Tag Archives: judgment

Yet You Did Not Return to Me: Economic Disaster

I recently wrote that coronavirus might be judgment from God and an opportunity to draw nearer to God. But, by my observation, most people and many Christians seem to be focused on the sins of others. Uncivil discourse on racism, LGBTQ rights, MAGA, the pandemic, abortion, cultural Marxism, and a myriad of other concerns consume our time as people trample each other in a panic of virtue signaling. Instead of examining ourselves against God’s standards, we’re promoting ourselves as righteous based on which group or cause we identify with. This is not repentance.

Lost in all this turmoil is any sense that coronavirus might be a wake-up call from God. Instead of an opportunity for individuals to repent, various groups see the pandemic as an opportunity to advance their worldly agendas.

Prosperity & Turning Away from God

Before bringing catastrophic judgment, God gets a nation’s attention in a variety of ways. A nation that turns away from God and ignores him often does so in the midst of prosperity. This is consistent with Jesus’ teaching that we cannot serve both God and money, either we will hate one and love the other or we will be devoted to one and despise the other (Matthew 6:24). In the time of the prophet Amos, the rich in the northern kingdom of Israel oppressed the poor in their quest for wealth (Amos 2:7; 4:1; 5:11; 8:4,6).

Missed Opportunities to Repent

God brought calamities upon Israel to remind them—“I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols” (Isaiah 42:8). He brought disaster so that they might repent.

But they did not.

After each calamity the Lord declared—“yet you did not return to me” (Amos 4:6,8,9,10,11).  As a result, though God had been longsuffering, eventually Israel would be destroyed by Assyria.

Economic Disaster

The first calamity God brought upon Israel was economic disaster, which, in an agricultural economy, is expressed as draught, blight, locusts and famine (Amos 4: 6-9).

Sin reflects our desire for happiness and satisfaction apart from God. When God removes our prosperity, he thwarts our efforts to find heaven on earth and provides us with an opportunity to repent. However, a person with a rebellious and hardened heart “shakes his fist” at God and refuses to repent and draw near.

America’s Economic Sins

As did Israel in the time of Amos, the world in general, and the U.S. in particular faces economic distress. But the majority narrative that the U.S. economy was strong and our economic problems will go away when the pandemic is under control is a lie. It is strong delusion. This narrative ignores our economic sins. As long as we fail to recognize our sin, there is no chance anyone will repent.

What do I mean by economic sin? We are a debtor nation that cannot repay the debt owed to our trading partners. This is wicked (Psalm 37:21). Our lifestyle is subsidized in part by some of the poorest nations on earth. When the plunder of the poor is in your house it gets God’s attention (Isaiah 3:13-15). The pursuit of wealth dwarfs the pursuit of God as we convince ourselves that either God doesn’t exist or that we can serve both God and money. We condone an economic system that can only thrive on discontent and debt even as it demands our full allegiance. This is problematic for Christians as it leaves little time and energy to advance the Kingdom of God (Proverbs 23:4).

The Worst Is Ahead

Our economic actions have assured consequences. We reap what we sow. Record individual, corporate, national and international debt is evidence that we have lived beyond our means for decades. The party is over and the economic hangover will be the worst we’ve ever experienced. To make matters worse, U.S. monetary policy (with the Federal Reserve believing they can stave off another Great Depression by buying debt) is on a collision course with hyperinflation. If they don’t reverse course, everyone’s savings will be wiped out.

We dare not carry on as usual during these times unless we know for sure we have nothing to repent of. We do not want to hear God say of us, “Yet you did not return to me.” Our economic famine might turn into an actual famine. Furthermore, if our nation follows the pattern of Israel, we will also experience ”not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” Dare we think that those who desire to tear down our statues and our society will not come after Christians? When persecution arrives, will we be ready spiritually?

Still Doubtful About the Precarious State of Our Economy?

If you still hold doubts about the precarious condition of our economy, these articles explain why our economy was weak before the pandemic:

The Wizard of Odd – Trump Edition. Why debt is a problem and why our standard of living must go down in order to pay it back.

What Really Causes Inequality? Contains answers to this question that both conservatives and liberals will love and hate.

How Much Socialism Does it Take to Collapse an Economy? – Part 2 Explains why U.S. monetary policy is headed toward hyperinflation (this article is fairly technical).

The Money Changers Have Stolen From Our Future – Why We Will Have to Live on Less Explains why the prevalent financial practice of ignoring the future to attain short term gain makes our economic prosperity unsustainable.

America’s Level of Prosperity Is Not Sustainable – Explores the implications of our trade deficit.

Feeling Repressed? Discusses stealthy methods used to transfer your money to the government. Hint- it involves inflation.

As In the Days of Noah

Noah lived in the midst of evil. We do too. Our modern world has plenty of idols. For some it is politics, for others it is entertainment. Acquiring wealth consumes the time and affections of many people, providing a false sense of security and self-sufficiency that excludes God. As in the days of Noah, violence fills our world. Individuals and nations employ violence as a means to secure wealth through war, sex trafficking, drug trafficking, and exploitation of others in the global marketplace. Violence against the unborn has reached abominable proportions. It’s not difficult for Christians to identify many other forms of corruption and to be appalled at their rapid increase.

