I posted this on my Facebook page this morning: Pray for Brussels, for those injured by the attacks, for the families of those who lost their lives, for the rest of Europe, which is on high alert because of the possibility of other attacks, and for our own country that seems to have grown complacent.
And then I got to thinking about 2 Chronicles 7:14, which is the scripture Christians seem to use the most to call the Church to pray for our country. But have you ever read it in context?
The Lord Gives Solomon a Promise and a Warning
After Solomon finished building the Lord’s temple and the royal palace, and accomplished all his plans for the Lord’s temple and his royal palace, the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him: “I have answered your prayer and chosen this place to be my temple where sacrifices are to be made. When I close up the sky so that it doesn’t rain, or command locusts to devour the land’s vegetation, or send a plague among my people, if my people, who belong to me, humble themselves, pray, seek to please me, and repudiate their sinful practices, then I will respond from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. Now I will be attentive and responsive to the prayers offered in this place. Now I have chosen and consecrated this temple by making it my permanent home; I will be constantly present there. You must serve me as your father David did. Do everything I commanded and obey my rules and regulations. Then I will establish your dynasty, just as I promised your father David, ‘You will not fail to have a successor ruling over Israel.’
“But if you people ever turn away from me, fail to obey the regulations and rules I instructed you to keep, and decide to serve and worship other gods, then I will remove you from my land I have given you, I will abandon this temple I have consecrated with my presence, and I will make you an object of mockery and ridicule among all the nations. As for this temple, which was once majestic, everyone who passes by it will be shocked and say, ‘Why did the Lord do this to this land and this temple?’ Others will then answer, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord God of their ancestors, who led them out of Egypt. They embraced other gods whom they worshiped and served. That is why he brought all this disaster down on them.’”
The message is sobering. I don’t think the majority of Americans appreciate ‘sobering’ messages. It’s just not in our DNA, which is more about the good guy winning, getting the pretty girl, and riding off happily into the sunset.
I used to think like a lot of Christians do that America isn’t mentioned in the Book of Revelation, until I read about the church in Laodicea in the 3rd chapter.
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation: ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth! Because you say, “I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing,” but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, take my advice and buy gold from me refined by fire so you can become rich! Buy from me white clothing so you can be clothed and your shameful nakedness will not be exposed, and buy eye salve to put on your eyes so you can see! All those I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent! Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me. I will grant the one who conquers permission to sit with me on my throne, just as I too conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Hmm… If John was referencing the present-day Church, particularly in America, then, at the very least, we’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do! And even if he wasn’t specifically talking about the Church today, John’s description should be a little too close for comfort!
Seriously, is there any question as to whether or not the Church in America has grown soft? We ARE the Church! Look around you, and don’t forget to look within too. Have we become as self-obsessed as the society we live in, only concerned about what affects us personally and/or our churches corporately? Do we as individuals and as organized groups of Christians have poor and unhealthy behaviors and attitudes, which, by the way, is the very definition of dysfunctional? Is that perhaps why so many groups of believers have become ineffectual, no longer able to attract people to fill the pews, much less want to know the One who died for them?
Are we more concerned about how we look to the world on the outside than how we look to God on the inside? Are we buying into the lie that looking thinner, younger, prettier/handsomer, wealthier, and even more spiritual—is what’s really important in this life?
For the record, our priorities do matter to God. It really does all comes down to what our primary focus is. What do we put first? Knowing God or knowing others? Hearing from Him or hearing from others? Talking to Him or talking to others? Looking good for Him or looking good for others?
We talk a lot about what we’re sick and tired of these days, but I find myself wondering what God might be sick and tired of. I think His list has little to do with ours and is a whole lot longer too. Do you suppose God might be sick and tired of us—so sick of our self-obsession that He’s about ‘to vomit us out of His mouth’? Personally, I think He might be getting close.
There’s only one way to win, to overcome, and it will come when, individually, we Christ-followers are willing to humble ourselves before God, confessing and repenting of our sin, and seeking to please God instead of self or others. It is then and only then, when the spirit of humility invades our hearts that He will forgive us and heal our land.
It’s not as easy as it sounds, because “to whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48) Are you up for it, every single day of your life and not just for a few hours each week? If you are, this would be a good time to read 1 Timothy 4, especially verses 11-16, because Paul pretty well sets out what we have to do.
“Command and teach these things. Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have, given to you and confirmed by prophetic words when the elders laid hands on you. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that everyone will see your progress. Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach. Persevere in this, because by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”
Therein lies the test questions for each of us:
* Am I setting an example for other believers in my speech, conduct, love, faithfulness and purity?
* Am I studying the Word of God and encouraging and teaching others about Christ?
* Am I neglecting the spiritual gifts God has given me?
* Am I focused on what God wants me to do to the extent others notice and want to do the same?
* Am I conscientious about how I live and what that says about my relationship with Christ?
* Am I ‘at it’ for God and ‘in it’ until the end?
We can do nothing without God, but with Him, we can change the world, because with God, all things are possible.
Mark 10:23-27 reads: Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were astonished at these words. But again Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” They were even more astonished and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but not for God; all things are possible for God.”
I am assuming that you, too, would like to see our world, and particularly our country, change for the good. It won’t happen by electing a new president. We should know by now what putting one’s hope in a man who promises hope and change produces. The kind of change we really need will only happen as we humble ourselves and put our faith in the Person of Jesus Christ.
It really is up to us.
If you wonder how to be ‘at it’ for God and don’t know who to ask, you will find what you need to begin pursuing the only life worth living at this website: http://www.gospelway.com/christianlife/change_yourself.php
However, please don’t stop there. Ask God to bring Christ-followers into your life who are taking seriously the Great Commission that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18-20: Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.