One Nation, Under God

man-behind-an-american-flag-4667339

 

As we celebrate the 244th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence there is much turmoil and division within our nation. The Pledge of Allegiance tells us that we are “one nation, under God,” that our country is “indivisible,” and that we stand for “liberty and justice for all.” But if you are an informed and watchful citizen you know that right now our country, and our people, are portraying quite the opposite. The brutal treatment and death of George Floyd has sparked worldwide riots and protests advocating for liberty and justice for all. They are words which we recite quite regularly, but it is a reality which even now eludes many people of color. The George Floyd riots and ensuing chaos is just the most recent event in a long history of events that signals our beloved country has not yet achieved liberty and justice for all and is in fact quite divided.

There have been many diverse and mixed responses to the poor treatment of Blacks and other people of color that we have witnessed in 2020. But does the Bible have anything to say about this important matter? Does God have a response to all of the pain, hardship, injustice and disunity felt by so many around the world?

The very first chapter of the Bible tells us that “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). How wonderful! We see that from the very beginning God instilled value in us by creating mankind in His image, in His likeness. We were not made like the animals, we are different, and we are special. We, the human race, were designed to bear the image of God wherever we go; we are to be God’s representatives, His ambassadors in our time on earth, regardless of the color of our skin.

Much later, Jesus of Nazareth arrives on the scene. He lived the perfect life that we should have lived and died the death that we deserve to die because of our sin, our rebellion against God. He gave Himself up by dying on a cross for us so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17). Jesus came to set the captives free so that they might have life abundant in Him (Luke 4:18 and John 10:10). He showed no favoritism in regards to race,
ethnicity, social status, etc. Rather, He came to show us how to love God with all of our heart and love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40).
Paul, a follower of Jesus and the man who wrote the majority of the New Testament, took Jesus’ teachings to their logical conclusion. He argued that the gospel, the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, breaks down the barriers that man has put up. “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28). For those who turn from their sinful ways and place their faith in Jesus Christ alone
for salvation and for life, there is a transformation that occurs. In Christ we are adopted into God’s family as “sons (or daughters) of God.” In God’s family there is no division based on race, ethnicity, social status, etc. Instead, our identity comes from our relationship with God, and because we are created in the image of God, each and every one of us deserves to be treated with love, dignity, and respect. Hallelujah!

God’s Kingdom came and is still coming to bring everlasting change to a broken world and a broken system. He will one day “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Revelation 21:4-5). We have a promise from God that things will improve; everything that is wrong will be made right. But we must have faith in God, we must trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. For He is the one that will return to consummate his Kingdom and bring us with Him.

This message could not be more relevant for our world today. The road that leads to “liberty and justice for all,” both in this life and the life to come, is a long and arduous one. It is an uphill battle that will require Holy-Spirit empowered love, sacrifice, and perseverance from millions of people. But there is hope. Our nation, by God’s help, can once again act and operate as “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” But we must take the narrow path, the path of most resistance. It is the path that Jesus walked on and is now inviting you to walk with Him. As we celebrate
our country’s independence and our freedom, will you choose to walk with Jesus and love like Jesus, the true emancipator, the true King, the true judge, the true friend who died for you and died for all?

Which Fire?

riots

During this season of Pentecost, many believers worldwide are praying for “fresh fire” from the Holy Spirit to come upon the Body of Christ so that His power to transform the earth will be made manifest in ways not yet seen or known.  Simultaneously, our nation is on fire, inflamed by injustice and fueled by personal prejudice.  All of this is transpiring as a worldwide pandemic looms in the background.

Don’t miss the enemy’s simultaneous efforts to draw attention to the fires that he has ignited through hatred in an effort to prove that his power to divide mankind is greater than God’s power to unite us in Christ’s love.

