blogs about awakening
Can you think of any other time in history--like we live in today--when the vast majority of people are convinced that their FEELINGS ALONE are the ultimate source of truth? That we simply CANNOT TRUST something outside of us to be true when our feelings run to the contrary?
Maybe that's why Jesus, at the conclusion of the Parable of the Persistent Widow in Luke 18 (designed to teach us to pray and not give up), left us with this haunting question:
"However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)
You see, Christlike faith requires that I put much more confidence in what God says than in my feelings. Easy? No! But it IS something that all true Christ-followers must relentlessly choose to do.
I love what the ministry Cru has taught for years about this reality. They use an illustration of a train where you put coal (FAITH) in the engine (the FACTS of God's Word), trusting that the caboose (FEELINGS) will eventually follow afterwards.
[Under the picture on the Cru website it says, "The train will run with or without the caboose; however, it would be useless to attempt to pull the train by the caboose. In the same way, Christians do not depend on feelings. Place your faith in the trustworthiness of God and His Word. The more you learn of His Word, the more you will be able to answer any doubts with solid facts. Your feelings will begin to respond to the truth of God's Word and not your circumstances."]
Friends, this is profound! And even though it TOTALLY goes against our culture today, it really works! The Bible puts it this way, "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ." (Romans 10:17)
So many of our great heroes and heroines in scripture had to exercise this kind of faith when their emotions were obviously contrary. They chose to look away from their circumstances to a powerful, all-loving, all-knowing God.
Think of the great examples of Abraham, Moses, David, Ruth, Esther, Mary the mother of our Lord, the Apostle Paul, etc. One of my good friends puts it this way: he asks, "How do you spell faith?" His reply? "R-I-S-K." When God calls, you choose to obey and get out of the boat. By His power and grace, you begin to do the impossible: you walk on water, looking to Jesus! Our world desperately needs brave men and women of God to have this kind of faith and obedience!
We need to trust God's Word when it talks about things, like what constitutes Biblical marriage (only between a man and a woman), and what is sin. And the real existence of eternal punishment in hell for those who refuse to take God's free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. And, obviously, much, much more.
Many of these facts of Scripture do not FEEL good: we strongly want things to be more loving and less confrontational. But we understand that it is MOST LOVING in the long run to speak the truth in love than to sugarcoat the truth with lies that ultimately bring death and destruction. And after we choose to believe, live and speak the truth, God will come and empower us to keep moving forward as we focus the eyes of our faith on Him.
God bless each of you in your walk of faith today. It isn't easy, but, as we look at what He did for us, how can we do less?
Those of us alive in the 1960s and old enough to be aware of public issues at that time will recall that we were inundated with scare stories about the coming Population Explosion that was certain to destroy life as we know it within a few short years.
One of the leading experts on the subject was Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich, author of the best-seller The Population Bomb. Published in 1968, Ehrlich begins in his Prologue by saying, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now . . . The birth rate must be brought into balance with the death rate or mankind will breed itself into oblivion. We can no longer afford merely to treat the symptoms of the cancer of population growth; the cancer itself must be cut out. Population control is the only answer.”
Yet, here we are, 50 years later, and realize the bomb was a dud. In fact, rather than over-population, our world in 2021 is struggling with UNDER-population! Just today, the Wall Street Journal head a major article entitled: “China Considers Lifting All Childbirth Restrictions by 2025.” The article’s subtitle reads, “Concerned about falling birthrates, policy makers plan further shift toward policies that explicitly encourage childbirth.”
In the article you read how China’s aging population and lack of children to replace the aged is hurting their economy. In fact, due to encouraging “one child per couple” in the past, they now face what the article describes as “a historic downturn in its population.”
So that is China. What about America? Believe it or not, we parallel China’s bleak demographic issues. But we are not even talking about it here. We should be. Let me show you how China and the U.S. are similar in our demographics.
Let’s start by comparing the median age of our respective populations. At the median age, half of the population is older and the other half is younger. Notice the current similarity.