A Unique Task

God gave Noah a unique task for a unique time. Noah, a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5), was faithful even though God delayed for decades the judgment he declared to Noah. Though none of us have a task as unique as Noah’s nor live in as unique a time, we can learn from Noah’s persistent obedience. We can, in the words of the apostle Paul, see to it that we complete the ministry we have received in the Lord (Colossians 4:17).

It could be that you have been given a specific task, one that others have been given but that is by no means universal. Perhaps you have journeyed far and labored long in obedience to God’s clear instruction but do not yet see the fruit you expected. Be encouraged by this:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.—Galatians 6:9

Favor In the Eyes of the Lord

Noah, a righteous man and blameless among the people, found favor in the eyes of the Lord and he walked with God.

A careful look at scripture shows many of God’s promises to be conditional on our obedience. We either walk with God or we don’t, there is no third option. If we cling to idols we cannot simultaneously walk with God, if we serve money we cannot serve God, we will not gratify the flesh if we walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16); we cannot be partners with immoral, impure or greedy people and be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1-7).

The Bible is filled with exhortations to persevere in our faith. In times such as we now find ourselves in, God looks with favor upon those who, like Noah, walk with him and are obedient to the task they are given.

A Universal Task

God has given some tasks to every Christian. None of us are excluded from walking in the Spirit, being ambassadors for Christ, or making disciples. We cannot do what God has asked of us in our own strength, but God has made it possible for us to participate in the work that he is completing in us. We can, in the words of the New Testament, see to it that none of us has a sinful unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God (Hebrews 3:12) and that no one falls short of the grace of God (Hebrews 12:15). We can “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”. We can “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Noah had to be prepared for the time of God’s judgment. Likewise, we must be prepared for the Lord’s return. God has promised to complete the work he began in us. We take comfort in this fact when we stumble while running our race, knowing that our perseverance, though there is no room for laxity on our part, ultimately depends upon God. Even the warnings against falling away found in the book of Hebrews serve as a means by which God ensures his elect do not leave the faith.

Noah warned about unseen things. As in the days of Noah, the unbelieving world is unaware of the wrath to come. We are called to go into the whole world and warn them, to make disciples who follow Jesus and escape God’s wrath.

Persevering In the Storm

Whether you believe the coronavirus pandemic is judgment from God on a rebellious world, a wake-up call for believers or merely evil resulting from a fallen world, the task in front of every Christian remains the same—to persevere in faith.

I can’t help but wonder what Noah thought while the flood waters prevailed on the earth for 150 days. How long would he have to live in the ark? When would he be back on familiar, solid ground?

The Lord knows how to rescue godly men and women from trials (2 Peter 2:9). If you are discouraged during this pandemic, recall that even as the floodwaters were still high, God remembered Noah and then made the waters subside. He will remember you too. Be faithful.

God Is Good

God is Good: A Mini Theodicy

Theodicy: An explanation of why a good, omniscient, omnipotent God permits evil.

The task of any theodicy is to show that the existence of evil is not contradictory to a God who is omnipotent, omniscient and morally good. This article does not attempt a full-orbed theodicy. Instead I assert that God permitting evil and God’s judgment of evil are not contradictory to the actions of a good and loving God.

A common explanation for the coronavirus is that it is a natural evil resulting from the Fall. The Scriptures show that goodness is the essence of God while evil is revolt against God (Psalms 25:7-8; 100:5; 118:1; Matthew 19:17). Scripture also affirms that God’s creation was good and later subjected to futility as the result of sin. God’s original creation contained no coronavirus. It contained neither disease nor infirmity. It contained no evil. It was good (Genesis 1:31).

But knowing the source of evil and why it exists doesn’t explain why God permits it. It doesn’t give any hint as to the purpose of suffering. We need the Bible to tell us that too.

Satan Did It

Some Christians, who believe correctly that “God is love,” can’t seem to imagine how God would in any way be involved in bringing calamity upon people even when faced with Scriptures that indicate that He is involved during times of judgment (Amos 3:6). For them, the “go-to” option that remains to explain something like coronavirus is that it comes from Satan. But to come to this conclusion without considering the possibility that a disaster might be judgment from God, one must ignore God’s other attributes such as justice, mercy and holiness. This is the “let God off the hook” argument I mentioned in my last article.1

This “Satan did it” line of reasoning aligns perfectly with the skeptic’s contention that God is either indifferent or unable to stop evil. If God is not Judge, he is not in control. Christians affirm that God is in control, so how can we acknowledge that Satan seeks to do harm to people without attributing to him more power than he actually possesses?

God Is Not the Author of Evil

God is not the author of evil. Scripture is clear on this matter (1 John 1:5b; James 1:13; 1 Peter 3:12). But Scripture also consistently asserts that God is sovereign over his creation (Job 38:8, 11; Psalm 89:8-9; Luke 8:24). Evil is on a leash, restrained by the hand of the Almighty. God is in control (Job 2:6).