Our nation is in the grip of an unprecedented anxiety undercurrent about the future.  When we witness the futures of other men snuffed out in a moment, we wonder if there will ever be a time in our nation when justice, equality, and humanity—fueled by God’s love for all of His creation— become a true reality.  With COVID-19 operating as the backdrop to the unfolding drama of daily life, individuals have been forced to confront their personal fears about death, finances, family, food supply, and everything else under the sun. Our human response to fear and anxiety is to make even greater efforts to gain control of our circumstances, only to face the stark reality that there is no sure way to secure our earthly futures.

As Christ-followers, what is our response to be to the presenting circumstances? Continue to pray for the power of God to intervene. His power to overcome every effort of satan, death, and destruction is infinitely greater than the power of evil.  The enemy is like a car with no engine and no gas.  He only makes it up the hill when we fuel it with hatred, fear, unforgiveness, and every other heart motive that is out of alignment with God’s ways.   The bedrock of God’s Power is His unfathomable, unceasing love for all people—that means you, too!

Our nation needs to experience God’s Power today more than ever.  Pray that He will release the Power of His peace into every fearful, hurting, and offended heart.  Pray for a tangible, unprecedented manifestation of His love, justice, mercy, and forgiveness across our land.  Pray for leaders who seek the LORD above all to make wise decisions from God’s eternal perspective. Ask God to forgive our nation for every way that it has rejected Him, and pray that He will heal our land.  Pray for a fresh outpouring of the fire of the Holy Spirit on all men and for a worldwide Great Awakening like none before.  Jesus is the only and best answer to our crisis of hatred and fear.

None of the things we are praying for can be manufactured by the will of man. They will happen only when we agree with God that He is welcome into every aspect of our society, and recognize the futility of human efforts alone to overcome the fear, division, and hatred incented by the evil one. God has entrusted His authority and transformative power to His saints.  Let’s continue to seek His wisdom about how to exercise our Kingdom-building, unity-creating responsibilities with Christ in the center. And let’s allow love and compassion for all people – even those who despise us—be the most powerful weapon for extinguishing every form of evil.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16).

 

Taking Our Temperatures

Temperature

During this pandemic era, it has become the “new norm” for doctors’ offices and other businesses to check visitors’ temperatures prior to permitting their entry.  Fever is the physical body’s external manifestation of an internal battle with a presenting viral or bacterial internal invasion.

Given that humans are as Dallas Willard wrote, “eternal, unceasing spiritual beings,” why did the LORD purpose to give us physical bodies in the first place?  After all, they are subject to death and decay, aches and pains, sickness and disease. Here are three reasons. I There are likely many more!

First, our bodies are terrific barometers of what is going on internally in our souls.  We get a knot in our gut when we’re heartsick. Tears flow from our eyes to express sadness, grief, loss and frustration. Our hands shake and knees knock when we’re nervous. Our hearts palpitate with excitement. Our thoughts reveal our self-will and even point to those things we are outraged to give up personally for the greater good—our first-world comforts, pass-times, and social outlets. By paying attention to how we feel physically as a result of our emotions, God opens the door for us to invite His peace into every corner of our hearts. He promises that we can have His Peace in all circumstances (2 Thessalonians 3:16).  And He also invites us to relinquish into His Hand those affections in our lives that draw more of our time, attention, and resources than He does. He calls those things idols. What are you most afraid that you’ll lose, or most frustrated to give up? How is your body reacting at the thought of self-sacrifice?

Second, because we have earth suits that will eventually wear out, we are reminded of who is in control of all things! As we become attuned to our bodies, we sense the LORD exposing our fears—fear of lack, fear of public shame, and fear of death to name a few.  The human response to every form of fear is control. We endeavor to exercise control over all of our earthly circumstances in an effort to mitigate any and all possible unpleasant outcomes. While we like to play “god” over our personal universes, by being confronted with our own physical mortality, we are forced to realize that ultimately, matters of “controlling the outcomes” belong to the LORD.