Now for the real clincher. Here is a comparison of China’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) with that of the US. TFR is the number of children the average female with give birth to in her lifetime. It takes a TFR of 2.1 on average just to break even, to have Zero Population Growth—1 to replace the woman, 1 to replace the man and .1 for those who cannot or will not reproduce.
Note that China went below 2.1 in 1990, while the US went below replacement level in 1970 (probably to correspond with abortion being legalized in 1973.) So America has been below replacement level since that time, which explains the aging of our population.
Bottom line, while China is rightly concerned about the demographic winter coming their way, the United States with exactly the same problems, isn’t even talking about it. We should be!
One of the saddest stories is of the proverbial frog in the kettle that is gradually heating up. “Ah, how comfortable this is!” says Mr. Frog as the temperature slowly rises. But before long, he gets very sleepy and, as you know, is unable to jump out before it’s too late. He ends up being boiled to death.
Crises that grow gradually are certainly difficult to discern. Tragically, if the trend we are on has us moving in a dangerous direction, we can end up facing a dead end from which there is no safe escape.
Few Americans are aware of a major trend that has been building for decades that will soon present us with very severe consequences: the gradual aging of our population caused largely by historically low birthrates.
The average (more correctly the median) age of Americans in 2020 was 38.2 years. This value varies from state to state, with Maine having the oldest median value of 45.1 years and Utah (with their many Mormons having babies) coming in with the lowest median age at 31.2 years.
By contrast, the overall median age of Americans in 1900 was 22.9 years; in 1950 it grew to 30.19. As trends continue, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that, within 14 years, the elderly folks in America over the age of 65 will, for the first time in our nation’s history, outnumber those children under the age of 18. This will present a huge economic dilemma of paying for Social Security and Medicare for the elderly. The pressure to ask elderly to do everyone a favor by taking the “red poison pill” and getting out of the way will continue to grow.
But what has caused this gradual but significant shift in the aging of our population? Yes, part of it is due to the fact that folks are dying at older ages than before. But, more importantly, the reason for this shift is the huge decline in birthrates in America. A recent Wall Street Journal Article was entitled, “Births in U.S. Drop to Levels Not Seen Since 1979.”
While the decline in births has been somewhat gradual, allow me to provide a stark contrast with how things were in the past vs. how they are today. The average woman in her lifetime in 1800 gave birth to 7 children. The average woman in 2020 will, in her lifetime, give birth to only 1.64 children!
This number 1.64 is significant in more ways than merely to compare it to women in 1800. What you may not know is that it takes 2.1 children per woman just to break even in population growth: one child to replace the woman; one to replace the man; and .1 to cover for women who cannot or will not give birth at all. This number of how many children the average woman will give birth in her lifetime in a nation is called that nation’s “Total Fertility Rate” (TFR). America’s TFR has been below replacement level (2.1 children/woman) since 1971! (The only exception was a very brief period of time in 2008 when it was slightly over 2.1.)
But why are women today having smaller families? Because kids are a lot of work, take a huge amount of our time, money and energy. So we aim for the “millionaire’s family”: two kids. Or to have no kids at all, to be “kid-free!”
I cannot judge non-believers. But allow me to speak to Christ-followers who are parents. Life is short: 70 years equals less than 22,000 days, less than a million hours. You cannot take your retirement home, nor your bank account, nor your new car, nor your great career to heaven. But children are created in the image of God and have the potential to impact life on this planet and then live forever in His eternal Kingdom along with us. Or to put it a different way: children are messages we send to a time and a place we ourselves can never go. They are “Missionaries to the Future.”
Yes, children are expensive and a lot of work to bear and raise. But where in the Bible does it say that life is supposed to be all about me and my comfort? The Lord spelled it out quite differently: “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.’” (Luke 9:23-24)
Yes, this issue is a scary subject. And we don’t like to be different and weird. But shouldn’t Jesus be the Lord of EVERY area of our lives? How about this area of our family size? Why aren’t we as Christ-followers praying and talking more about this? Time to repent and give God everything!