In an article entitled “How to Contemplate Calamity,” John Piper notes that both the author of the book of Job and Job regard God as the decisive cause of Job’s misery (Job 1:21; 42:11; 2:10). Satan certainly was involved in Job’s misery (Job 1:12; 2:6) but he had not the decisive hand. Piper points out that Job’s misery was not punishment, but purifying (Job 42:6) but that the death of his children may have been judgment (but we simply don’t know for sure). His point is that suffering and death can be judgment and mercy at the same time (1 Peter 2:24).2

This dual application of judgment and mercy can be true for any calamity that is a result of the Fall, including the coronavirus.

Evil Brothers and an Evil King

Let’s look at two examples from Scripture, one familiar and one not so familiar, in which God permitted evil to accomplish his purpose. In the first God used evil to bring about good. In the second he used evil to punish evil.

The story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers is well known, as is his amazing declaration after he reunited with his brothers many years later, forgiving them:

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. —Genesis 50:19-20

Without the Fall, there would be no coronavirus. Without the Fall, Joseph’s brothers would not have acted wickedly and sold him into slavery. Without the Fall, Joseph would not have suffered so much at the hands of other men. But without God orchestrating events, there would have been no food in Egypt and many would have died of starvation.

In a perhaps less familiar example, the Assyrians, a particularly cruel people, were the instrument by which the Northern Kingdom of Israel’s destruction came about. God made clear through his prophets (Hosea, Amos, Isaiah) that this destruction was a judgment from God.

Without the Fall, there would have been no wicked King of Assyria who boasted of his military might:

When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, “I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. For he says:

“‘By the strength of my hand I have done this,
and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.
I removed the boundaries of nations,
I plundered their treasures;
like a mighty one I subdued their kings.
As one reaches into a nest,
so my hand reached for the wealth of the nations;
as people gather abandoned eggs,
so I gathered all the countries;
not one flapped a wing,
or opened its mouth to chirp.’” —Isaiah 10:12-14

God used this wicked nation to judge another wicked nation, Israel. Assyria was merely an axe in the hand of God. It was God who swung the axe:

Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it,
or the saw boast against the one who uses it?
As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up,
or a club brandish the one who is not wood!
Therefore, the Lord, the Lord Almighty,
will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors;
under his pomp a fire will be kindled
like a blazing flame.—Isaiah 10:15-16

God’s Judgments Are Righteous

It is not evil for God to judge his creatures (Romans 2:4-5). If it were, then there would be no hell for a good God of love. This idea that all humans will eventually be reconciled to God (so no need for an eternal hell), of course, is the conclusion that Universalists have come to, and it’s based upon a false conception of God. It can only come about when humans impose their idea of good upon God. We say God is good and then define good as something or someone who does not allow evil rather than using the biblical definition that says that good is God’s character and actions, which are both exclusive of evil.

Where Does God Draw the Line?

Why does God allow you or me to sin? When we think about evil, our minds go to unusually wicked actions of people like Hitler, child predators, human traffickers or to natural disasters, or to creatures like Satan who continually act in an evil and cruel manner.

If God did what so many of us would like him to (namely, not allow great evil), there would have been no Hitler or other despots. However, if God didn’t allow them into the world, we would then see those who did a little less evil than Hitler and Stalin as people God shouldn’t allow. We would still not be satisfied and we would eventually demand that God not allow whoever’s evil we detest into the world. Then surely God would draw the line between good and evil before he got to us.

Nope.

This is where God draws the line:

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.—Luke 18:19

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! —Matthew 7:11

In short, ordinary people, indeed, all people, are evil and deserve death and hell. If only God is good, where does that leave us?

A Perfect Solution to the Problem of Evil

Creatures brought sin into the world. Our sin, no matter how insignificant it seems to us, separates us from God.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God—Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death—Romans 6:23a

A good, loving God provides a way out of the predicament that sinful humans find themselves in.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.—Romans 6:23

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.—John 3:16

What does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? It means to trust in and depend on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross as penalty for your sin and acknowledge that you can do nothing to earn salvation.

If you are reading this and you have yet to believe that Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus, you need to know this—that those who trust in Jesus are imputed his righteousness and are no longer separated from God.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.—2 Corinthians 5:21

Those who have not believed in Jesus when they die will spend eternity in hell, but those who believed will have eternal life with God.

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”—Matthew 25:46

The Bible says we must decide now in this life because it is appointed to men to die once and then be judged (Hebrews 9:27). There is no second chance after you die.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near—Isaiah 55:6

If you trust in Jesus now, he will lead you into his Kingdom.

God’s Is Just and He Is Good

At the cross God brought the greatest good out of the greatest evil. Evil men murdered the perfect Son of God. He was crucified for our sins and paid the penalty for them on our behalf.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.—Isaiah 53:5

There will be a final judgment. At that time all who have believed in the name of Jesus will enter eternal bliss because their sins were judged at the cross. Those who reject Jesus will get what they want, an eternity without God telling them what to do. Those who rejected the Light of the World (John 8:12) will be in eternal darkness. They will be in eternal agony separated from everything good. They will be forever separated from God.

 

Notes:

  1. God can’t actually be let off the hook, because that would imply he was “on the hook” for doing something wrong. God’s ways are perfect, so it is only our arrogance and misunderstanding of God’s character that demand that God act in a way that suits our definition of good.
  2. John Piper, “How to Contemplate Calamity,” Desiring God, December 26, 2012, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-contemplate-calamity.

