“The land of the free, and the home of the brave.” At least that’s how the “Star-Spangled Banner” describes these United States. Whether that is still true in either instance is very much in question.
For many of the freedoms upon which this nation was founded have been slowly eroding, especially those involving our public faith in God. Many of us have allowed voices in our culture to convince us that the “separation of church and state” denies any matters of faith in the public arena. We have given up our freedom to be “Christian,” and the world we live in suffers dearly for it.
Which brings us to Independence Day, 2011. As our nation prepares to celebrate her 235th birthday on Monday, we would all do well to be reminded of the godly heritage on which this nation was founded. It is a heritage that is being increasingly imperiled by those who wish to purge our Christian ancestry from contemporary culture.
We need look no further than our first president, George Washington, to understand the roots of godly acknowledgment by our forefathers. In September, 1779, the House of Representatives, after passing a resolution calling for a day of national prayer and thanksgiving, received President Washington’s response:
It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits and humbly to implore His protection and favor….That great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that ever will be, that we may then unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people…
You have to wonder if certain segments of our society wouldn’t try to run the “Father of our Country” out of town on a rail for such comments today. Even so, as hard as they may try to remove God from our national heritage, they cannot. History will not allow it, and we mustn’t allow it.
As we celebrate America’s birthday with food, and family, and fireworks, let us not take lightly the godly heritage which has been passed down to us. And let us recommit ourselves to being distinctly Christian in our citizenship, for that is what our nation needs most.
Happy Birthday, America. And happy Independence Day to all of you, free and brave. Have a safe and blessed holiday weekend. I do hope to see you on Sunday.
Are you searching for God? You might want to consider looking in Sumter County, Florida. At least that’s what the folks at American Family Publishers seemed to think a few years ago, when they mailed a sweepstakes notice addressed to “God” to a church in Bushnell, about sixty miles north of Tampa. The message: “God is a finalist for the $11 million top prize!”
“God, we’re searching for you,” American Family wrote in the letter, received by the Bushnell Assembly of God. If God were to win, the letter stated, “What an incredible fortune there would be for God!” according to theSumter County Times, which first reported the divine mix-up. “Could you imagine the looks you’d get from neighbors? But don’t just sit there, God.”
Church pastor Bill Brack was quoted in a CNN report about the letter, saying, “I always thought He lived here, but I didn’t actually know.”
I do hope they found Him there, even though I doubt He really needed the prize money. And I do hope you find Him as well, wherever you are looking.
Of course, we all know, theologically-speaking, that God is alwayswith us. He is omni-present, meaning He is everywhere, all the time, even in Bushnell, Florida. However, we also know that the Bible tells us to “seek the Lord while He may be found,” even as He has come to “seek and to save” us as well. That means we seek the one who seeks us.
The good news is that we have been promised that our search will not be in vain. Hear what the Lord promised His people through His servant Moses, in Deuteronomy 4:29: “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Are you seeking the Lord?
I wouldn’t be surprised if we started getting a few letters addressed to God around here at Shelby Crossings, the way He has been “showing up” in our worship gatherings of late. We will continue to seek His presence, that He might reveal Himself to us in a real way, and speak to us from His word with clarity and conviction.
I hope you’ll be praying this week, in preparation for our worship gathering this Sunday, for God to be in the midst of His people, drawing us to Himself, and inhabiting the praises of His people. I’m praying for each of you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday. Why don’t you invite a friend to join us?
You’ve heard the story, probably from your earliest days of Sunday School. Adam and Eve, living in the world’s most perfect surroundings, with only one rule to govern their joyous existence. Who could ask for anything more?
And they still blew it. They fell to temptation, they ate of the tree, they sinned against God’s perfect plan for their lives.
Suddenly they realized they were naked, and were embarrassed. They hid themselves, then sewed together fix leaves to clothe themselves and cover up their shame. And from their place of hiding, they heard the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. He called out to them, asking simply, “Where are you?”