For more on this very important issue, see our book: Sweeter by the Dozen: Making Jesus the Lord of Our Family Size.
With all the back and forth discussion in our nation these days about reshaping our government, it makes us wonder what the real role of government should be.
The Bible doesn't say a ton about the proper role of government; but it is not totally silent on the issue either! It seems clear from the Old Testament that one of government's proper roles is to protect its people from foreign invaders.
The other major role of government is to oversee the criminal justice system: to apprehend, charge and fairly try those accused of crime and then punish those who are convicted proportional to the reprehensibility of their conduct and their personal responsibility at the time they committed the crime. (See Romans 13:1-7; I Peter 2:13-14)
But how about government's role in meeting the needs of the poor and disadvantaged? While this sounds like a very benevolent activity, it is NOT the primary job of government! Rather meeting the needs of the poor and hurting is the proper role of the Church and we followers of Christ!
I could go on at length on this subject, but let me summarize why this is true: Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty" in 1964 actually produced more poverty in our nation. Why might that be? Because we humans are sinners by nature and will tend to move toward any option that seems easier rather than one that requires us to work harder.
As Marvin Olasky points out in his great book, "The Tragedy of American Compassion," the poor often need to be challenged with "tough love" whereby they are rewarded more in the long run by getting a job than by continuing to take handouts from government.
Olasky explains how, when years ago, religious organizations WERE the "welfare system" in America, people quickly moved into the middle class! The reason was that churches required poor men to chop wood for other poor folks and poor women to sew clothing for other needy people. They were also required to take the first open job that became available. If they refused to do these things, they were not financially helped until they submitted to the requirements.
And, even more importantly, Christian welfare agencies were able to minister to the heart needs of people--to share the Gospel so that people began to change from the inside, a role which government, obviously, cannot do.
But over time, we in the Church have allowed government to take over our job of helping the poor. Tragically, the consequences have been very costly: we now have more poor people and, along with that, unsustainable (and growing daily) national debt. So sad!
God help us to pray and be willing to do our part to turn this around! Yes, it will truly take a miracle. But nothing is too hard for our God!
We Americans take for granted things that our ancestors didn’t even know about. Central heating, running water in our homes. Indoor showers and toilets. Electricity providing lights and entertainment. Telephones and, in more recent years, internet, email, texting and social media. Grocery stores, clothing stores, Sam’s Clubs and Costco, gas stations, barber and beauty shops, restaurants and dollar stores. Cars, trucks and airline flights to wherever. Accessible medical and dental care. The list goes on and on.
Beyond that, we here in America have assumed we are entitled to be protected 24/7/365 by our leaders in our cities, states and nation from all enemies foreign and domestic. That our laws and governments will be ever vigilant to preserve our liberties and allow us the quality of life to enjoy until we die.
So when a pandemic strikes and our government seems greatly conflicted and at odds with itself, we become anxious and then angry. We find ourselves thinking: “I deserve better!”
Really? Who says you deserve better?
“Well, I pay my taxes and vote and pay all the vendors that serve me. So I AM entitled to all these comforts of modern life!”
Friends, those of us who claim to be Christ-followers in America have been given a loving wakeup call from our Lord. Do you realize that a 70 year life is less than 26,000 days? But eternity goes on forever. We have put way too much stock in this temporary life on this planet and far too little on our eternal home in heaven.
Why haven’t we obeyed the command God gave us through Paul in Colossians 3:1-4, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
We have, little-by-little, become like the folks Paul grieves about in Philippians 3:18-21 as he compares them with true Christ-followers: “For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Ah, but you say, people that concentrate on heaven are essentially no earthly good. Listen to what C.S. Lewis said about that phony perspective:
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more—food, games, work, fun, open air. In the same way, we shall never save civilization as long as civilization is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more. . . . Sadly, many of us are so tethered to this world and the things it offers that we scarcely take thought of the world to come. Yet it is precisely by reflecting often on the joys, beauties, and satisfactions of eternal life in the world to come that we find a hope that empowers us to live fully for Christ today.”