Is the Coronavirus Judgment from God?

Is the coronavirus judgment from God? Surely Christians everywhere are asking this question or one like it.

I have listened to a number of sermons from this past Sunday that addressed the believer’s response to the pandemic we now experience. All of the pastors exhorted their congregations not to fear. Believers were reminded that God is in control and that he is our fortress. People were encouraged to pray for courage, mercy and peace. These are all very good responses.

Some pastors said the coronavirus is just one of many calamities (though admittedly larger in scope) that God allows in a fallen world. Others, similarly, proclaim it to be just another natural disaster, all of which can be traced to sin. No need to panic, nothing new under the sun here. This is not the beginning of the tribulation. Just hunker down and trust God.

The Elephant In the Room

What was missing from all but one of the messages I listened to (admittedly a small sample) was any notion that the coronavirus might be judgment from God. In fact, one well-known pastor said it would be dangerously presumptuous to say that the coronavirus was judgment on America for wicked behavior (such as abortion) if God did not say it, citing Deuteronomy 18:20. I agree. Why would God send corona virus upon the whole earth as judgment for the sins of the United States?

But how can something that, on a world-wide basis, brings economies to nearly a standstill and upends life as we knew it with no end date in sight just be a run-of–the-mill natural disaster?

I fear that when we omit judgment as a possible explanation for this pandemic, it might be perceived by unbeliever and believer alike as “letting God off the hook” for the suffering, fear and death this pandemic will cause.

The result of not mentioning judgment is predictable. Doing so brings comfort to the people of the world, especially Christians steeped in it, who might otherwise examine their troubled hearts, by telling them that everything will be ok, just play video games or whatever else distracts you from reality. Carry on as usual except that now, perhaps, would be a good time to start reading your Bible.

Conditional Comfort?

I am one of many who take comfort in Psalm 91. Three times in this Psalm, protection from pestilence and plague and the fear they produce is promised to the one who dwells in the shelter of the Most High. The psalmist also gives this promise:

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent. (ESV)

Charles Spurgeon says this about Psalm 91:

The blessings here promised are not for all believers, but for those who live in close fellowship with God. Every child of God looks towards the inner sanctuary and the mercy-seat, yet all do not dwell in the most holy place; they run to it at times, and enjoy occasional approaches, but they do not habitually reside in the mysterious presence.

If this be true, then carrying on as usual is the last thing that we want to do, unless our normal day consists of walking in the Spirit, ever communing with God and surrendering each day to him.

An absence of prayer and Bible reading indicates we are not dwelling in the shelter of the Most High (Psalm 91:1). In this time of pandemic, exhortations to draw close to God should be bold and forceful, not merely suggestions. Abiding under the shadow of the Almighty does not happen when God is an afterthought or the last Person to gain our attention on a daily basis.

Disease and Judgment In the Bible

Jesus could stop this virus in an instant. Why hasn’t he? Maybe God brought the corona virus for a particular purpose.

“Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heals.”

—Habakkuk 3:5

Throughout the Bible God used disease as judgment.

God brought pestilence as judgment on Egypt and he will bring it as judgment at the end of days to judge the world system of Babylon (Revelation 18:8). Our God protects and blesses, but he also brings pestilence to accomplish his righteous purpose on earth (See Isaiah 45:7; Ezekiel 5:16-17; Amos 4:10).

When Moses finished writing the Torah he warned God’s people that they would rebel against the Lord, do evil in the sight of the Lord provoking him to anger through the work of their hands. So, as judgment for their idolatry; evil would come upon them. (See Deuteronomy 31:24-32:47) Disease was part of the judgment (Deuteronomy 32:24).

Other examples where disease is used for judgment can be found in Jeremiah 42:22 and Numbers 25:9.

Awake O Sleeper

If the coronavirus is not judgment, then surely believers can see it as a wakeup call:

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. —Ephesians 5:14-16 (ESV)

 

Wouldn’t the best use of our time during this pandemic be to examine our walk with God? We can use this time to address the sins we have clung to (Psalm 66:18) and expunge them from our lives. We can ask God to show us sins we aren’t aware of (Psalm 139:23-24).

The law of God reveals our sin to us (Romans 7:7-8). The blessed man delights in it and meditates on it day and night (Psalm 1:2). The one who turns away his ear from it utters abominable prayers (Proverbs 28:9). 

What if we aren’t close to God? What if we have strayed?

Take the first step.

In James, chapter 4, the author attributes division in the church to worldliness. James beckons us to draw near to God so that he will draw near to us. He exhorts us not to be double-minded, to repent and purify our hearts.

Do we not find ourselves in a situation that is an opportunity to seriously examine our hearts, repent and humble ourselves to receive the promise that the Lord will exalt those who do?

When we walk each day submitted to the Holy Spirit will we not then be under the shadow of the Almighty?

Be Ready to Witness

We know that earthquakes, floods, pandemics and all natural disasters affect everyone in their path, both Christian and non-Christian. Our response should correspond to our relationship with God:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” —Luke 13:1-5

Jesus focuses here on what is a main reason for suffering—to lead people to repentance.

Regarding coronavirus, unbelievers should fear more than a disease that could kill their body. They should fear God who can cast both body and soul into hell (Matthew 10:28).

