God, Have Mercy On America

A reader of my personal blog recently made the following comment: “Now to the Christian. Quit praying for God to bless America or any other country that does not honor God. Start praying for God to have mercy. Have mercy on the professing Christians who are being overcome by the cares of this world.”
This is something that has been on my mind for a while. I love the song, “God Bless America,” and yet America has turned her back on the Almighty God, so how can we continue to expect His blessings?
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 I am thankful to have been born in this country, and I’m grateful for the freedoms I have; yet, one by one, those freedoms are being taken away, and I believe this will continue to be the trend.
I am praying fervently for this country. I pray for God’s mercy on this next election. More than anything, I pray for a leader who fears God and will seek Him. At the same time, I realize God may not answer my prayer. You see, many of those who call themselves Christians have forgotten their first love. They have allowed television, business, relationships, family, activities, even ministry to replace the God they used to love. They no longer have time for Him because there are too many other things that consume their time. How can God bless a country when His own people are no longer living Godly lives?
As I write this, I am close to tears. I am so burdened for the state of the Church in America and, yes, I know that Revival must begin with me. I am not pointing fingers. I too have been guilty at times of “serving God” while neglecting the God I serve; yet I realize that, if I am going to survive in this ever-changing world, I must cry out to Him now like never before. I can’t afford to “relax.” This is a battle but one which, ultimately, must be won in the Spirit.
This weekend, while I thank God that I can still worship freely in the church of my choice, I am also sober-minded as I realize the day may come when this is no longer an option. In spite of Lee Greenwood’s assumption, they CAN take our freedom away, and I believe they will continue to do so if God doesn’t intervene.
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So, this weekend, I am praying, “God, have mercy on America. Draw Your people back to You. Continue to show me the areas in my life that don’t please You so that I can be a better witness and a Light while you give me breath. Help me not to waste my days but to spend them giving glory and honor to You and drawing ever closer to You continually. Thank You for allowing me to be born in this country. Please grant us a leader who will make decisions based on Your Word. Put our priorities where they need to be, with You at the center of everything we do, say, vote on, etc. Thank You, Father. You are so good to us, and I know that whatever happens in this next year or two will be for our eternal good and Your ultimate glory. Amen!”

Superman Goes to Church?

Yesterday evening, I posted this on my Facebook wall. No, this was not some off the wall church, but a long-established church considered well within the realms of evangelicalism. Some preachers of old came from this particular denomination and would probably roll over in their graves if they knew what was being spoon-fed to gullible sheep.

“Well that church visit was a one-timer only! We knew we were in for a treat when the sermon notes had a picture of Clark Kent / Christopher Reeves with a big Cross in place of the “S” on his chest. The sermon title says it all, “Super Christian, A Fat Woman, and an Old Camera.” Wow, two hours of our lives we will never get back.

During the message inspirational talk, the first large chunk of the time was taken up trying to get the hearer to see how they relate to the Superman of the movies. Basically, we each have our Kryptonite and the reality is that we are far from being SuperChristian. However, if we work hard, in 5 years, we can become closer to the SuperChristian ideal than we are today. It only takes a desire on our part to use our willpower to change.

Here were a couple of quotes from the person who was tasked with delivering the whole truth of Scripture, but failed miserably:

“Love is the most powerful change agent in our lives. So we must love God and love ourselves. The change process includes asking Him to be your Lord and GIVE Him authority for what you become in the future.”

Shades of Joel Osteen. How much biblical knowledge does a person have to unlearn in order to spout these kinds of comments to a listening congregation? Even worse, how shallow does a believer have to be in order to accept these comments from the pulpit?

Let us clarify a few things here. 1) Yes, love is important and is the greatest of faith, hope, and love. However, for believer and unbeliever alike, only God can be the most powerful change agent in our lives. An unbeliever cannot truly love with a biblical love unless he or she is completely and powerfully changed by the God of the universe. For the believer, we are called to renew our minds and to die to self daily, not to love ourselves.

This kind of thinking quickly devolves into the false teaching that we must forgive ourselves and there are even churches that are teaching that in order to move forward in our lives, that we must learn to forgive God as well. This is blasphemy. God has nothing for which He can be forgiven. Only a sinful creature needs to be forgiven, and this comes from God for our wickedness against His holiness.

Here is another quote –

“God loves you just how you are and will love you completely EVEN if you never change.”