Even here in America, we may not only lose the comforts we feel we are entitled to, we may actually come to a time of persecution for our faith. Jesus predicted it for his followers in John 15:18-20, and Paul mentions it in 2 Timothy 3:12.
We need to trust that, despite all the temporary pain we experience, our God will protect us and provide for our basic needs of food and clothing until He takes us to His forever home in heaven.
It is counter-intuitive, but the pain He allows in our lives can actually drive us to find real life with Him! Because real life begins when we quit trying to live to protect ourselves and begin to daily surrender our lives completely to Him and, by faith, abide in His loving and powerful Presence.
How about this for a counter-intuitive perspective: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
Truth be told, for a long time I considered this a simply an overly optimistic, pat you on the back, pretend there’s really no problem, “shape up and quit complaining” sort of statement from the Apostle. But no, it’s a real command, a call to have joy in the midst of painful circumstances. Talk about counter-intuitive!
Folks, isn’t it tempting, when we are in pain, to begin to feel sorry for ourselves? “Lord, I have been obeying you and following you and praying my heart out, and You give me this problem! Why, Lord? It’s not fair! I deserve better!” Trust me, I’ve been there many more times than I am willing to admit.
So how can we have joy in the midst of painful trials? Looking at some parallel texts helps provide the answer. In Romans 5:2-5, Paul says, “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
And look at Philippians 3:10-11, “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
We could find many other passages like these that encourage us to persevere in our suffering just like Christ did “who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross . . .” (Hebrews 12:2)
So, is it just to grit our teeth and hang on in our misery? No, we are to have “joy” and “rejoice” in our pain. How is that possible?
Well, it is both impossible and possible at the same time! On one hand, in my flesh, I cannot do it. But in my new nature through the Holy Spirit’s power, I can! Here are the steps I seek to take to turn from self-pity to joy and rejoicing:
1. I say “thank you” to God for the trial. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice ALWAYS, pray without ceasing, give thanks in ALL circumstances.” It doesn’t say, “Feel thankful.” Feelings will come later as we choose to obey. Why can we say thanks in ALL circumstances? Because Romans 8:28 is still in the Bible. All things WILL work together for good to them who love God and are called according to His purposes. And a big part of that good is that our loving Heavenly Father is using pain in our lives to make us more like Him. You know what the athletes say, “No pain, no gain!” If it’s true in sports, it’s totally true in our spiritual lives. I have a lot of pride, self-confidence, selfishness etc. that God needs to burn out of me in love. C.S. Lewis put it this way, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
2. I put on the whole armor of God to fight against my real enemy Satan. I especially need that shield of faith to quench his fiery darts that he wants to come to my heart, especially that dart of discouragement. I meditate on scripture that offers encouragement to me. One that often helps me is His promise never to leave me nor forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5) I also need to pray with my mind and with my spirit. And encourage others to pray for me as well. It’s always amazing to me how much better things go when I am bathed in prayer. What a powerhouse it is!
3. I find the grace to endure the trial today, and choosing not to worry about tomorrow. I keep my eyes on Him who went through much worse of a trial out of love to purchase us with His blood from Satan’s dominion. Day by day, I make it and, in the words of C.S. Lewis, am often “surprised by joy” as I trust Him and feel His manifest presence comforting, leading, guiding and loving me.
The longer I walk with the Lord, the more I see how much of the Christian life goes totally against my natural instincts. Someone once told me: “If you want to figure out what God’s will is, think of what comes natural. Then think of the opposite of what comes natural. Then see if the Bible doesn’t suggest the opposite of natural is in fact God’s way.”
Let me give you just a few examples of where this is true:
--“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) (Rather than taking revenge or harboring bitterness.)
--“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38) (Rather than hording and not being willing to give even sacrificially if He so leads.)
--“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)
Allow me to comment in greater depth on this last passage.
First let me ask this: Do you want to follow Jesus or just admire Him from a distance? Because if you truly want to be a follower of Jesus, He asks us to do some truly amazing things here.
“Deny” in the Greek means that we really reject ourselves! And you know the end of the road for the person who takes up a cross: death by torture!