But God has not given Christians a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). When we are burdened beyond our own strength we develop reliance upon God (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). In the midst of this crisis and thereafter we have a mission.

These two workings of God in human hearts can come together magnificently in this crisis.

Christian, is not Jesus telling us now–“Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest!” (John 4:35-38)

Let’s use our time well during this crisis and be ready to share the Gospel!

Do you know someone you can call or chat with online who needs to hear the Gospel?

 

Photo from CDC.

Dawn of a New Day or Midnight In America?

Dawn of a New Day or Midnight in America

Some on Christian radio proclaim Donald Trump’s victory as an act of God’s mercy, giving our nation a second chance. I suggested in a previous article that we should consider the choices we had for president this election as judgment from God.

So, is this a fresh start for America? Or, have we applied the brakes too late or not at all?

It really shouldn’t matter to Christians, at least not when considering what our next step should be. Is not our immediate task in any case to draw nearer to God?

Defining a Nation’s Greatness

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)

A return to economic prosperity won’t result in righteousness. In fact, prosperity is probably a major source of our problems.

Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die:

 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; 

give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.

 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you

 and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ 

Or I may become poor and steal,

 and so dishonor the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9)

Evangelical Christians have rightly stood against abortion and sexual sin. But, I’m afraid we have acquiesced to greed and covetousness, turning a blind eye to our economic sins. Too often we link prosperity with God’s approval regardless of how we attain our wealth.

Midnight in America

Interestingly, the Bible doesn’t specifically state how much money is too much or how much is too little. But, as we see from Proverbs 30:8-9, having too much is as perilous as having too little, at least from a spiritual standpoint. Furthermore, either extreme may reveal our true heart condition. Here and in the Lord’s Prayer no more than one’s daily provision is requested implying we can be content with that. Perhaps an examination of our hearts and our present actions will reveal to us how we might respond to the following:

  • If we lose everything will we still praise God as did Job?
  • If we lose everything will we resort to dishonest gain in any form?
  • If we prosper, will we trust in our portfolio or in God for our future?
  • If we prosper, will we consider our wealth to be ours to do with as we please?

If we place our hope in our leaders to make America great again while we whistle past the graveyard of our sins without forsaking our idols, then it is indeed midnight in America.

What About Consequences?

God doesn’t have a blind eye.

If we think a fresh start means that we won’t suffer the consequences of past sin, we err. God is not mocked.

Our nation will suffer the consequences from decades of abortion, covetousness, greed and all manner of evil. We will reap what we have sown. But of one thing we can be certain –we won’t get a better result by continuing to disobey God.

A repeal of immoral and unjust laws whether Roe v Wade, laws redefining marriage or laws governing our economy will unquestionably be good. Doing so will restrain evil. There is, however, something more fundamental to address.

Dawn of a New Day

It is the dawn of a new day for Christians in America. We will at some point have to live out our faith in circumstances we would rather avoid. Even so, we will be much richer in faith if, in response to our plight, we trust God and not in our wealth.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:8-10

Let’s pray that by God’s grace we emerge from this present darkness – having renounced our friendship with the world, having mourned our sin and having been humbled by sin’s consequences – into the presence of the Lord and into a comfort that exceeds any that can be attained by earthly treasure. (Mt. 5:4)

This Election Is a Test of Our National Motto – In God We Trust

election and the american flag

Many Christians are in a quandary about who to vote for in the upcoming election in the United States.

Both major party candidates are denounced for having a lack of personal character, un-American attitudes, and destructive policies. Unfortunately, one result is that Christians are mostly discussing which candidate is the lesser of two evils. But as we see our nation crumbling around us, is this really the most important choice we, as Christians, are facing?

The Choice Before Us

Maybe our choice for president is a secondary issue. What if the critical choice before us is whether we place our hope and trust in elected officials or in God to deliver us from the condition our nation is in?

American Christians have good reason to believe that neither candidate trusts in God for our nation’s future but instead trust in themselves and their ideology. We should not follow them in their folly.

Making the “right” choice in this election won’t change the direction our country is headed if, on a personal level, American Christians cannot honestly say – In God I Trust. Making the “wrong” choice won’t either.

Opportunity Is Knocking

Most Christians would probably agree that we live in evil times. In these coming months until the election, perhaps more so than ever, it is important to:

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

In Ephesians chapter 5, believers are called to holy living, told to expose evil, commanded to give thanks to God in everything and encouraged to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

How do we apply Ephesians 5:15-17 to our current situation – what is the opportunity we have and what is the Lord’s will? Is the presidential election an opportunity to head off disaster by political means or is the time we are in now an opportunity to deepen our resolve to live holy lives so that our light exposes the darkness?

Since God is the one who “deposes kings and raises up others” to accomplish his purposes, then perhaps the lamentable choices we have for president are not a warning to us to head off disaster by electing the candidate with the least destructive ideology or character. The fact that our options for president are limited and unsatisfactory may be, in itself, a judgment from God and a warning to turn toward him and perhaps even a warning to be prepared spiritually to live in exile in our own land.