Excuse me while I get sick. My stomach should be ok in a few days, but my head will struggle for awhile. This is absolute drivel to coin a good Greek word. Is it true that God loves each of us? First, John 3:16 makes it clear that God loved the world that He gave the ultimate gift of His Only Begotten Son. However, in that same passage, Jesus continued and said in verse 36 that for those who do not believe that the wrath of God abides on them even now. God hates sin. God detests sin. God loathes sin.

This is the problem with much of evangelicalism. It wants to focus so much on the love to the complete, or almost complete, exclusion of the wrath of God. God is equally a God of love and a God of wrath. If there was no wrath, there could be no love exhibited. God had to hate sin infinitely in order to love infinitely.

Further, this last quote smacks of a complete misunderstanding of Biblical truths, and here is why. 1) God does NOT love you just how you are for you and I were once dead in trespasses and sins. The wrath of God bore down upon our heads and we were bound for destruction. God could not place His love upon that which rises in ultimate rebellion against His holiness because He accepts you the way you are. No, no, NO! If God loves you the way you are, then there would have been no need for Jesus Christ to have become the ultimate sacrifice.

2 Corinthians 5:17 makes this abundantly clear. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

God will be glorified in all things and one day, every knee will bow down before Jesus Christ. This will be true of those in heaven, or earth, or in hell. However, the Bible is clear that when God sets His love upon you and redeems you from the slave market of sin that you WILL NOT remain the same. You CANNOT be the same person and choose to abide in your sin with no discipline or correction.

If there has never been a change or if you never change, the wrath of God will remain upon you and one day, in the pits of hell, you will find yourself cursing God with all of your being.

If you are a true believer, then you will not be able to keep from changing anymore than a baby can by willpower choose to remain an infant.

So, while the sheeple were being entertained, the Holy Spirit must have been grieved. The music and announcement time comprised right at 60 minutes of the total service time. Many swayed and clapped with the music driven by the band at the front, but few sang. People laughed at the jokes and little anecdotes, and I presume they went away feeling like they had accomplished something special by filling in the Church/God box of their lives for another week. Yet, there was no change.

It was a very sad commentary on what happens when the pulpit gets away from the Bible as the standard, and a very sad commentary on what happens when the people in the pew have no clue whether what is being said is actually in the Bible or not. We were grieved at the realization that here was another full church full of people who had no clue what it means to biblically worship a holy, righteous God.

Superman is not real, but God is real. Superman does not belong in church, but God does (Rev. 3:20). Our God came into the world to save sinners and to change them. He doesn’t turn us into SuperChristian, but His Holy Spirit guides us into all truth so that we become more like an image of the Lord Jesus Christ.

LOST – The Holiness of God in Churches

Preaching about the love of God as if He is like the friendly grandfather is a false gospel. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life is a false gospel. The true gospel is one that exalts the holiness of God, the supremacy of Jesus Christ, and the total depravity of every person who has ever lived.

Bitter Bile in the Throat!

When a woman cries, men often feel awkward or embarrassed. They struggle with knowing what to say or do. A man will seek to sympathize with her and may say something designed to help when all she may need is just a listening ear and a tissue to wipe her eyes. Another woman will both sympathize and empathize knowing that no matter what the problem is, there are times when a good cry may help to soothe the aching heart.

However, when one sees a man who has been brought to the point where he is sobbing in utter despair and anguish, there is a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. How does one watch a man completely broken without the realization that his entire life has crashed to the point where it seems life has been destroyed? There is something that crushes the spirit when a man sees another brought to such depths of despair. Nothing can be said that will probably offer help. A man in grief is often alone, or feels alone, because what makes him a man has been compromised and defeated – but in his despair, he does not care for what others think.

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The year is 586 B.C. and the prophet Jeremiah has come to that point. Reading his words with a true understanding paints a picture that is awkward to read and reveals much of the man in our account. Lamentations 2:11 continues with more of what transpired in the first chapter, but the description of his grief and despair is emotionally draining. “My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out to the ground.”

I remember the day like it was yesterday. My 22 year old brother’s boss called me at home to tell me that my brother was having difficulty breathing, that the EMT’s were already helping him, that they were taking him to the hospital for further observation, and that we were not to worry as he would be fine very soon.