But the next verse (24) is even more amazing: in the first phrase we have the words “save” and “lose”; likewise we have those identical words in the second phrase, but in reverse order: “lose” and “save.” “Save” is from the Greek “sozo” which is the much-loved word for someone being saved from danger or destruction, but also saved from hell.
We see sozo a lot in Scripture, including in Romans 10:13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” We ALL want to be saved, right? But Jesus is telling us that if our primary goal in life is to be saved or safe, we actually are going to “lose” our life. What does the word “lose” mean in the original? It is the Greek word “apolymi” which means to destroy or kill! So if our primary goal is to be saved, the opposite is going to happen. It likely also includes the person who thinks they can get to heaven on their own without God’s help: they will end up in eternal death.
But here is the clincher: Jesus goes onto say that if we lose (that means destroy or kill!) our lives for Jesus, we will end up saving our lives eternally. Does that hit you like it hits me? Jesus doesn’t want us to just dip our toes in the water, or “sprinkle a little Jesus” on our lives. He wants us to dive in completely without holding back or having any reservations!
We need to choose daily to let Him protect us. We must be totally willing to die today—even physically—if that would be His sovereign will, while it brings glory to Him and helps build His eternal Kingdom.
As a former trial judge, I was intrigued with the confirmation hearings on Judge Amy Coney Barrett. The more I learn of her background and character, the more impressed I am. Here is a great Wall Street Journal essay on her Christian worldview as she pursues her judicial career and family life in our increasingly secular culture.
But, beyond that, I believe that in her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee she did an excellent job of describing the difference between the role of a legislature and the role of a judge. Legislatures are the ones who MAKE the law, and judges are the ones who APPLY the law to specific cases. In America, appellate courts also exist to ensure laws passed by legislatures do not conflict with more fundamental laws, including the Constitution. A judge's personal beliefs should NEVER enter into his or her ruling in a given case. That's where we get the picture of the scales of justice held by a blindfolded jurist.
(Of course, we shouldn't forget the third area of government: the executive branch, whose role is to ENFORCE and IMPLEMENT laws passed by the legislature.)
It's helpful to ask: did our American forefathers simply create these three branches of government out of whole cloth? No, in large part, they got their direction from the Bible. Look at Isaiah 33:22, "For the Lord is our judge [judicial], the Lord is our lawgiver [legislative], the Lord is our king [executive]; it is he who will save us." For God's people of Israel, He represented all three branches of government.
While our perfect God can obviously represent all three branches of leadership, we sinful humans need these three functions to be in different entities: for there to be separation of powers. It is true that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Great mischief develops when one branch of government begins to usurp the role of another branch.
We have seen this most clearly in Roe v Wade, the notorious case in 1973 that, in one day, forced all 50 states to accept legal abortion as THE law. In deciding Roe, the Supreme Court acting like a super-legislature, interpreted the words of the 14th Amendment in ways that are truly mind-blowing.
Permit me to summarize their legal findings. The due process clause of the 14th Amendment (passed in 1868) says, "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that this due process clause REQUIRES a policy of abortion on demand for the entire nation, and that any law to the contrary passed by any legislature was unconstitutional. To which most thinking people say, "What???" One would think that if you can't deprive a person of his or her life without due process of law, abortion should NOT be legal. In my book on the subject, I even quote pro-abortion legal scholars who respond with similar incredulity. But the Supreme Court stated that the 14th Amendment only gives rights to those who are "persons" and, in their judicial wisdom, they concluded that the unborn child is NOT a "person" at least until that child is "viable" if not actually born.
However, the pregnant woman IS a person, and you cannot deprive her of her right to "liberty" without due process of law. And, guess what? The Supreme Court said that the woman's right to "liberty" as written in the 14th Amendment includes a woman's right to abortion! (Is there anyone who believes that the authors of the 14th Amendment when passed in 1868 had any sense "liberty" included abortion rights? Not likely!)