Priorities Matched to God’s Will

If we read our Bibles we know what the will of God is (Romans 12:2). Our priority should be to do the will of God, not to look for a political savior. Exercising our right to vote so that we can elect the lesser of two evils or cast a vote for a third-party candidate who has no chance of winning has much less positive impact on our future than doing God’s will. Here are a few commands from Scripture that are particularly relevant to this discussion:

  • Do not worry about your life or about what tomorrow may bring but seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. Matthew 6:25-34
  • Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before God. Micah 6:8
  • “Be imitators of God”, “live a life of love”, “find out what pleases the Lord” and “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Eph 5:1,2,10,11
  • “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-16
  • Spread the Gospel. Matthew 28:19
  • Silence the talk of foolish men by doing good. 1 Peter 2:15
Born to Trouble

Our natural inclination is to bemoan our nation’s decline because we will suffer as a consequence. Our nation, our economy and our way of life are changing dramatically for the worse. However, God is more concerned about the spiritual condition of his children than their comfort. God’s will is not for us to avoid hardship at any cost. Jesus prayed that God would not remove his disciples from the world when the world persecutes them but to protect them from the evil one who would oppose their sanctification. John 17:13-20

Even if we are growing in our faith, even if sanctification and becoming like Jesus are at the top of our list of priorities, remember that men of faith such as Daniel and Ezekiel were carted off into exile when their nation was judged. Yet they were faithful witnesses.

Is the American Church ready for the challenges that lie ahead? What if our worst fears become reality? We may not be carted off to a foreign land, as were the Israelites, but we may find ourselves in a land we don’t recognize, one as godless as Babylon. Indeed, we may already be in it.

Will we praise God in the midst of suffering and persecution? Will we hold fast to our faith in the face of a fiery furnace or a lion’s den? Do we even have the courage to witness to our neighbor now?

Redeem the Time

Our time is better spent seeking God and his holiness than debating which political candidate will save us from ruin. Making the most of every opportunity to become more like Jesus is time better spent. Our time is better spent if our actions reveal to our unbelieving friends, family and neighbors that we live according to our nation’s motto – In God We Trust.

Should I Vote in the Election?

I am not saying that if either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is elected president that they won’t lead us into ruin. They might. That is why so many Christians are concerned. This election will have consequences. But, our future isn’t in the hands of politicians. It never has been.

As our nation becomes more like the Babylon of old, let us do what the exiles of Israel were told to do. Let’s seek the peace and prosperity of our nation (Jeremiah 29:5) and live life as normally as possible. Let’s vote prayerfully and wisely, but don’t fret over it – we cannot add a single hour to our life by doing so.

However Christians choose to vote in November, may each of us continually cast votes for God’s kingdom with our love, our light, our good works and our winsome presentation of the gospel of the Kingdom. If God be for us who can be against us?

 

 

 

 

Does America Have An Incurable Wound? – Part 2

Micah denounced Israel not only for their sins against God in the form of idolatry, but also for their sins against each other. There is no doubt about their guilt, as it is God himself who testifies against Samaria and Jerusalem (Micah 1:2).

Israel Was Judged for its Oppression of the Weak

In both Israel and Judah, idolatry was accompanied by covetousness, fraud and oppression. Some, simply because they had the power to do so, made themselves rich by seizing the homes of their fellow-man, devastating families as they took their inheritance (Micah 2:1,2). Their punishment fit the crime as those in power saw their land and their children’s inheritance taken from them (Micah 2:4,5).

These kinds of practices were echoed on a very large-scale in the United States as big banks and Wall Street made huge fees selling packaged sub-prime mortgages to unsuspecting investors and then foreclosed on homes, often taking a family’s life savings in the process. Adding insult to injury, those who were guilty of these practices were rewarded with hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.

Israel’s Leaders Did Not Believe They Would Be Held Accountable

While false prophets proclaimed that disgrace would not overtake them they sought to silence Micah and other prophets of God (2:6). Not fearing judgment, sure that God would never do such a thing to his people (2:7; 3:11), they took comfort believing that God would keep his promises of salvation to the people of Israel all the while ignoring the promises of judgment for disobedience that were part of the conditional covenant with Moses (Deut. 28).

Meanwhile, in this atmosphere promoted by these false prophets, the rich in Israel were emboldened to evict widows from their houses and sell their children into slavery to finance their lifestyles (Micah 2:9; Amos 8:6). God does not tolerate those who perform or condone such wickedness: they will come to ruin as God evicts the evictors (Micah 2:10). But the warnings are ignored and visions of prosperity are just what the people want to hear (Micah 2:11; Jeremiah. 5:31).

Prosperity Gospel and the Poor

Many religious leaders today preach a gospel of prosperity that not only believes God will not judge those who weary themselves to gain wealth (Proverb 23:4) but that God is obligated to make us wealthy if we have enough faith. They strip God of his sovereignty and make their faith sovereign (2 Peter 2:1). Devoid of any doctrine of suffering, their message appeals to those who would rather skip the experiences of the saints listed in Hebrews 11’s “hall of faith” (Hebrews 11:36-40) (2 Timothy 4:3,4).

They disparage the poor man for his lack of faith instead of showing compassion toward him. They deceive the poor to obtain their money (Titus 1:11) and are seemingly unaware that they will be judged for preaching to satisfy their greed (2 Peter 2:3,14,15). It is certainly not to our credit but to our shame that this false message has spread from its origins in the United States into many parts of the world.