Arriving at the hospital, I ran inside and was confronted by two nurses talking about a “John Doe.” Identifying myself, they checked their files and asked me to take a seat in a little room. One nurse told me the doctor would be with me very shortly and then closed the door behind me. I was getting rather worked up at this point, but I did not think the worst – yet!

After what seemed like an eternity but was probably no more than 4-5 minutes, I walked back out and repeated my request to see my brother. The nurses hastened to assure me that the doctor was with my brother and would come see me in just a minute. I walked back to the little room, and as I closed the door, I noticed a little sign that said, “Family Consultation Room.”

Now, my mind is starting to race back through the times I had tried to help others and fear began to grip my mind and heart. Still having no desire to put all the pieces together in my mind, I tried to rationalize away everything that was pointing to a meeting I knew I was not going to like. I staggered to a seat and sat down. Absent-mindedly, I watched a couple of minutes later as the doctor walked in with a person in some type of uniform. The only thing I remember seeing was the cross on the lapel of each side of a stiffly starched collar – and I knew!

The doctor’s words, “I’m so sorry. We did all we could, but there was nothing we could do.” The words were not necessary and his apology already rang as trite in my mind. After all, it was NOT his brother who had just had a massive heart attack. What did he mean that there was nothing that they could do? Surely, they could just either just restart his heart, or at the very least reverse the clock so that time could undo what had transpired over the previous 45 minutes.

It seemed like my world ended. My eyes filled with tears for weeks and months at the mere mention of something that made my brother special to our family. I struggled to eat and more times than not, my stomach churned at the very thought of food. That day in the “Family Consultation Room”, I do remember the contents of my stomach demanding to make an appearance. Throwing up is an action and feeling that I hate with a passion and it was all I could do to keep from vomiting that day.

There have been very few times in my life where I have been so violently ill that I have thrown up everything in my stomach. In a handful of those times, I can remember my stomach still tried to find something to get rid of, and so, it found the bile. Bile has a very bitter taste and is dark green or yellow in color.

What had caused such a reaction in my body? It was, of course, the helpless situation that sought to engulf my life. An unexpected death brought an overwhelming sense of despair and it seemed like there was nobody to turn to for comfort. Through no fault of his own, the doctor appeared as an enemy, and the last thing I wanted was the woman chaplain to try and offer me comfort. I did not want the box of tissues she offered and she could not bring my brother back. She was of no use to me.

Cemetery

For the first time in my life, death had personally visited our home. That is what it took to bring me to my knees. The reality of death produced in me a body racked with pain because of the sobs and wailing that broke over and over from my throat like a small boat caught in the waves of a storm.

What in the world did it take to do the same to Jeremiah, a man accustomed to difficult situations? Did somebody that he loved die, maybe a wife, a parent, or a child?

The entire second chapter of Lamentations reveals that it was not the death of a close loved one that was destroying the physical well-being of Jeremiah’s body. Jeremiah’s emotions have been brought to what he thinks is the lowest possible point. He clutches his chest with the pain that courses through his soul. His head must hurt from the throbbing, and just as he thinks he has control of his emotions, another wave crashes over him and takes him down to another level.

Are you ready for the revelation of his words? It was –

THE WRATH OF GOD BEING POURED OUT UPON ISRAEL!

Listen to these words and phrases – “The Lord in His anger,” “The Lord has swallowed up without mercy,” “In His wrath He has broken down,” “He has cut down in fierce anger,” and “He has poured out His fury like fire.”

While we must ask the question of why is this happening, Jeremiah records some of the most solemn events that he has actually seen take place.

1) The Lord has made Zion forget the feasts and the Sabbath.
2) The Lord has spurned both priest and king because of His fierce indignation.
3) The Lord has scorned the altar of sacrifice in the Temple.
4) The Lord has disowned His sanctuary.

When my brother passed away, I remember repeating over and over, “Why, why, why, why?” I sat heartbroken, and although I knew the answer was found in the sovereign purposes of a holy, righteous, and loving God, I still wanted to blame others. There were even a few moments that I wanted to lay the blame on God.

But with Israel, it was different. Tragedy had struck. The tragedy that befell Israel was much worse than my losing a brother. In the despair our family faced, God was so very gracious and gave measure after measure of grace and strength in time of trouble.