Ultimately, Jesus came to earth in the flesh to reveal the Father, telling His disciples that by seeing Him, they had also seen the Father (John 14:9). He also tells us that as Christians, we carry Him on the inside of us (1 Corinthians 6:19) and that we are supposed to be like Him in this world (1 John 4:17). Have we considered that our primary purpose is to reflect and refract His light into every dark place in the earth (2 Corinthians 4:6)? He desires to transform us into His image so that the world may know His love (John 17:23). The natural world will see Jesus the more each one of us looks like Him.

The way we think, act, speak, and pray is a live demonstration of how we have purposed to use our bodies as agents of agreement with our mind, will, and emotions. Our bodies do what the mind directs. Once we recognize that our bodies are also revealing our poverty and sickness of soul, what will be our response to the pervasive inner heart-sickness? Will we bring our self-willed thoughts and self-gratifying efforts into agreement with God’s thoughts?

What is your “internal temperature?” What sickness is waging battle on your soul? May we ask the LORD to bring all of us—body, soul, and spirit—into surrendered alignment and agreement with His thoughts, His plans, and His purposes.  And may He cause us to find our greatest delight in Him alone. Period. As we live smothered in His perfect love, there can be no place for unrest of the soul and despair in our hearts. For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17)!

God’s Factory Reset

Factory Reset

Cell phones, laptops, and other electronic devices come equipped with a “factory reset” feature. Using the reset feature forces the device to automatically erase any additional information, applications, and programs stored on the internal memory of the device. Typically, the purpose of a factory reset is to fix major errors and operating system issues caused by the presence of new information and applications added to the device since its creation.

How does this apply to us?  Consider yourself a like cell phone!  What apps and information are stored in you and for what purpose? What downloads live on your device that are hampering your factory design? What do your eyes see and your ears hear that is not from God? What do you spend more time looking at than the LORD?

Consider God’s original design for man. He created us in His image – His reflections. We were created to enjoy His presence in a garden of His design.  We were given His authority to rule and reign over the earth and the creatures in it.  We were to be fruitful and multiply as His plan for our good and for His glory to be seen throughout the earth.

Enter sin, tempted by the desire to be like God.  What Adam and Eve did not understand is that they were already like God. They forgot that they were created in God’s image with preeminent authority in the earth.  They listened to the wrong voice and lusted after something that wasn’t good for them. Sound familiar?

As you consider your divine design, what apps would you struggle to do without?  If you didn’t have the daily news feed, the Wall Street update, sports scores with replays or online movies, would your life seem better or worse?

Beloved, Jesus’ mission on earth was not just about sin management.  His purpose for living was to be an example of us, not just for us.  He came to show mankind what it was supposed to look like to live as He is in this world.  He was the perfect reflection of His Father, Our Creator.  He came bearing the Father’s Image so that we could remember how to be His reflections.

During these days, it is crystal clear that God has hit the factory reset button for His precious creation.  He is removing countless things that steal our primary focus and adoration away from Him.  There can only be two responses from His image bearers to this reset!

In our humanness, the self-focused response is to complain about all the things we cannot see, do, plan or hope for.  This response anxiously waits for the factory reset to be completed so that our human devices will be ready to download afresh all the old familiar apps and perhaps even some new ones. In this way, our lives can once again be overfilled with too much satisfaction from external circumstances and way too much to do. This response never has to consider its original design—to bear God’s Image.

The LORD’s hope during this season of factory reset is that the ones He created will respond by needing nothing more than Him to find their true joy and fulfillment of purpose.  It will be His joy that we remember why He created us. How do we best cooperate with His factory reset plan to restore us into the image of Christ?  We must fix our eyes on Jesus, period (2 Corinthians 3:18).  We thank God profusely for the reboot.  We release all fears and complaints that we may never get back to the “good ‘ole days.” We invite Him to be the sole delight of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). And we diligently avoid making any form of agreement with the negative prognostications in the news media. Instead, we seek new ways to love and serve His other image bearers with an eternal purpose at heart. We speak life, release God’s power, and permeate the atmosphere with His peace!  And we savor the daily joy of reflecting His glory, needing nothing more to complete our joy and satisfaction! It is very good!