forces could overcome it.

Long before Alaric’s Goths poured over the walls of ancient Rome, the empire had decayed from within.

WAKE UP AMERICA!   The Goths are at our door.

America, a sick land, needs healing. The land must be healed as a body is healed — one member at a time. Therefore as we talk about our society, apply it to your life personally.

Our carnal condition is called “wicked ways.”

Our “offend nobody,” “tolerate anything,” and “stand for nothing” philosophy has caused us to unbutton our brains and expose them to playwrights or “play wrongs with themes belched from a Hellywood sewer.

Secular songwriters are all flats and no sharps. 

Our musicians have found the lost chord, but lost the message.

Our movies are a witch’s brew of sensuality and brutality.

As a nation we are a living demonstration that self-government without self-discipline won’t work. 

Our nation is in a perilous position like an elephant hanging over a cliff clinging to a twig by its trunk.

Without a spiritual awakening, America has no more chance of continuing to enjoy the blessings of God than a bat has in a radar room.

Wake up America!

What Is Your Attitude Toward Life?

Job 7: 11 – 16

Jesus proposes to be the eternal, internal, invisible, enabling ingredient in the life of the believer. He desires to indwell and inspire His followers so as to give them sustaining and victory gaining strength. Without Him, people can’t live an abundant life. Some who profess Him fail to demonstrate this dynamic. For some, it is simply because they do not realize what their spiritual assets are or they have failed to avail themselves of them. For others it is because they have gone through the motion of religion without engaging in the devotion it requires.

With all of his afflictions Job almost went under three times. He got so dejected he cried out three times: “Let me alone…”

–  My life is empty, “my days are vanity.” (Job 7: 16)

Job almost became a social and spiritual, if not psychotic, manic depressive. His life seemed empty. Many having this feeling today turn to counterfeit concepts and follow false philosophies. Pleasure – snap it up. Time – use it up. Youth – live it up.

Life is to be lived not lost. Live it up – but on the up and up. A life that you have got to live down or long to live over hasn’t been lived, it’s been used.

Christ can do what the Hoosier poet Riley stated: “Bring unto sorrow all release from pain, Let the lips of laughter overflow again.”

Many feel life is empty because they conceive of it as a container to be filled by others with good things. Really it is like a pipe to convey good to others.

Many marriages fail because one feels, “I am not getting out of it what I am supposed to.” Love is giving not getting.

Many say the church isn’t doing for me what it should. “I’ll quit going.”  “What have you done for Christ through His church recently?”

Life may seem empty because you are living below your best. Are you playing a plastic flute while you can play a four-manual organ?

Baking mud pies while you could be making angel food cake?

Are you content to crawl while you could run?

Are you building shacks while you could be erecting palaces?

–  Life is ending, squander it: “Are not my days few…?” (Job 10: 20)

Life is brief and soon to be ended, but that is not reason to waste it. Some sensing this seem to resolve to live in “sensual standard time.” They have a craving for depravity.

“Senica said, “No man has a God so favorable that he can promise himself tomorrow.”  

–  Life is eternal, share it, “I will speak.” Job 13: 13)

What did Job speak? He shared three conclusions:
“I know my redeemer lives…” (19:25)
“I know He knows me…”  (23:10)
“Yea, though He slay me yet will I trust Him…” (13:15)

Thereon we, as he, can base our life and find fulfilling joy.

The Rod and Staff of the Good Shepherd

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

If you are a sheep in the Good Shepherd’s flock, two comforting items are noted in Psalm 23: 4 as provided to you. One is principally defensive, His rod, and one primarily offensive, His staff. They provide two things we sheep, like real sheep, have always needed, protection and guidance. They both provide comfort because one shelters, the rod, and one stimulates, the staff.

Throughout Scripture the rod has represented authority. The authority of the Good Shepherd over the flock indicates. He has the right to govern us just as a shepherd does his sheep.  The rod was used as a defensive weapon to protect the sheep. This is comforting to sheep. Comfort also comes from knowing the shepherd provides guidance.

The rod and staff are property of the shepherd. They belong to the shepherd, not the sheep. One is to ward off predators and the other to mark off pathways. We sheep get in trouble when we try to rely on our own defense and guidance. Comfort comes from relying on the Good Shepherd for both.

In our western culture shepherds drive their sheep. In the eastern culture in the era of the Bible the shepherd walked in front of the sheep, affording  comforting guidance. He also had the vantage point of being the first to see encroaching danger  as well as direction.

Consider the application of both the rod and staff in your life. In our unstable world is there fear in your life? Throughout Scripture there are “fear nots” postets. Let them be reminders of the protection provided by the Good Shepherd and quell the fears. Knowing He knows what you are facing and cares for you is intended to provide comfort for you.

Are you concerned about an issue posing a need for understanding and guidance? Rely on Him before making the decision and seek His guidance. Uncertainty calls for a source of certainty. Gather all sources related to the issue, evaluate them, pray for His guidance and let Him mark your path. This comforts. 

There is comfort in there being a staff to guide the sheep. A couple of verses earlier in Psalms tells where the Good Shepherd leads. It is beside still water and on paths of righteousness. In your hour of need He still guides in these areas.