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Israel did not have this luxury. It was too late for that. Jeremiah has confessed his faults and rebellion before God, but the nation has failed to turn from her wicked ways. Now, judgment day had arrived and nothing would stay the hand of Almighty God. The children of Israel thought they could play games with God and get away with it, but they were wrong!

Jeremiah then paints a picture that reveals the same tragedies being played on the stages of many churches across our land. It was a time of not tragedy, but it was a time of utter ruin. In 2:14, we find that many false prophets had risen up to bring nothing more than false hope. The problem was that 1) they prophesied false and deceptive visions saying that it was from God, 2) they had failed to expose the iniquity of the people, and 3) they have sought to encourage only those who are false and misleading.

The church in the West needs to listen to the laments of Jeremiah and take heed. Stop listening to the false prophets spouting Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Stop listening to ministers who whenever things are going wrong parrot the first part of Romans 8:28, “We know ALL things work together for God.” They use this verse out of context thinking this is like a pill that will make everything better for whoever wants to swallow it.

But these prophets who seek to forecast great days ahead have forgotten the rest of the verse, “All things work together for good to them that love God and to them who are called according to His purpose.” This means that not everybody will have all things worked out for the good. The ALL things are conditional based on our obedience.

In fact, the bitter bile that rises in the throat when we realize that we may be the recipients of what Jeremiah notes in Lamentations 2:17, “The LORD has done what He purposed; He has carried out His word, which He commanded long ago; He has thrown down without pity; He has made the enemy rejoice over you and exalted the might of your foes.”

Let me point out one more verse that has rocked me to the core as I read this over and over again this week. Lamentations 2:15, “All who pass along the way clap their hands at you; they hiss and wag their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem: ‘Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of all the earth?’”

Those who are true believers should take heed to the lament before it becomes too late as it did with Jeremiah weeping over Jerusalem. If we do not repent and plead to God for mercy for our nation and for our churches, we will see the heathen pass by us clapping their hands, hissing and wagging their heads in derision.

Just as there were few who wept over their sin along with Jeremiah, so, too, there are few today who weep over their sin, the sin in their homes, the sin in their churches, and the sin in their nation. Our churches have failed miserably over and over again. Few are crying out the warnings necessary because it is not popular. It does not make people feel good about themselves. They have itching ears, but as Leonard Ravenhill often stated, “We have no commission to scratch them!”

The representation of Jesus Christ on this earth is the true church for which He died and shed His precious blood. Each local body of believers is called upon to be a light to the part of the world in which they live.

How tragic it will be when those to whom we are called to witness turn on the church. Hissing and wagging their heads in derision, we will hear them say, “Is this the (church) that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of all the earth?”

True believers, we are called to heed the Scriptures as they call us to remember that one day the glorious Bridegroom Jesus Christ will return for a beautiful Bride. She will be the one who has made herself ready and arrayed herself in white garments. Do our churches reflect Jesus Christ who is the joy of all the earth? Do the heathen see in us the perfection of beauty because of what Jesus Christ has done in and through us? Or, do they only see and laugh at our destruction because instead of being like Christ, we thought it more important to be like the world?

When the heathen were courting Jerusalem with wine, jewels, and precious things, those called by the name of God were happily enchanted as they prostituted themselves over the gods of wood and stone. But when destruction came, the heathen had spoiled and taken all they wanted. They had assaulted Jerusalem and there was no more allure to the beautiful city of God.

Church of Jesus Christ, when we have finished courting the world and finished prostituting ourselves to gain the attention of unbelievers through entertainment and trivialities and messages that save nobody but only bring damnation to the souls of those who come to our meetings – then we will have to pay the price that comes from a reckless abandon of God and the rewards for our unforsaken and unconfessed sin will come home.

We will weep and wail. Our eyes will be red. Our hearts will pound with pain in our chests. The bile will rise in our throat as we vomit our anguish realizing that God cannot and will not be mocked, and that whatsoever we have sown, we will also reap.

However, right now, it would appear that there is still time for repentance. It would appear that the Lord remains a longsuffering and patient God. Let us flee to Him before our laments darken the skies of our existence in a day when it will be too late!

Sissified Needy Jesus?

Pastor Voddie Baucham preaches the truth firmly and solidly from the Scriptures. His message is loving but it is a warning to those that think Jesus Christ is just some mamby-pamby God who has to have us in order to justify His own existence. He needs nothing from us.