Yes, our Supreme Court, in one day acting like a super-legislature, struck down laws like those in Michigan which made abortion a crime. So much for courts merely interpreting the law looking at the actual meaning of the words of the Constitution when enacted!
To restore governmental balance in America, we need to return to having courts behave like courts should. To paraphrase Judge Barrett: our liberties are better preserved when we as a nation are ruled by laws, not a nation ruled by the passing whims of man.
A friend, Bill Federer who writes a daily email called American Minute, recently dealt with this issue of judicial power. In his piece, he quotes author of Democracy in America (1835) Alexis de Tocqueville who warned us saying:
--"The President, who exercises a limited power, may err without causing great mischief in the State.
--Congress may decide amiss without destroying the Union, because the electoral body in which Congress originates may cause it to retract its decision by changing its members.
--But if the Supreme Court is ever composed of imprudent men or bad citizens, the Union may be plunged into anarchy or civil war."
Many believe the American Civil War was at least, in part, caused by the Supreme Court's infamous Dred Scott decision in 1857 holding that slaves were not citizens, but property.
Abraham Lincoln alluded to this decision in his First Inaugural Address in 1861 in which he said: "The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made . . . the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of the eminent tribunal."
Friends, government is not everything, but it's not nothing either. We are commanded in Scripture to pray for those in authority. We often pray for our President, our Governor and others. But how about praying for the Justices of our Supreme Court and for lower court judges as well? Let's lift them up and ask that they will seek to properly perform their role for the good of our nation, so that we Christ-followers are able to live "peaceful lives in all godliness and holiness." (See I Timothy 2:1-4)
For whatever reason, in recent days, the sweet, melodious song from the 70s by the brother and sister team called The Carpenters has been swirling on my mind. The song? “Top of the World.”
Here are the lyrics:
"Such a feelin's comin' over me
There is wonder in 'most everything I see
Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes
And I won't be surprised if it's a dream
"Everything I want the world to be
Is now comin' true especially for me
And the reason is clear, it's because you are here
You're the nearest thing to heaven that I've seen
"I'm on the top of the world lookin' down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
Is the love that I've found ever since you've been around
Your love's put me at the top of the world
"Somethin' in the wind has learned my name
And it's tellin' me that things are not the same
In the leaves on the trees and the touch of the breeze
There's a pleasin' sense of happiness for me
"There is only one wish on my mind
When this day is through I hope that I will find
That tomorrow will be just the same for you and me
All I need will be mine if you are here"
Don’t we all dream for this sort of perfection, utopia, eternal bliss?
In some ways, it is totally right to have these aspirations. After all, we were created to live in Eden forever with God in eternal bliss. But, in the midst of utopia, we humans began to long for more, more, more. We wanted to be like God, so we took the bait offered us by Satan. Rather than trusting our Heavenly Father’s kindness, we chose poorly and mankind has suffered greatly ever since.
It is a truism that those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it. Well, we haven’t learned from our ancestors’ bad choices. We humans continue to look for life on our own rather than trusting God to daily meet our needs. Even we Christ-followers, grateful as we are for our free “ticket” to heaven when we die, we still are tempted to feel we need something more. “I need that achievement, that promotion, that vacation home, that marriage, that graduation, that next drink, that video game, that . . . . (you fill in the blank).”
Back to Karen Carpenter. The other half of The Carpenters was Karen’s older brother Richard. While starting small, they soon made it big, very big. They had it all: fame, riches, popularity. Karen’s singing voice is still considered by critics in our day one of the best female vocalists of all time.
But, despite all they had, it was never enough. Tragically, Karen had a succession of failed love relationships, including a marriage that she ended shortly after it began. Her self-image suffered from all this pain and she became anorexic. No counseling was sufficient to turn things around. Her weight dropped below 90 pounds and resulted in her dying of heart failure at the young age of 32.
Separately, Richard became dependent on prescription drugs that necessitated him going into treatment for a year. He is still alive, but says he misses his sister greatly.
Is the story of The Carpenters a unique one? By no means. Think of the tragic lives lived out by most of Hollywood’s stars and many sports stars and business and governmental leaders. The divorces, drug and alcohol addictions, depressions, suicides.