Perhaps there are even American Christians who, believing we are somehow better than the rest of the world, think God will overlook our sins because he cannot do without America’s mission agencies, mega-churches and seminaries!

Israel’s Leaders Did Not Restrain Evil, but Instead Loved It

The leaders, who should have known better and who should have known what God expected of them, hated good and loved evil (Micah 3:1). Instead of restraining evil they devoured the poor for personal gain (Micah 3:2,3). When their fortunes turn for the worse they will cry out and not be heard (Micah 3:4; Proverbs 21:13).

The professional prophets waged war against those who wouldn’t pay for their prophecies but would tell those who paid them what they wanted to hear. Therefore these false prophets will not hear from God. In contrast, Micah, filled with the Holy Spirit, declared to the people their sin (Micah 3:5-8).

The leaders judged for a bribe and the prophets taught for a price, denying that disaster was near as they clung to their belief that God would never judge his people (Micah 3:11). But judgment from God would come (Micah 3:12).

Are we guilty when we place our faith in a free market economy to police itself as many are wont to do? When we say that there is too much regulation and we need to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit are we ignoring what God has to say about fallen humanity and its propensity to act wickedly? Christians should know better.

What difference is there between Israel’s leaders who judged for a bribe and our politicians who pander to special interest groups?

Israel’s Trial

Before getting into Israel’s trial, Micah devotes two chapters mainly to future hope and blessing – namely the coming kingdom of Messiah, perhaps to show that he is faithful even though his people are not. God will keep his promises even as he exacts judgment.

When God brings his case against them he again states they should have known better. God has shown Israel what is good – acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with him (Micah 6:8) (Deut 10:12). When God makes his case against Israel he emphasizes the kind of sins that, instead of helping his weaker neighbor, harms him – gaining wealth at the expense of others by employing wicked methods (6:10), using dishonest weights and scales to defraud him (v 11), and threatening those who challenged their ways (6:12).  But ill-gotten gain is not safe, and those who obtain it will be brought to ruin (6:13-16).

Does America Fit This Pattern?

Does any of this sound familiar? To many, the answer will be no. They will say that corruption and oppression is much worse in other nations and that the opposite is true in America – we coddle our poor with “entitlements”. Besides, many of the poor in America would be considered rich in some countries.

They will say everyone has opportunity to succeed if they try. They will say too many people have a victim mentality and are just envious of the rich.

So, according to this line of thinking, God was wrong. He didn’t need to include commandments for economic interaction in the law he gave to Moses. If only God had known about free markets! Now that we have them, we need not be concerned.

Let me ask this. Is it possible that America has gained its great wealth solely because its people work harder than the people of other nations and because of our freedoms? Is a nation’s wealth always a sign of God’s favor? Have all rich individuals in our nation gained their wealth because they worked harder, utilized their freedom of choice and were blessed by God accordingly? Of course not! It wasn’t true in Israel’s time either.

We cannot hide behind a belief that our economic system has somehow overcome the problem of human sin when it comes to gaining wealth. People will still take from each other through trickery and oppression and people will still be lazy. It seems we, as a nation, hold neither person accountable.

Perhaps the most important question to ask is this. Does the way our economic system operates indicate to us a dependence on God as protector and provider and judge of our behavior?

I think the answer is no.

What Is the Proper Christian Response?

Micah, seeing the fate that awaits his people, mourns for Samaria with weeping and wailing, going barefoot and naked, howling like a jackal and moaning like an owl (Micah 1:8,9). Indeed, the northern kingdom would go into exile under Sargon II in 721 B.C. Twenty years later, his successor, Sennacherib invaded Judah taking many captive with Jerusalem escaping only because of God’s miraculous intervention (2 Kings 19:35).

We don’t know for sure (as did Micah) that we have an incurable wound. Only God knows. But should we not recognize our sins and mourn for our nation?

As we see our nation’s moral and economic decline accelerate, should we not be praying for a return to God rather than for a return to prosperity? Shouldn’t we know better than to chase after riches? We too know what is good – to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God.

Our task, as Christians living in America, is not to place our trust in our leaders, our economic system, our national ideals, our military or in American exceptionalism. If we have misplaced our trust, then our task is to stop digging broken cisterns and return to the wellspring of life (Jeremiah 2:13).

 

 

 

 

Does America Have An Incurable Wound? – Part 1

Israel Had An Incurable Wound

In the book of Micah we learn that Samaria (the capital of Israel) had an incurable wound and like untreated gangrene it had spread to Jerusalem (the capital of Judah). What was the wound that was so loathsome to God?  The northern kingdom’s idolatry had reached a level from which judgment would no longer be withheld. As a result, God proclaims to the whole earth that he will make Samaria a heap of rubble.

A Portrait of National Decline

What was it like living in Israel prior to their judgment? The Israelites, for the most part, ignored God’s warnings delivered through the prophets. Though unconcerned about their own wickedness, they were certainly aware of the threat that lurked to the northeast. Towers built with the heads of conquered soldiers and rows of captives impaled on stakes outside of captured cities served as a warning to others who might resist the advancing Assyrians.