Having walked through the valley long known as the Valley of Death, now known as the Wadi (valley) Qelt, that runs from Jerusalem to Jericho, I have seen the evidence of the need for a rod and staff. It is so narrow and steep the sun does not reach its depth at places. The narrow path along a ledge on the side of the cliff drops off precipitously to a great depth. There are caves in which bandits dwelt and other caves occupied by predators. It is a collection of threats requiring protection and guidance.  The text is translated “Yea though,” meaning, even if I am under extreme conditions the Good Shepherd has what is needed to protect and provide for His sheep, you. He will guide you where you can find peace and restoration. Now, with that fact fixed, go forth with comfort.

God Ask Some Questions

In Job 30 – 41 God asked some pertinent questions. Most people consider the questions to be directed to Job, and they may have been, but it is more likely they were not. Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu each spoke without accurate knowledge just prior to when God begins His question asking, “Who are you…, and it appears the questions are asked of them.

In posing questions no human could answer His questions made sense of what seemed to make no sense. Prior to these questions by God, questions had been asked of God. Now God questions them, and indirectly us.

Regardless of who was being questioned, it was Job who was comforted by the questions. They showed God was real, attentive, and they revealed Him to be a God who loved Job, and us. That was enough for Job even if God offered no direct insight into the probing of Him.

Consider these questions in Job 38: 4 – 7 as though directed to you. “”Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.

“Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Kind of makes us humans look small, doesn’t it?

These things obviously happened and there were no human beings present to deny God did not do them.

There are mysteries into which our cloudy eyes cannot, and will never be able to see. There will always be conundrums which no one can definitively answer.  This only proves, “Great is the mystery of godliness.”

God made the earth with a specific length and breadth, and no more, and no one knows why. It’s a God thing.

Angels are here called morning stars and sons of God. They in reality did witness the creation of the earth, and they rejoiced at the glory, power, and wisdom of God in the creation.

All the sons of God shouted for joy. That implies Lucifer fell from his exalted position as the anointed cherub before God created the earth in that he surely would not have rejoiced over such a defining act by the Creator.

Further questions define the nature of earth to which enquiring minds to this day have no answer. 

It is as though God is showing off His superior knowledge to that of humans by stacking one unknown question upon another. In doing so He is shouting, “Trust me.” Search for answers, knowing there are some questions to which man will never have an answer, but God will always be knowledgeable and loving. It is His nature. He is all knowing, all wise, all powerful, and as a bonus, all loving.

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen,”

Ralph Waldo Emerson. It might be added, all that I know of God teaches me to trust Him with all I don’t know.

How Will You Be Remembered?

I Thessalonians 1: 2, 3

Paul had only spent three weeks with the Thessalonian believers, but they made a lasting impression on him. You are also making an impression. He spoke of three memorable traits regarding them.

Their work of faith. Every person has faith. The issue is “in what?” We either have positive or negative faith. That is, we either have faith in possibilities or impossibilities, in ideas that make us victims rather than masters.

Far from lacking faith, modern persons have a surplus of it. The former dictator of Italy, Mussolini said, “The capacity of modern man to believe is unbelievable.” A person can no more run away from the faith factor than he can run away from his own legs. Persons either have faith in anarchy or democracy, astrology or rabbit’s feet, in materialism or God. Faith is the most potent drug on the market. If a person says he will have no faith then the policy of no faith is what he has faith in. It is expedient to exhort persons to have faith. Everyone has faith. The issue is in what to place it.

Authentic faith results in an absorption with Jesus Christ. Such radical faith transforms our character to be like that of Jesus. Our ambitions, aspirations, and allegiance are completely reoriented according to our faith.

A friend once wrote to the Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev: “It seems to me that to put oneself in second place is the whole significance of life.” His reply, “It seems to me to discover what to put before oneself, in the first place, is the whole problem of life.”

Will James, considered by many to be the originator of modern psychology noted, “Every sort of energy and endurance or courage and capacity for handling life’s evils, is set free in those who have religious faith.”

Carl Jung, one of the most important figures in the history of psychology, observed: “Side by side with the decline of religious life, neuroses form noticeably more frequently.”

Their labor of love was remembered.  A sure sign that Christ has come into a heart is that the mind is no longer imprisoned with negative notions, pessimistic precepts, and censorious criticism. Love incites labor. There is a difference between “work” and “labor.” Work may be pleasant and stimulating. The word labor translates “kopos,”stresses fatigue, exertion, and great cost. Where there is no love, there is no labor.

Their patience of hope was remembered.  Christianity produces an indomitable hope. A Christian’s hope is intimately related to Christ’s resurrection. His resurrection shows us God can take the very worst and give His very best.

The famous American cardiologist, Dr. R. McNair Wilson, wrote in “Doctor’s Progress,” “Hope is the medicine I use more than any other…Hope can cure nearly anything.”  Hope is desire plus expectation. Such hope instigates patience. It is aggressive persistence. It isn’t quiet resignation, but rather heroic endurance. Hope lasts. It is made of enduring fiber.

They were remembered because of their work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope. By what do you aspire to be remembered?  Daily you are formulating your lasting impression. Elevate your aspiration.

A TRIUMPHANT TRILOGY
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13  

“Faith rests on the past; love works in the present, hope looks to the future. 
Faith looks back to the crucified Christ.
Love looks up to the crowned Christ.
Hope looks on to the coming Christ.”