That whole scene has always fascinated me. I get a mental picture of a Tarzan-and-Jane world, except there was a perfect, unbroken fellowship with God that is hard to even imagine in our fallen world. Into that stressless environment of freedom and joy comes the tempter to throw a little discontent into their lives. Before you know it, there’s sin, there’s shame, there’s hiding from God.
Then there’s that question: “Where are you?”
It is important to realize that when the Lord asks His people a question, it’s not because He needs more information. He knew where they were. He was just checking to see if they did. They thought they could hide from Him, but in fact, they were hiding from themselves. And so He broke the garden silence with that simple, yet profound question of penetrating self-examination.
I believe He still asks that question today to all of us who now live in this less than perfect world. And many of us are still hiding–from sin, from shame, from God, from ourselves. So, how do youanswer that? Where are you, in your relationship with Him? God knows. Do you?
I hope you’ll come out of your hiding place this week so you can be “found” by God. He loves you–anyway–and He’s looking for you (even if He already knows where you are), with a desire to bless you more than you could imagine.
I look forward to seeing this Sunday.
The following words were written on the tomb of an Anglican bishop in the crypts of Westminster Abbey:
When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.
But it too seemed immovable.
As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.
And now as I lay on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.
So, what is it about the world you think needs changing? Or, closer to home, about our country? Or perhaps at your work place, in our church, or in your family? God wants to start right where you are and change youfirst, as He Himself transforms you by the power of His Holy Spirit, as you make yourself available to Him. From there He’ll work in you and through you to change the world.
I pray that today you’ll allow His touch of grace to minister hope and peace to your heart and bring change to your life first. I pray that for myself too. Who knows, you and I–and Jesus Christ working in us–may even change the world!
I look forward to seeing you Sunday morning, and later that day at our Shelby Crossings gathering at Oak Mountain. It’s going to be a great day!
Have a blessed weekend.
Ever tempted to stay home and sleep in on a Sunday morning, instead of coming to worship with your church family? Here’s some advice: Don’t!
A study a few years ago by the United Kingdom’s Department of Trade and Industry, reported in theLondon Times,says the average household is a pretty dangerous place. In a study of hospital records from 1999, government researchers found an 85 percent increase over the year before from injuries severe enough to require hospital admission associated with…tea cozies.
Since I had no clue what that was, I Googled it, and discovered (via Wikipedia) that a tea cozy is a cover for a teapot traditionally made of cloth or wool which is used to insulate the tea, keeping it warm while it brews. Very dangerous indeed.
In the same study, it was found that vegetables were indicted in 13,132 household injuries, toilet-roll holders 329, false teeth 933, and 16,662 were hospitalized after losing out to a sofa. “Trouser incidents” contributed to 5,945 injuries, compared to chainsaws at just 1,207. “It seems odd there are so many more accidents involving trousers than chainsaws,” admitted James Eason of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, “but everyone has trousers and hardly anyone has chainsaws.”
My first reaction is that those British folks are not very bright, or at least awfully clumsy. But I’m sure someone could do a study here in America and find similar statistics. We are constantly hearing of some report telling us the inherent dangers of our workplace, or traveling on the roads and highways, or riding a bike or scooter, or vacationing at the mountains or beach (Shark!). But when was the last time you heard someone say that “church” is a dangerous place to be? On the contrary, several academic studies have confirmed that people who attend church regularly are generally healthier, happier and live longer! So you might want to think again before you consider the “risk” of sleeping in this Sunday.
On the other hand, when you get serious about walking with the Lord and being an active part of His church, it can be kind of dangerous. One prominent pastor used to say he wanted his church to be “a safe place to hear a dangerous message.” I’d agree that’s what we’d like to be at Shelby Crossings–a safe place for people to find love and acceptance, while being confronted with the uncompromising and life-altering truth of the gospel that will turn their life upside down. Or better, rightside up!
Here’s hoping you have a safe weekend, but that you make plans to join us for a little “danger” on Sunday as we kick off our new summer series of messages from the Old Testament book of Daniel I’m praying for you, and look forward to seeing you on Sunday.