Everyday life in Israel wasn’t much different from that in surrounding pagan nations. They worshipped Baal, sold debtors into slavery and practiced divination and sorcery. They even sacrificed their children, burning them in the arms of Molech (2 Kings 17:15c-17).

Though God had disciplined Israel so they would return to him (Amos 4:6-11), he remained a stranger to them, so much so that he declares they will become re-acquainted with their God through judgment (Amos 4:12,13)! It was too late to avoid disaster. Having reached the point of no return, God raised up a nation that would destroy them. Though its kings boasted of their conquest of Israel, it was not Assyria from whom Israel would not escape; it was God (Micah 2:3)(Isaiah 10:5-15).

By What Standard Will Our Nation Be Judged?

We live in evil times.

Many American Christians fear that we, as a nation, may be nearing a time of God’s judgment. Human nature, being the way it is, leads us to point fingers at each other and blame our impending judgment on others whose sins are more heinous than ours. Of course, it is not wrong to confront sin and evil wherever it lies, but we do well when we heed Jesus’ rebuke to first take the log out of our own eye.

The Old Testament prophets chronicle what led to God’s judgment of Israel and surrounding nations. When trying to discern how the lessons from these scriptures might apply to our nation, we must be careful not to make comparisons or draw parallels to Israel that do not exist. For example, the United States does not have a national covenant relationship with God, as did Israel. Therefore, we must be careful not to cling to promises God made specifically to Israel as if he made them to the United States.

Nevertheless, we can see for which sins God judged Israel and know that He has not changed. It is still true that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

America’s Problem with Idolatry
The Idol of Money

Money has long been identified as an idol in American life. Christians are aware of the danger, knowing that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil and that we cannot serve both God and money. But how does that actually play out in our lives? It is easy to let cultural influences drown such knowledge in a pool of worry about our future. It is easy to let misguided concepts of stewardship lead us to the conclusion that we serve God best by focusing on multiplication of our resources so we can give from our excess. How many of us make an idol out of work, filling our emptiness with inner praise for our abilities, abilities that God reminds us come from him? In short, how many ways do we forget God, his faithfulness, his kindness, and his providence and settle for a substitute?

The Idol of Entertainment

Consider our infatuation with entertainment. One of my favorite authors, A.W. Tozer, made astute observations about this form of idolatry in The Great God Entertainment. He said the essence of sin is the abuse of a harmless thing. Entertainment can be relaxing and refreshing. But, it can also be a waste of time and distract us from considering our life before God.

Our entertainment competes with God for our time and money. Many of us grab our cell phones first thing in the morning to check our email or favorite social media. Thanking God for the new day can wait. After a hard day of work, if we don’t go out for dinner or a movie, we may escape from the realities of our life by spending whatever free time we have watching television. Instead of serving God with our money, we redouble our work efforts so we can afford our next dose of entertainment.

The Idol of Self

Our economy is based on discontent. In our society, there is almost no concept of having “enough”. This is true for many Christians, too. God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet until we can’t get what we want. Then, unsatisfied with our “daily bread”, we succumb to society’s call to buy a bigger house, the newest model car or the latest fashion. The problem, at least according to our culture, is that God isn’t a good provider. Ever ready to rescue us from our stingy God, creditors entice us to borrow so we can obtain what we want on our own timetable. Some of us never think of waiting on God and trusting him to provide as long as we have the option of going into debt to get what we covet.

This kind of idolatry, often accompanied by an ungrateful and fiercely independent spirit, focuses on gaining the whole world with little concern for losing one’s soul. The covetous and greedy man may say he doesn’t agree with the philosophy that he is captain of his own soul, but his actions say otherwise.

Many in America, having discarded any notion of a God to whom they are accountable, imagine themselves to be a god, making their own rules and doing as they please. Postmodern thought that truth is relative is really just a warmed over restatement of Judges 17:6 – “in those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” NASB

When we do right in our own eyes, we do evil in the eyes of the Lord and serve a false god (Judges 2:11). Our clever, enlightened worldview calls evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20,21). Drug usage is common; pornography and sexual sin provoke no shame unless children are exploited. At least we protect our children, right?

How different is sacrificing children to idols in Israel’s day to gain economic favor with the gods and choosing abortion because we want to maintain our selfish, indulgent lifestyle and cannot be bothered with the expense or inconvenience of a child? Is burning a baby any worse than dismembering one and crushing its head so it can be removed from the womb? Those who protect the practice of abortion draw the same ire from God as those who perform them (Leviticus 20:4,5).

The Idol of Power

Thinking our own power can deliver us (Judges 7:2) and imagining that our wealth is an impenetrably high wall (Proverbs 18:11), our nation trusts in its military might and economic strength, seemingly unaware that it is useless against God when he brings judgment.

The Severity of America’s Wound?

Only God decides when a nation’s wound is incurable (Genesis 15:16). Our next president, our military might or our level of prosperity won’t determine our fate as a nation. We must not place our hope in them. Our task, as Christians, is to trust God and seek healing of our wound, however severe, with the balm of repentance before it’s too late (Jeremiah 8:6,22).

This portrait of America’s decline, already grim, is not yet finished. Does America Have an Incurable Wound, Part 2 further explores Micah’s description of Israel’s incurable wound and the possible judgment our own nation faces.