What is the answer?
I think of St Augustine’s profound truth which he learned the hard way after himself living so much of his early life for his own carnal desires: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
Some things in life are counter-intuitive. We think joy comes by doing whatever we want to do. The reality is that lasting joy surprisingly comes as we do what we should be doing from God’s point of view. As a juvenile court judge, I saw a microcosm of this truth played out almost daily. Kids would come before me who were totally out of control: not going to school, not obeying mom and dad at home etc. They came into my courtroom anything but joyful. I would threaten them with detention in our locked facility. They would inevitably plead with me for a second chance. Sometimes I would choose to extend some mercy and would say something like, “Ok, come back here in 3 weeks. But if you are still not doing what you are supposed to be doing, bring your toothbrush when you return, because you aren’t going home!” Often, in the intervening time they would clean up their act. When they returned, they almost always looked like different kids! They were almost giddy with joy. Why? Because they were doing the right thing and that brings joy!
The ultimate joy comes as we connect with our Heavenly Father and seek to obey His leading in our lives by His power. He will often allow trials in our lives (like the threatened and/or real pain I imposed on juveniles in my court) to get our attention and drive us back to Him.
God, please help us to seek you wholeheartedly and there to find your wonderful presence that is the ultimate place of joy.
Are you grieving over our nation?
Truth be known, I have spent parts of certain days recently feeling a great deal of heaviness about coronavirus and its impact on us as a nation. I'm sure some of that grief arises from self-pity--not being able to live my "normal" life.
But I believe that most of it relates to how God has wired me. I hate broken things! Since I was very young, I simply feel compelled to fix anything that doesn't work right. And, can we agree that America is badly broken?
I love our nation. While far from perfect, it has truly been a source of blessing to millions here and abroad. It has sent the Gospel to the farthest reaches of the globe and has ministered to the needs of hurting people virtually everywhere. The U.S. has stood against evil empires in other parts of the world. But now all is hanging in the balance. America seems broken almost beyond repair. I feel this hurt deeply; I so want it fixed!
People are getting sick, and many are dying from the virus. Who knows if and when "normal" will come back? Our national debt, that was already far too great, has now grown seemingly well beyond the place of no return. Our economy is in major free fall.
But, worst of all, we continue to have such internal division and strife in our land. Sadly, it is increasingly reminiscent of the time around the American Civil War in the 1860s.
None of us alive today lived during that grievous time in our nation's history. But just imagine how horrific it would feel to know that a total of 620,000 American young men in the prime of their lives would be killed in the Civil War! Talk about something broken needing repair! Imagine seeing your beloved nation split in two like that!
As I was praying recently about America, God reminded me of the words our dear President Abraham Lincoln penned in 1863 as he analyzed the reasons God had sovereignly allowed the Civil War to happen. While he could have pointed the finger of blame at those supporting slavery, he essentially said all Americans stand guilty of an even deeper sin. I feel very strongly that what he said then applies to America's divisive and sad situation today:
"And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
"And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
"It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness." (Abraham Lincoln, calling for a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer, April 30, 1863)
Just as our American ancestors did over 100 years ago, we too in our day have tragically forgotten God. Yes, we have the slogan "In God We Trust" written on our coins and dollar bills, but on all too few American hearts.
We have idols of technology, sports, leisure, money. We kill over 2,000 unborn babies "legally" every day in our land. We produce and consume pornography in great quantities. For many Christians, God is just one of their many interests, rather than the true center of their hearts and lives.
We could go on and on. But you get the point.
Friends, we need to do similarly to what Lincoln called for in 1863 and what God specifically calls us to do in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14,
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people [coronavirus?], if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
Will you pray we hear the message God is shouting to us? Before it is too late and God sends the U.S. to the dustbin of history along with the myriad of other nations in human history that did not heed God's warning?
Thank you for joining a growing group of American Christ-followers who are humbly taking this huge burden to God!
He is the executive director of The Grand Awakening.